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NCC1701
03-14-2018, 10:56
I'm thinking about the AT next year. Biggest concern is my fear of heights. I have had a fear of heights since childhood. Gradual sloping high peaks I can handle, but drop offs are a terror. So looking off a high building or (for example) standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon would be difficult. I get a falling sensation. Does the AT have any places where there is a 2 foot ledge that falls down 1000 feet or anything like that? If so where is it so I can find a picture and see if I can handle it. I realize there are high mountain ranges/altitude. That's not the problem. Its the shear drop offs. Thanks.

illabelle
03-14-2018, 11:35
I sympathize. If I've been hiking somewhere that has drop-offs, that evening at home in my bed while I'm beginning to fall asleep my mind will randomly review the scenes of the day. In the semi-conscious state I have experienced that falling sensation many times. To get past it, I open my eyes, look at the wall, the window, and tell myself I'm safe, I'm not going to fall.

I have hiked almost 80% of the trail now, in every state, and have completed some of the more difficult sections including Katahdin and the White Mountains. There are a few places that don't feel good, but they're short, and you generally have the option of not walking near the edge. Most of the trail has so much vegetation, especially trees, that I don't often feel like I'm going to free-fall off a cliff. Fall injuries are more common on the trail itself from slipping, tripping, or overreaching.

Is your fear greater than mine? Less? I don't know. I do know that there's nothing out there on the AT that I can't handle. I suspect it will be the same for you.

NCC1701
03-14-2018, 12:00
Great. I kinda thought that if there were dramatic drop offs along the trail I would have seen pics of them somewhere or heard stories about them but thought I would check. Thanks for the reply.

jj dont play
03-14-2018, 12:04
Also have a fear of heights, after about a month on the trail I became ďnumbĒ to my fears. To tired too fearful, ainít nobody got time for that! Heights,bears, snakes, whatever just didnít bother me. I hoped this attitude would remain but once I got back home and settled in to the real world again the fears returned haha


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John B
03-14-2018, 12:05
I'm terrified of heights. I didn't care at all for Tinker Cliffs in VA. Some of the log bridges made me uncomfortable (a single log across a stream, a few of which were 4-6' above the water), but I used my hiking poles and did ok (no falls).

I can't speak for places further north of VA because I've only sectioned GA - VA. I've seen pics of a few places where iron rods are driven in rock and you kinda climb up like a ladder.

putts
03-14-2018, 12:45
I have the same fear of sheer drop offs. Tried bungee jumping years ago and that sure as ***** didn't help. There is no place on the actual trail footpath (ME-GA) where vertigo was an issue for me.

illabelle
03-14-2018, 13:05
Below are pictured three memorable spots on the AT.
1. McAfee Knob is a very well known and much-photographed dramatic view of the Shenandoah Valley. Many google images exist of people standing or sitting on the thin little edge of the rock overhang. The AT goes by this spot, but you don't have to walk out to the edge. When we were there, we stood a few feet back on the thicker rock.
https://res.cloudinary.com/simpleview/image/fetch/f_auto,q_75/https://res.cloudinary.com/simpleview/image/upload/crm/roanoke/McAfee-Knob_80200b37-5056-a36a-09514031b5b0999c.jpg
2. Dragon's Tooth is a series of pointy near vertical rocks on a Virginia ridge sticking up 30 or 40' from the ground. Again, the AT goes nearby. You don't have to scale this thing. I didn't. (It looks like fun, but I don't feel that I have the strength and agility).
https://hokiehiker.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/img_4577.jpg
3. Crazzzy spot on the Hunt Trail climbing Katahdin, what most would probably say is the hairiest part of the climb. You emerge from tree cover to face a wall of rock. Follow the white blazes, easy as pie - they say! Just out of view in this photo is an iron bar. Step up on those smaller rocks at your feet, reach the bar, swing your right foot up to an iron hook, haul yourself up and over the bar. Much easier when you can watch the person ahead of you. Unlike examples 1 and 2, this one is unavoidable if you want to hike the AT.
http://www.nigel-roberts.info/Katahdin-web-album/images/Katahdin-101_jpg.jpg

tdoczi
03-14-2018, 13:26
on franconia ridge in the whites you walk on a somewhat narrow flat top of a ridge for awhile with fairly dramatic slops in either direction that i wouldnt want to roll down. but no sheer drops.

