Magnetic North - equipping alpine seekers
equipping alpine seekers



how-to articles, rich creative posts, guest bloggers

benefits of visualization

breaking hearts, Cody, jan 2015
Hey winter woollies!

Of the last seven seasons of rather impassioned ice travel, I've climbed five. This gap in my practice left me heart-sore and hungry for the cold liminality of icy verticality. Fortunately, my good friend Kelsey invited me on a trip over the new year. We took our gear for a lot of walks hunting for the fat stuff, gathering much approach data for new climbs on the way, and climbed some milestone plastic and dinner plates.

The second day of our trip, we hopped on a route at both of our previous ice leading limits. We shuffled restless at the base jangling screws and draws, both attempting to defer the sharp end to the other in a communicative dance of no 'no's and no 'yes'es. Finally we settled on me taking the first pitch and her the second and I racked up with fearful exhilaration in my chest. My ego tried to talk me out of climbing, talking all sorts of nonsense about my weakness and inexperience (those damned monsters). 

I've learned the only effective antidote to the inevitable internal Maras is to tune in to my wiser inner voice. So I paused after clipping a few screws to my harness and looked closely at the ice wall before me. I pictured myself moving smoothly to my first screw placement, I imagined the nubs of the screw's crank tugging on the pads of my fingers as I twisted it deep into solid ice, I felt my heels down and calves strong stemming the corner halfway up the pitch, I whispered 'don't leave the back door open' and saw myself placing one last screw before pulling the lip to the anchor. 

With that I sped up the route. Kelsey's encouraging voice joined my inner shouts of encouragement. Ecstatically, confidently I moved past five screws safely to the anchor. As tears released and I called 'off belay' and the slot canyon rang with our joyful words I realized I'd just climbed my most difficult pitch of ice yet after nearly two years away from the sport.

moonrise over the Shoshone, jan 2015
Other than the important game-day visualizations, my performance experienced a bump from regular waking and dreaming visualizations of movement on ice. Once you're engaged in an activity you love, it is not hard to begin to daydream of doing whatever it is you love and, once you add to that a meditative focus, your practice can develop even if you're nowhere near actually doing it in the flesh.

To conduct formal visualization take a seat, close your eyes, and try to keep your body still as you imagine yourself deeply into the crux sequence of your rock project, making a turn off the summit of some icy volcano, or running your nemesis hill in its entirety. Detail counts here: get down to the heat you feel as you clip the chains, the way the snow sounds as you slash it, and the feeling of mud spattering up your shorts. Create a reality in which you are capable.

As an aside, the Lucid Sage podcast shouted out MN's ephemeral awareness program on a recent episode! Check out some of his content, it is an excellent introduction to dreaming for newbies and a great way to connect with new ideas for experienced practitioners. 

I believe in you.


alec vanderboomphilosophy