Climbing “X-Factors” – Willpower & Imagination

This is the next in a series of articles on mental training, based on concepts from my new book, Maximum Climbing. –EH


Photo: John Gill climbing V-hard in the mid 1970s. Photo courtesy of John Gill.

Achieving the next grade or doing the “impossible” is a battle fought more in the mind than the body. Consider Todd Skinner and Paul Piana free climbing El Capitan in 1988 (when four-day aid ascents were the norm), Reinhold Messner’s and Peter Habeler’s 1978 ascent of Mount Everest without oxygen, John Gill bouldering V9/5.13 in 1959 (when the hardest climbing moves on a rope were at best 5.10), and even Roger Bannister’s breaking of the four-minute-mile barrier for runners. All these once-thought-impossible achievements are the result of coupling indomitable willpower with unbridled imagination. These remarkable achievements, then, are sterling examples of limitless willpower of the mind winning over the limitations of the body, as well as unleashed imagination yielding a paradigm shift that shattered a prevailing belief system. These are the X-Factors that separate the best from the rest, in any endeavor.

Similarly, your potential to create and achieve things, big or small, is a function of your imagination and willpower. More than your genetics, age, financial resources, or current situation, it’s your ability to unleash your imagination and tap into your gift of willpower that determines what you can or cannot do. Lynn Hill expresses her support of this belief in stating that “you have to be strong to accomplish what you imagine, but you have to imagine it first before you can accomplish it physically.”

The individuals named above were all “common” folks who achieved uncommonly great things, because they dared to imagine audacious goals, developed novel ways of thinking and acting, and persevered through adversity and criticism with enormous willpower and belief in the endgame. In this way you, too, must learn to leverage all the powers of your mind, and like the above-named individuals step out of the din of the crowd and act in your own ways toward your personal cause or goals.

Announcing the much-anticipated release of
Maximum Climbing: Mental Training for Peak Performance and Optimal Experience

  • Maximum Climbing is a useful and fascinating read for climbers of all ability levels.
    –Lynn Hill
  • Maximum Climbing teaches you how to climb better by flexing the most critical muscle, the three-pound one between your ears.
    –Duane Raleigh,
    editor-and-chief, Rock & Ice
  • Dissolving the illusion of mind/body separation, Eric Horst’s Maximum Climbing shows the way to achieve what I like to call one’s Vertical Path: a completely holistic state of being in which the spirit—the essence of climbing—is woven into the tapestries of our lives . . .
    –John Gill
  • In this book, Eric Hörst provides climbers with a clear path to athletic mastery.
    –Steve Bechtel
    , Elemental Training Center


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Copyright 2010 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.