actually, from the roughly 2/3rds of the trail ive seen so far, the smokies north of newfound gap comes to the closet to being a place with a sheer drop off close by. but thats not that close.

now places where you feel like you might fall 5 feet and/or take a nasty tumble and go head over heels and break your leg? those are countless in the whites and western maine, as well as a few other spots.

TwoSpirits
03-14-2018, 15:17
Below are pictured three memorable spots on the AT.
1. McAfee Knob is a very well known and much-photographed dramatic view of the Shenandoah Valley. Many google images exist of people standing or sitting on the thin little edge of the rock overhang. The AT goes by this spot, but you don't have to walk out to the edge. When we were there, we stood a few feet back on the thicker rock.
https://res.cloudinary.com/simpleview/image/fetch/f_auto,q_75/https://res.cloudinary.com/simpleview/image/upload/crm/roanoke/McAfee-Knob_80200b37-5056-a36a-09514031b5b0999c.jpg
2. Dragon's Tooth is a series of pointy near vertical rocks on a Virginia ridge sticking up 30 or 40' from the ground. Again, the AT goes nearby. You don't have to scale this thing. I didn't. (It looks like fun, but I don't feel that I have the strength and agility).
https://hokiehiker.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/img_4577.jpg
3. Crazzzy spot on the Hunt Trail climbing Katahdin, what most would probably say is the hairiest part of the climb. You emerge from tree cover to face a wall of rock. Follow the white blazes, easy as pie - they say! Just out of view in this photo is an iron bar. Step up on those smaller rocks at your feet, reach the bar, swing your right foot up to an iron hook, haul yourself up and over the bar. Much easier when you can watch the person ahead of you. Unlike examples 1 and 2, this one is unavoidable if you want to hike the AT.
http://www.nigel-roberts.info/Katahdin-web-album/images/Katahdin-101_jpg.jpgI too have a fear of heights when around steep drop-offs, cliffs, etc., and I have a fair amount of hesitation when planning sections because I'm afraid of encountering a situation that I can't handle.... But here's the thing: whenever I have encountered an edge, or a ledge, or a climb or descent that seems steep and scary or whatever, I've been okay. That's not to say that I haven't felt some fear (and that a few choice words about the trail builders haven't crossed my lips, as well as prayers to God to please don't let me die), but I haven't been crippled by the fear. I take my time. I tackle the problem like a problem: slowly & deliberately, and I my imagination has to take a back seat. And then I'm past it.

A lot easier to say than to imagine doing, I know.

If it helps at all, I've been up, over, and back down that particular spot on Katahdin pictured in #3. It was somewhat physically challenging (it's been a long time since I've climbed around on a playground), but that very few feet of climbing was far more of a challenge than dealing with the height. The height is really a non-issue. Coming back down is a little awkward and will feel scary, but you'll do it.

As someone else mentioned, it's the simple trips, falls, and stumbles over practically flat ground that can end or interupt your trip. Always always always pay attention to your footing, and when you want to take in the amazing beauty all around (and below) you, just make sure you've stopped walking first!

Have a great hike!

tagg
03-14-2018, 15:31
I don't know, the guys in A Walk in the Woods fell off a cliff somewhere in the south and surely would have died had they not landed on a fortuitous ledge below. So you need to look out for that spot.

illabelle
03-14-2018, 15:48
I don't know, the guys in A Walk in the Woods fell off a cliff somewhere in the south and surely would have died had they not landed on a fortuitous ledge below. So you need to look out for that spot.

LOL :)
I seem to remember that scene from the movie and thought it was kinda dumb. It wasn't in the book, was it?

NJdreamer
03-14-2018, 16:01
I thought Knifes Edge in PA was scary. I went southbound and was alone on the rocks when I backpacked it. I had to do parts on my butt, not walk it, out of fear, but was able to keep myself moving. It helped that it was getting dark, and I did not want to be on the rocks in the dark. Can anyone comment about how Knifes Edge and other places noted above compare to the white AT trail at Lehigh Gap? (I am aware there is a winter blue trail.) Thanks.

Dan Roper
03-14-2018, 16:14
I have a fear of heights, but I haven't encountered anything remotely frightening on the AT from Springer Mountain to the Grayson Highlands in Virginia, which is about a fourth of the trail.

Some of the places mentioned here - like the Sawteeth north of Newfound Gap - aren't frightening. Albert Mountain usually gets a nod in "fear of heights" discussions, but it isn't bad. There is a small stretch of trail south of Albert (just north of Mooney Gap) that does hug the edge of a remarkably steep drop-off, but abundant trees and bushes between you and the nearby edge prevent any real fear, at least in the leaf-out seasons.

The only height thing that's ever bothered me on the southern AT was climbing the steps of fire towers, like at Shuckstack and Albert Mountain, so mostly I didn't do it.

MuddyWaters
03-14-2018, 16:37
Great. I kinda thought that if there were dramatic drop offs along the trail I would have seen pics of them somewhere or heard stories about them but thought I would check. Thanks for the reply.

There are innumerable spots that might be 20-100 ft down when 18" - wide trail sidehills a mountain. Its like driving the car in one lane with another car coming the opposite way at a 120 combined mph just 5 feet away from you . You get immune to it.

And most people , don't cross the line.

peakbagger
03-14-2018, 16:53
The problem is the fear of heights seem to vary. I took a friend up the Hunt Trail (AT) up Katahdin and she had significant issues. Even though the ridge is 30 or 40 feet wide, the steep drop off on either side freaked her out. She also had the issue up at the summit sign due to the drop off behind it. She pretty well crawled over the sign and had a death grip on it.

I threatened her that next time I would bring a pair of horseblinders for her to wear so she wouldnt see the drop offs in her peripheral vision.

I have met several folks who had very rough time on the Wildcat Ridge trail (AT) coming up out of Pinkham Notch in NH. The open rock slabs with the steps chiseled in them set them off for some reason.

NCC1701
03-14-2018, 17:01
42236

I just saw a YouTube video of this "Knifes Edge". I guess I understated. This definitely looks scary.

Christoph
03-14-2018, 17:17
I have positional vertigo and there were a few spots where it acted up my thru last year. But I made it mostly with the help of some friends I met along the way. There was NO way I was getting off Katahdin without my hiking buddy's help, but I made it up and back down safely. You'll enjoy it and there's really not a whole lot of spots where you can't get away from the edge and even then, those are pretty short sections. Having a hiking partner helped me a lot, if anything just to talk to and keep the mind occupied on something other than falling.

Dogwood
03-14-2018, 17:22
Charlies Bunyan alternate or the Jump Off in GSMNP, fire towers, bunch of overlooks, several steep narrow ascents/descents

Dogwood
03-14-2018, 17:29
Not just Knifes Edge in Baxter SP. It's some of the AT Mt K ascent with steep potentially fatal drop offs on each side on narrow trail where if bumped off the trail...crash and burn. Some of that in the White Mts too.

Pull up pics. See if you can handle it.

Dogwood
03-14-2018, 17:36
Instead of dramatically over focusing on the downside(no pun intended) maybe it's more constructive positively dealing with it as Peakbagger and Christoph suggested.

Recalc
03-14-2018, 17:39
Heights terrify me, and too much time was spent overplanning for a nightmare that never happened. In retrospect, the AT has a lot of "you gotta be kidding me moments" as opposed to scary views. Lehigh Gap and to a much lesser extent Baldpate East were scary to me, while Katahdin and Wildcat Mountain (full disclosure: it was VERY cloudy) didn't come off as places you could fall from.
Focusing on your hand placement and footing means there is no time to dwell on the fear of heights. Years ago another WB member said something to the effect "don't let your fear of heights limit your experience on the trail". I think she nailed it.

Dogwood
03-14-2018, 20:22
I thought Knifes Edge in PA was scary. I went southbound and was alone on the rocks when I backpacked it. I had to do parts on my butt, not walk it, out of fear, but was able to keep myself moving. It helped that it was getting dark, and I did not want to be on the rocks in the dark. Can anyone comment about how Knifes Edge and other places noted above compare to the white AT trail at Lehigh Gap? (I am aware there is a winter blue trail.) Thanks.


Lehigh Gap has switchbacks.

If the dark increases the fear/uncomfortability factor stay off this kind of terrain when it's dark.

No need to veer that far out on Tinker Cliffs. Same with Half Dome...enjoy the HD summit without venturing out to the precipice of the Diving Board.

Knifes Edge isn't part of the non IAT AT. As said, no need to go over Dragon's Tooth. Walk around it.

Slo-go'en
03-14-2018, 20:39
I don't mind looking out over a great expanse, but damn, I'm staying a good 5 feet from the edge of a cliff, thank you very much.

blw2
03-14-2018, 20:53
sorry I can't answer the question since I've not hiked the trail yet....I've watched a lot of youtube vlogs and haven't seen anything that overly frightens me except McAfee's Knob.

I've gotten myself over some of my acrophobia...but don't think someone with it like me will ever get completely numb to it. I started way back while I was about college age, forcing myself to ride things at Carowinds that went upside down. After college working in a paper mill I forced myself to do things like climbing high ladders, walking on grid floor mezzanines many stories high. Forcing myself do those things help, but....

This past summer I took the family out west. I did ok for the most part at the Grand Canyon...but there were a few places I stayed far away from the edge. It was Horseshoe Bend that really freaked me out. Took me several weeks to stop shivering when I just thought about it.

Another thought...something you wont find on the AT.... I saw a documentary not long ago about speed climbers over in Europe. Folks that got bored doing regular mountain climbing up those huge peaks so they started running up. Showed a guy literally running...a full out run... along one of the knife edges. Yikes!

egilbe
03-14-2018, 21:08
I don't mind looking out over a great expanse, but damn, I'm staying a good 5 feet from the edge of a cliff, thank you very much.
I’m the same way. I did Precipice trail in Acadia and thats the scariest I’ve done. Crawled on hands and knees on some of it.

Besides the sections already mentioned, theres one short section just before, either Avery or West peak, in the Bigelows where you skirt a cliff edge with a steep drop off. The slab going up East BaldPate is pretty steep. Kinda cool looking at it from West Bald Pate. Looks vertical. Mahoosuc Arm is similar, but there are roots and trees to grab if you need them. Coming out of Old Speck pond is pretty open and exposed and steep. Great views though if you plant your feet and try not to fall off the mountain. Gulfside trail near Jefferson is another spot, Edmonds Col? I think.

Most people, by the time they get up here, are pretty immune to heights. I’m much better than I used to be. Kinda got used to, although Table Rock in Grafton Notch terrifies me.

Dogwood
03-14-2018, 21:17
Do not try this. These people have gone through training before ever attempting to this extreme!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjcPO5TxkZ8

Dogwood
03-14-2018, 21:18
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pgNf3nnpG4

PennyPincher
03-14-2018, 22:11
I've been terrified of heights for a very long time. Not really sure what started it. But I refuse to let it completely stop me. I took up rock climbing when I was younger. I can climb if I can top rope. "lead" climbing - not such good results. I down climbed after getting about 3/4 of the way up my first climb in the Whites. Yes. I was more afraid of going further up then I was of down climbing.

But I was the one on all the roller coaster rides with my nieces and nephews and then my own son. And those "tower of terror" things too where they lift you up and drop you. I also hate flying.

But I do all that and I refuse to stop hiking because there are a few "drop offs" out there. I'm too embarrassed to explain what goes through my mind and body when I get to one, especially if it's unexpected and sudden (like right around a corner).

illabelle
03-14-2018, 22:32
Do not try this. These people have gone through training before ever attempting to this extreme!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjcPO5TxkZ8


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pgNf3nnpG4

Nope nope nope. Ain't gonna watch that stuff. No. Just no. The stuff of nightmares.

rocketsocks
03-15-2018, 05:26
More evidence that the brain isn’t fully formed till we’ll after adolescence.

George
03-15-2018, 06:51
as others have said the way to overcome fear of heights is gradual increasing exposure

- in my career I have gone from losing any fear to at times being so numb that I lost respect for heights

George
03-15-2018, 06:56
Do not try this. These people have gone through training before ever attempting to this extreme!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjcPO5TxkZ8

I knew a guy that did a hand stand on the rail of a 30ish floor balcony - and went over

chknfngrs
03-15-2018, 07:06
Just came here to say I am also fearful of heights in my normal day to day, and experience a reduced fear of the heights in the wilderness. I think it’s reduced because I’m more relaxed when I’m hikin but not relaxed enough to feel ok with drop offs or “scenic views”. Lots of spots on trail like this. Thanks to whoever posted that parkour bobo. Now I’m gonna barf!

linus72
03-15-2018, 10:59
Mt Race in MA. 1/2 mile walk along a cliff. most of it is wider but there's one bit where the treadway is about 2 ft wide and then a 800-1000ft dropoff. I have my own issues with heights though doing more and more of the trail has helped me with it, this one gave me much anxiety before and during...

TheMidlifeHiker
03-15-2018, 11:12
I wouldn't say I'm terrified of heights but I definitely get the weak kneed feeling on drop offs like the ones you describe. My advice would be to not let it hold you back - go for it! You can do it.

Dogwood
03-15-2018, 12:22
as others have said the way to overcome fear of heights is gradual increasing exposure ...

Psychiatrists have recommended it too.

Slo-go'en
03-15-2018, 14:31
Go do the glass bridge over the Grand Canyon, or better yet, the one in China.

AllDownhillFromHere
03-15-2018, 15:54
Go do the glass bridge over the Grand Canyon, or better yet, the one in China.
Is the China one that's got a transparent LCD built into the glass, so it fake "cracks" while you walk on it?

BuckeyeBill
03-15-2018, 19:25
If you ever make it out to Utah visit Zion National Park. I went out for a three week hiking trip and was told about Angel's Landing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oKx56Gqqa4). I look over the information and went for it. They did have Go Cameras back then but click on the link and check it out for yourself.

Emerson Bigills
03-15-2018, 20:07
Not certain what I have, but I hate being forced to walk along any exposure of more than 20 feet or more. I don't recall anything in the south that gave me any concern, but going up Lehigh Gap was a lesson in not looking back and just keeping focused on one step at a time. From that point (especially ME) there are several spots where you are going up or down rock faces that a fall would either cause serious injury or worse. There are a few other spots where I just chose not to look around and kept going. As others have said, above treeline on Katahdin, there are a few spots where you are climbing or shimmying around on rocks where the drop offs less than two feet away are hundreds of feet. If you are NOBO the trail will prepare you slowly to deal with it. I was even concerned my last night at the Birches if I could handle the exposures on Katahdin, but with the excitement of the final day and the sheer excitement of going up Katahdin, I just stayed in the moment and focused on my next step only. No looking back. I thought the climb up Katahdin was hands down the best day of the entire trail.

The trip down Abol trail from Tableland is not as harrowing as the Hunt Trail, but it does have a section of steep rocks that require some patience. At that point, I was floating on emotion, so it was no problem. Once you go so far, you won't quit because of an exposure. As my hiking partner always told me, "an 80 year old woman did this thing, there is a way".

Slo-go'en
03-15-2018, 20:36
Firescald knob half way to Erwin is also an exposed knife edge with uncertain footing. They did the best they could, but it's a bit choppy. It's actually a lot of fun, if not slow, on a good day. On a bad day, you'd be wise to use the bypass. Not the kind of place you'd want to be in a blowing sideways rain.

Coffee
03-15-2018, 20:50
It's interesting how different people perceive heights. For me Angels Landing at Zion wasn't that big of a deal. Probably the scariest experience I've had is coming down Shepherd Pass, a side trail coming down off the JMT/PCT in early season conditions. When I look at the photos of that day, they aren't as dramatic as I remember. But it felt dramatic at the time.

bosborne
03-16-2018, 10:22
If so where is it so I can find a picture and see if I can handle it. I realize there are high mountain ranges/altitude. That's not the problem. Its the shear drop offs. Thanks.

NC, to me the "bottom line" is that there are a few places where you'd feel exposed, but you can handle it. Why do I think that? Because fear of heights is a common thing, and many people who think they have this fear have hiked on the AT. The one place I can think of - and I've done most of NH, NY, VA, and ME - is Katahdin. But even there it's not what you describe, where you're on a narrow ledge looking down 1000 feet, I can't think of a single place on the AT like that.

Also, these are really not "high" mountains. Rockies, Alps, those are big huge mountains. The Appalachians are gentle by comparison, but can be rocky and steep in places.

Christoph
03-16-2018, 17:16
One more thing, once I was up there I think the adreneline took over and that helped a lot. I just HAD to see some of those views! I think the overwhelmingness (?) took over and while I felt it coming on, it wasn't nearly as bad as anywhere else like at home.

Time Zone
03-16-2018, 22:01
I've got fear of heights - or rather, fear of high edges, because I'm not usually scared to fly in an airplane (bad turbulence does get to me). Anyway, the problem with high edges is that you're just one lightheaded spell or stumble from a long drop and a short stop.

IIRC someone upthread mentioned 5 feet distance - that strikes me as pretty reasonable to mitigate that risk, assuming level ground.

Deacon
03-17-2018, 13:34
When I try to compare perilous spots in all those places Iíve hiked, I donít think there was any place on the AT that un-nerved me to the point I turn to jelly. For sure, some were worse than others.

There was a spot on the Long Trail in Vermont that had me fearing for my life, and that was the climb up the Forehead on Mt. Mansfield.

The day I did this was bright and sunny, but what made it worse, was I nearly fell off the cliff. The trail is quite narrow with a wall on one side, and a drop off on the other.

A hiker approached me from the opposite direction, and in an act of stupidity, I faced the wall and stepped backward expecting something to be there. I fell backward and hung off the cliff with my legs.

I couldnít pull myself up with the weight of my pack, but thankfully the hiker lent his hand to pull me up.

After composing myself for many minutes, I came to a spot where the trail climbs up a shear 6 foot high wall. That may not sound like much but the trail here is about 18 inches wide, with a good 100 foot drop off on the other side of the trail. The thought of that drop off while scampering up that smooth slick wall was harrowing.


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Bansko
03-21-2018, 15:45
I have a healthy fear of being on the edge of lethally high drop-offs, so I try not to get too close to them. While night hiking in Maine once I followed the beaten path instead of the blazes and the beaten path went to what must have been a stunning scenic overlook by day. I came two steps from walking off a cliff. That was sobering.

Dogwood
03-21-2018, 16:01
Reducing my focus helps me. Gradually incorporate climbing and ridge line hiking and mountaineering. Try slack lining. Begin by walking curbs. Try walking a balance beam on the ground. Gradually raise the height off the ground being spotted if necessary while wearing a loaded pack. Learn to address through solutions of overcoming rather than magnify phobias.

tenlots
03-21-2018, 17:22
Honest to god. My hands are sweating reading this. :eek: