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Blaze556
04-13-2019, 12:54
A little introduction. Im Mike, im 37 and live in between cornfields known as Illinois. In 3 years im planning on a thru hike of the AT. For my entire life ive had a horrible fear of heights. Mostly centered around man made structures ( stairs, bridges, roller coasters and ferris wheels etc etc).

My main questions revolved around being able to venture on a thru hike with my fear of heights. The start of the trail is Springer Mountain GA, do you have scale the stairs at the water fall to start your hike or is there a way around that? Where else would I run into problems? Ive been researching for a bit now and Ive seen that Knife edge in PA, Bear Mountain Bridge in NY, Palmerton PA and some other places. Is it possible to Uber or hitch hike across the big bridges? Are there any spots where you are cliff walking or rock climbing?

Puddlefish
04-13-2019, 13:39
The stairs up the access road aren't an official part of the AT. You can catch a shuttle up the Forest Service Rd to the Springer Mt parking for the AT, head south to the top, and start your hike north.

I can only speak for the first 600 miles heading north.

A lot depends on your specific fear. There aren't any places where you look straight down, with nothing under you. There are a few rock scrambles, where you might have to change elevation by 15 feet total going up or down big rocks, with maybe a 3 foot traverse between rocks. Kind of like you sit on your but, and step down to the next rock, with no empty space between the rocks.

Going north Albert mountain is a long steep rock climb, but it's up a foot or so between each rocky step, not technically difficult but possibly tiring at the end of a day. If you look backwards, you might get yourself in trouble. There's also a blue blaze around Albert mountain.

Firescale Ridge was a stunning rock crawl, but as I recall, you can largely avoid going to the tippy top of the ridge with the deep drop.

Mostly, there are a bunch of flattish trails cut along the side of 45% slopes, with trees below you, that probably shouldn't set you off.

Heights don't bother me in real life, but I get freaked/vertigo out by videos of other people on heights, as I have no control over their actions, or where they point the camera next. Hopefully, as you take each step on the trail, you'll feel in control and be able to proceed.

Edit: Early in spring, the views are more open down those 45% slopes, once the leaves come in, those views get a lot less frequent.

Blaze556
04-13-2019, 13:48
The stairs up the access road aren't an official part of the AT. You can catch a shuttle up the Forest Service Rd to the Springer Mt parking for the AT, head south to the top, and start your hike north.

I can only speak for the first 600 miles heading north.

A lot depends on your specific fear. There aren't any places where you look straight down, with nothing under you. There are a few rock scrambles, where you might have to change elevation by 15 feet total going up or down big rocks, with maybe a 3 foot traverse between rocks. Kind of like you sit on your but, and step down to the next rock, with no empty space between the rocks.

Going north Albert mountain is a long steep rock climb, but it's up a foot or so between each rocky step, not technically difficult but possibly tiring at the end of a day. If you look backwards, you might get yourself in trouble. There's also a blue blaze around Albert mountain.

Firescale Ridge was a stunning rock crawl, but as I recall, you can largely avoid going to the tippy top of the ridge with the deep drop.

Mostly, there are a bunch of flattish trails cut along the side of 45% slopes, with trees below you, that probably shouldn't set you off.

Heights don't bother me in real life, but I get freaked/vertigo out by videos of other people on heights, as I have no control over their actions, or where they point the camera next. Hopefully, as you take each step on the trail, you'll feel in control and be able to proceed.

thank you for the info. 15 feet climbs like you describe dont bother me, its the standing on a ledge with a 500-1000 foot drop off like mcafee knob that i sadly would not be able to do. And walking across tall bridges like Bear Mountain are a no go also.

Dogwood
04-13-2019, 13:57
James River pedestrian bridge, Del Water Gap, swinging cable bridges, Mcafee Knob area Mt Moussalake, Mahoosuc Notch, The whites above tree line, Bear Mt Bridge,

There are times when you're on the edges of escarpments or drop offs.

peakbagger
04-13-2019, 13:59
Different folks have different fears of heights. I took a friend up the Hunt Trail (the AT) to the top of Katahdin. She has done all the 4000 footers in NH but has some issues with cliffs and dropoffs. When we got to the ridge just before the plateau she froze up and I was starting to think we werent moving. Eventually she made it up to the plateau and then literally crawled up to the summit sign and pulled her self up. There is the beginning of 1000 foot plus drop off about 10 feet behind the summit sign. The trip down was not any easier. Her issue is if she loses reference with the ground in her peripheral vision. I have joked that we need to buy her some horse blinders and expect they would help. . There is suspension bridge in the whites in the Great Gulf wilderness and if the water is up, you are not crossing without it and no good options to bypass is without losing a lot of trail as the logical bypass around it also has much longer much higher suspension bridge. Some folks have issues on the Wildcat Ridge trail up Wildcat from Pinkham Notch. The trail goes over several open ledges with pin steps in them and then goes up a section where they blasted a walkway into the side of a ledge. Heck I have even met people who have issues on the Osgood Ridge coming down off Madison. The Mahoosucs and western Maine have several very steep ledges that have metal rungs set in them so its the equivalent of climbing a ladder with uneven steps.

I expect Dragons Tooth down south may give some folks a issue.

4eyedbuzzard
04-13-2019, 14:06
While there is lots of plain old woodland trail, there are many exposed places and steep ascents/descents all along the AT if what you listed (the stairs at Amacalola Falls State Park [not part of the AT], the descent into Palmerton, stairs, bridges, etc.) are the determining criteria - and many of them just can't realistically be bypassed from a logistics standpoint. You'd might as well end the hike at Glencliff, NH as well, as lots of NH and western ME, and Katahdin would be out of the question. But you have three years to work on mitigating the exposure / acrophobia issues, and hiking in a group can also help with such issues. Just being honest.

ldsailor
04-13-2019, 14:16
I have a slight fear of heights. Let me tell you, there are quite a few places on the AT that bring that fear to the surface. I've done 1,875 miles of the trail NOBO so far and the White Mountains, the Knife's Edge and the boulders of Lehigh Gap are just a few places that I occasionally think back to. Depending on your level of fear, you may have some problems - especially on the northern part of the trail.

The view from atop the boulders at Lehigh Gap
https://static.wixstatic.com/media/ca83e1_bb75199d9876444e80937b349e32909f~mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_604,h_401,al_c,lg_1,q_80/ca83e1_bb75199d9876444e80937b349e32909f~mv2.webp

elray
04-13-2019, 14:47
Ditto on the Lehigh gap! I remember that day well when my hiking buddy II Cat did a full body slide right behind me, we lived ��

Blaze556
04-13-2019, 16:43
I have a slight fear of heights. Let me tell you, there are quite a few places on the AT that bring that fear to the surface. I've done 1,875 miles of the trail NOBO so far and the White Mountains, the Knife's Edge and the boulders of Lehigh Gap are just a few places that I occasionally think back to. Depending on your level of fear, you may have some problems - especially on the northern part of the trail.

The view from atop the boulders at Lehigh Gap
https://static.wixstatic.com/media/ca83e1_bb75199d9876444e80937b349e32909f~mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_604,h_401,al_c,lg_1,q_80/ca83e1_bb75199d9876444e80937b349e32909f~mv2.webp

yikes. My toes just curled looking at that lol Maybe the blue blaze trail around the mountain would be better for me then. How did you do crossing all of the bridges on foot?

Blaze556
04-13-2019, 16:44
While there is lots of plain old woodland trail, there are many exposed places and steep ascents/descents all along the AT if what you listed (the stairs at Amacalola Falls State Park [not part of the AT], the descent into Palmerton, stairs, bridges, etc.) are the determining criteria - and many of them just can't realistically be bypassed from a logistics standpoint. You'd might as well end the hike at Glencliff, NH as well, as lots of NH and western ME, and Katahdin would be out of the question. But you have three years to work on mitigating the exposure / acrophobia issues, and hiking in a group can also help with such issues. Just being honest.

thank you for the honesty. I wish I didnt have the very severe case of acrophobia but Ive been dealing with it my entire life

Blaze556
04-13-2019, 16:46
James River pedestrian bridge, Del Water Gap, swinging cable bridges, Mcafee Knob area Mt Moussalake, Mahoosuc Notch, The whites above tree line, Bear Mt Bridge,

There are times when you're on the edges of escarpments or drop offs.

Thank you for the info. Ive been watching 2 youtubers that vlogged their thru hike last year, and the places you mentioned were troublesome from what I remember in their videos. James river foot bridge doesnt look bad though, Its not very high up so I shouldnt have too much trouble with it.

Kittyslayer
04-13-2019, 16:56
Not to diminish the OP’s real fears, are there sections that are truly unsafe where you might die or get seriously injured? For instance, don’t hike this section when tired as a moment of inattention will be bad news.

Puddlefish
04-13-2019, 17:03
Not to diminish the OPís real fears, are there sections that are truly unsafe where you might die or get seriously injured? For instance, donít hike this section when tired as a moment of inattention will be bad news.

There's nothing that should sneak up on you and surprise you. But, there are plenty of places that are as you describe. I had two stoned friends fall off the trail and get bruised, one broke a shoulder blade and ended his hike, the other just destroyed her hiking pole. I was walking down a simple boring incline, perfectly sober, and just turned my head to see the view, and blew out my knee during the stumble. Another friend caught his giant backpack on a tree and nearly twisted himself off a ledge.

You're always a bit more at risk when you're tired, inattentive, or otherwise impaired, by substances, or even hypothermia. Then again, people fall in their homes for these same reasons.

Christoph
04-13-2019, 17:09
I have positional vertigo and anything above the 2nd step on a ladder makes me very uneasy (especially when I look up). I managed an attempt and a thru hike and while there are some "hairy" spots, most of them you can avoid (to an extent). You'll be hiking along ridgelines and some very steep climbs here and there. Katahdin was the only spot where I actually felt uneasy, but I took my time and pressed through it with the help of my hiking buddy I met along the way. Some of these instances come on quite often so you'll actually get used to it more and more as you hike though. Just take your time and have fun. You don't have to do the stairs at the falls, but I'd suggest you do it. They aren't scary at all and if you can get through that part, you can do this. But, I wouldn't want you to give up on day 1 either so...

Blaze556
04-13-2019, 17:15
I have positional vertigo and anything above the 2nd step on a ladder makes me very uneasy (especially when I look up). I managed an attempt and a thru hike and while there are some "hairy" spots, most of them you can avoid (to an extent). You'll be hiking along ridgelines and some very steep climbs here and there. Katahdin was the only spot where I actually felt uneasy, but I took my time and pressed through it with the help of my hiking buddy I met along the way. Some of these instances come on quite often so you'll actually get used to it more and more as you hike though. Just take your time and have fun. You don't have to do the stairs at the falls, but I'd suggest you do it. They aren't scary at all and if you can get through that part, you can do this. But, I wouldn't want you to give up on day 1 either so...

Happy to hear that you made it through. What was your favorite part of the trail?

illabelle
04-13-2019, 18:12
I have what I think is a "normal" fear of heights. Enough to keep me from doing stupid unsafe things.
My husband and I have completed almost 90% of the AT, including a third of NH and 80% of Maine. I used to be afraid of what I imagined the trail would be like in NH and ME, but now that I've been there, I'm not afraid anymore.
We did Lehigh Gap in a light rain. The photo above makes it look much worse than it actually is. There are many places like that. McAfee Knob looks very dangerous - if you take the picture from certain angles. And of course you "could" fall off - if you venture out to the edges. The reality is that it's a large ledge and you can see the same beautiful view from 10, 15, or 30 feet back.
Now Katahdin had some moments, especially when we had to climb up that first bit of rebar. Someone posted a video a while back that gave me the jitters. But when I got there, when I watched how the person ahead of me got up to the next level, and especially when someone told us that this was the worst spot of the climb, I managed. And I was okay.
Get some experience on the trail and you'll begin to see what you're facing. It's not as bad as you fear.

Dogwood
04-13-2019, 18:28
Blood Mt, Clingmans Dome, Newfound Gap, Charles Bunion and the Jump Off which some ATers visit, Mt Greylock Observation Tower, High Pt SP Monument NJ, Mt K/hiking up to Mt K, Mt Washington and surrounding AT tread,..
I've witnessed a couple of times people upchucking and/or disoriented staggering from the heights going up MT K. Hiking up the Hunt Tr may require 3 pts of contact and overlooking steep drop offs.

Some get vertigo looking up at waterfalls or when crossing swinging bridges or looking up at the sky or taller things that stand out which can be as simple as looking up to the top of the Dover Oak in NY or Keffer Oak in VA or the large poplar(if it's still standing) near Rock Gap or large White Pines near Gulf sagas in ME. I've observed many times people disoriented enough to fall on their faces after sleeping or sitting in a hammock more so if it was swinging.

MuddyWaters
04-13-2019, 19:41
You may not get over your fear while hiking
But you will likely get a bit less sensitized to minor things.

Your constantly on 18" wide trail sidehilling mtns, with frequent dropoffs from 10-100 ft. You really just quit paying attention to it often imo.

Probably dont want to diving board on halfdome in yosemite though. Unlike Mcaffe knob...its not a camera angle. Anyone not on hands and knees within 3' of cliff edge is a fool as well. You read about them all the time...several recently at grand canyon. Sad, but obviously the gene pool didnt need those people.

Emerson Bigills
04-13-2019, 20:21
I have a fear of heights myself. My particular issue is exposures on cliffs or long drop-offs. My McAfee Knob photo is kind of funny, as I am about four feet from the edge.

The first real issue I had was the Lehigh Gap climb that someone already discussed. Just don't look back and pay attention to your hands and feet. As you get into the Whites and even more so in ME, there are 12-15 foot walls that must be negotiated both up and down. The one just before Carlo Col in ME is a rude introduction to that state. They will get your adrenalin flowing.

I do recall one other one in ME where I tossed my poles up to the top and got about 13 feet up on the face and then thought I could shimmy across to the other side. About 5 feet across, I saw that the 2 inch ledge just disappeared. I froze for a moment and then slowly turned around and found a way to climb up the edge from which I had come. When I got to the top, I told the hiker with me that it was the first time I had been afraid on the entire hike.

The rock scramble from tree line to Tableland on Katahdin has a few exposures. I recall one being rather alarming with a couple iron rungs. Once again, I focused on my hand and foot placement and next thing I knew I was hopping over boulders to the top. On that day, I could have probably handled about anything. I was so geeked up to complete the hike, nothing was going to stop me.

Honestly, the NOBO hike slowly prepares you for exposures, full body climbing and difficulty of the trail. Don't do any work arounds. Focus on doing what you can do. You will fall numerous times, but it will never be when you are worried about it. It will be on unassuming sections of the trail. it is a hell of an adventure. Good luck.

tickspit
04-14-2019, 04:56
Don't worry you'll be so tired you will just want to move on.

Christoph
04-14-2019, 08:16
Happy to hear that you made it through. What was your favorite part of the trail?

The END! Just kidding, Katahdin was amazing, Wildcat Mtn was fun, Standing under the arch and heading up the stairs at Amicolala Falls, FINALLY finishing Va..... Most of the trail was awesome. There were a few days around Connecticut where I thought about hanging it up though. Lot of days with no views, homesick, etc... but I pressed on anyway.

Carbo
04-14-2019, 09:50
Climbing out of Lehigh Gap nobo is the one that scared me. Made the mistake of looking back. It took about 5 minutes to just calm down and breathe normally. You can always take the winter trail around the rock climb at Lehigh to avoid the worst of it. Haven't gone north of VT yet to make any comparisons.

ldsailor
04-14-2019, 12:36
yikes. My toes just curled looking at that lol Maybe the blue blaze trail around the mountain would be better for me then. How did you do crossing all of the bridges on foot?

Bridges weren't bad at all. I liked to stop and look down and out at the water.

Portie
04-14-2019, 13:23
I hate heights. On a bridge like Bear Mountain I would close my eyes, hold onto the railing, and just walk.

Uriah
04-14-2019, 13:24
For my entire life ive had a horrible fear of heights.

So long as you don't have a fear of climbs, and not just heights, the AT should treat you okay. The ladders can be challenging, and, as others have said, there are plenty of steep rock scrambles and precipices, but the next foot-hold or hand-hold is always there, always. On the AT, hiking poles get in the way a lot.

Blaze556
04-14-2019, 14:10
So long as you don't have a fear of climbs, and not just heights, the AT should treat you okay. The ladders can be challenging, and, as others have said, there are plenty of steep rock scrambles and precipices, but the next foot-hold or hand-hold is always there, always. On the AT, hiking poles get in the way a lot.

I can climb on a ladder to get on the roof of my single story house fine, but I had a panic attack on my first day at work going 30-40 feet in the air in a warehouse on a cherry picker.

Feral Bill
04-14-2019, 14:46
I would seriously suggest getting therapy to dial back the fear of heights. Some places are scary because they are objectively dangerous. But highway bridges are not. Live without as much irrational fear will be better.

Blaze556
04-14-2019, 15:41
I would seriously suggest getting therapy to dial back the fear of heights. Some places are scary because they are objectively dangerous. But highway bridges are not. Live without as much irrational fear will be better.

Does therapy for something like that work?

KnightErrant
04-14-2019, 17:20
I have a pretty significant fear of heights, but it's worse when it's something that I don't perceive as solid. So I'm fine with rock climbing in a climbing gym, crossing normal road bridges, climbing trees, etc. But suspension bridges terrify me, and ladders freak me out a little because I can't help but picture them tipping over or sliding out from under me, even though I know it's irrational. I also don't like rickety stairs. Cliffs bother me a little too, but I'm okay if I can stay a few feet back from the edge.

On my thru hike, the scariest parts for me were fire towers (which are totally optional, you only have to go up them if you want the view), some bridges over streams where the supports looked suspicious, and then a few really steep bits of scrambling. Lehigh Gap, some parts of the Whites, some of southern Maine, and the climb up Katahdin all got my heart pumping. I'm a lot more confident going up than coming down, probably because when you're going up, you're facing the rock and it's easy to take it one step at a time, not facing the open space and looking down. My fear of heights was compounded by my knee problems in the second half of the trail. By the end, I was really unstable on my right leg when stepping downward, so steep downhills were legitimately dangerous because my balance was so poor. We had wet weather in southern Maine and I remember muttering a lot of curses into the empty forest because I felt like the trail builders were trying to kill me. All those steep slabs of rock, with nothing but few slippery half-rotted wooden wedges bolted in to make some footholds: in the rain, it felt like a death trap. But hey, I sat on my butt and scooted on down, and I'm alive today with a thru-hike under my belt.

Phobias are by definition irrational fears, so you can know with your brain that something is safe, and yet still feel scared. For me, it's helpful to accept that I am scared instead of feeling frustrated or embarrassed by it, but then choose to focus on the logic and statistics that indicate that it's safe, and then just try to do the thing anyway. My fear never went away, but I did get to the point where I could override it and climb that fire tower or focus on the rock immediately under my hands and feet and climb one step at a time up a mountainside. It was always a huge rush of relief when I finished a frightening part of the trail, and then a hint of pride that a chicken like me was out there, doing it. I find it's helpful, both with myself and others, to be honest and humble about the fact that some things scare me. Most hikers are pretty nice people. If they understand that you're scared, they'll be patient if you need extra time to get through a tricky spot, and they'll be encouraging when you overcome your fear. And if I try to be understanding of myself in the same way, my own attitude can be a lot more patient and encouraging than if I try to hide my fear and end up feeling rushed, panicky, and pathetic.

Oh also FYI, McAfee's is nothing near 500 feet. The famous photo is sort of an illusion. The slope below is less than 100 feet down. I would have guessed less than 50 feet, but when a guy fell last year the news reported that he fell 100 feet. I'm still not sure if that was 100 vertical feet or if he fell and then rolled down farther to make 100 total. He lived through the initial fall but died a week later. With McAfee's there's no need to go way out onto the ledge, but even so, it's not as precarious as it looks in photos!

Carbo
04-14-2019, 17:25
I don't have a fear of heights, just a fear of falling.

tdoczi
04-14-2019, 20:44
Oh also FYI, McAfee's is nothing near 500 feet. The famous photo is sort of an illusion. The slope below is less than 100 feet down. I would have guessed less than 50 feet, but when a guy fell last year the news reported that he fell 100 feet. I'm still not sure if that was 100 vertical feet or if he fell and then rolled down farther to make 100 total. He lived through the initial fall but died a week later. With McAfee's there's no need to go way out onto the ledge, but even so, it's not as precarious as it looks in photos!
from the vantage point "the photo" is taken you can't see it, but if you get yourself in the right position (which i assume includes peering directly over the edge, which i declined to do) there is actually a ledge maybe 15 feet below you would most likely land on if you were to fall, though itself is also kind of narrow. the guy who fell i would guess landed on it but didnt stay and the slid/rolled a ways. its definitely not a long straight drop of even 100 feet, let alone 500.

Feral Bill
04-14-2019, 21:57
Does therapy for something like that work? Don't know. It might help, with the right professional.

Feral Bill
04-14-2019, 21:58
I don't have a fear of heights, just a fear of falling. Falling's no problem. Landing can be.

Venchka
04-15-2019, 03:15
The Great Plains Trail is made for you. Long sections of the Continental Divide Trail are quite level and not frightening in any way.
Good luck.
Wayne

egilbe
04-15-2019, 07:17
I'm not a fan of heights. I feel myself freezing and have to force myself to move on. The more I hike, the less I'm freezing, but I still have that fear. One of the more scarier sections I found was Webster Cliff trail on a windy day. I'm comfortable being about 8 feet from any edges. That day definitely pushed my comfort zone.

Lots of slabs in Maine and NH that one climbs up. You end up feeling like a mountain goat. The fear doesn't really go away, you become more confident that you aren't going to fall to your death, because thousands of people hike that trail and don't die.

East Bald Pate I still think is trying to kill me. I show it the respect it deserves. There's one section in the Bigelow's that's walking along and edge of a cliff, just before the summit of Avery, I think. Katahdin, as was mentioned. The fire tower on Old Speck I can't bring myself to climb.

Recalc
04-15-2019, 07:39
My fear of heights caused me to yellow blaze the McAfee Knob/Tinker Cliff section. A week later, I went back and hiked it and couldn't believe how my mind created a monster that was never really there. Lehigh Gap in light rain was frightening, but the rest of the AT was doable.

A case can be made that overcoming a fear of heights is similar to eskimo rolling a whitewater kayak. When the boar first flips, it's easy to think about how this no oxygen environment might have rocks, trees, and all kinds of 'horrible' things ready to jump out an get you. But your safest bet is to stay calm and set up that roll up and rise to safety. When ruminating personal fears, you are not setting up for a quality roll have done nothing to better your situation.

I believe fear of heights are similar. Look only in front of you when you walk. Try to control your breathing while concentrating placement of hands and feet. The downward spiral of fear is avoided by concentrating on the task at hand.

Lastly, hikers put a lot of work & time into achieving their goal of completing the AT. Do not let your fear of heights prevent you from enjoying a wonderful hike.

stephanD
04-15-2019, 08:43
It is OK to have a healthy dose of fear of heights, snakes, spiders, etc. it is a mechanism meant to keep us safe. when the fear (AKA phobia) interferes with activities that for most people are not crippling, that's when you have a problem. my best advise is (A) work with a psychologist/therapist. There are methods to deal with all kind of phobias, including yours and (B) do NOT take medications, especially when hiking, you want to keep your mind sharp. Deal with the difficult sections as they come. for example, when i did the Knife Edge in PA, i was literally walking on my four. Leigh Gap is basically a boulder scramble, even if it looks scary in the picture. And if you feel that a section is beyond of what you can handle, there's no shame in turning back and find a way around it. After all, you want to enjoy your hike, no to be terrorized by it.

Marta
04-15-2019, 09:06
I get lightheaded in exposed places. Having hiked the entire AT, I can say that it's possible to work around that problem. There are a number of cliffs and rocky areas on the AT that FEEL exposed, but they really aren't Free Solo exposed. Be careful, focus your gaze on a solid place under your feet and not on the ravine far below, stay as far back from the edge as possible, and you'll be fine. When I come to a place that scares me I ask myself, "Is my fear of this little piece going to keep me from fulfilling one of my life's ambitions?"

I can also say that repetition dulls the fear. As you get stronger, your balance and nimbleness improve. Things that used to scare you become ho hum.

Remember--thousands of people have hiked through those difficult sections, including small children, blind people, very elderly people, people with extreme physical challenges...

It's also true that most people find SOMETHING to fear during a thru-hike. If it's not heights, it's spiders, or being too cold/too wet/too hot..., or the dark, or bears, or snakes, or being injured, or being alone, or looking stupid, or being mistaken for involuntarily homeless, or being rejected, or SOMETHING. One of the great gifts of a thru-hike (other than being able to eat as much as you want and still lose weight) is triumphing over those fears and becoming a stronger person.

Carbo
04-15-2019, 09:42
I find it's a battle between my mind and the raw determination of just doing it that gets me through most tough spots. Not only the heights, but to just keep slogging along. It certainly can be a challenge to keep from doing something just plain stupid vs. just getting past a fear that may be nothing at all. "Walkin on the Happy Side of Misery" is a book that was pretty good about using this dual-personality to write about a thru hike.

tiptoe
04-15-2019, 10:39
Like many of us, I too have a moderate fear of heights, but that didn't stop me from completing the AT as a section hiker. Going uphill, I learned to focus on what was immediately ahead of me. Looking back while you are on a dicey section is definitely not a good idea. For me, the scariest part was the climb northbound out of Pinkham Notch. Near the top is a steep, very exposed boulder. I was happy to see rebar steps/handholds, but was not happy when they abruptly ended. I took a deep breath, proceeded cautiosly, and made it. When I got to the top, I sat down and had a long "made it" moment. Several other hikers, most younger, stronger, and taller than me, joined me in the next few minutes, and most had the same reaction.

I have a little thing that I tell myself in tough situations (learning to drive, childbirth, dementia care for a spouse, etc.): So many others have done this, you can do it too.

If you get to really scares you, consider waiting for another hiker to come along and offer moral or other support.

chknfngrs
04-18-2019, 07:26
Stay in your three foot world. That is, focus on the three feet that surround you. Exhausting for all day fare but easily accomplished on the hard technical stuff the trail has for us. I’m not a thru hiker but do harbor irrational fear of heights... I’d much rather hike and muscle past fear than work a full time job.

Epsilon>0
05-22-2019, 17:54
Mike,

I'll be starting a thru hike in just under a year. I don't have any personal experience with the AT (yet!), but your post reminded me of a wonderful documentary called Walking Home (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4TWPbBlf70). One of the hikers in the documentary, Black Bear, mentions several times that she has a fear of heights; near the end of the documentary, she takes a moment to congratulate herself a little on gradually overcoming this fear during her thru hike. Black Bear has a blog; you can contact her here: http://happyhiking.bangordailynews.com/contact/

Perhaps she'll be able to provide you with some details on hiking with a fear of heights. Also, that documentary is wonderful! Definitely worth a watch.

Thrifty Endurance
05-23-2019, 02:25
A little introduction. Im Mike, im 37 and live in between cornfields known as Illinois. In 3 years im planning on a thru hike of the AT. For my entire life ive had a horrible fear of heights. Mostly centered around man made structures ( stairs, bridges, roller coasters and ferris wheels etc etc).

My main questions revolved around being able to venture on a thru hike with my fear of heights. The start of the trail is Springer Mountain GA, do you have scale the stairs at the water fall to start your hike or is there a way around that? Where else would I run into problems? Ive been researching for a bit now and Ive seen that Knife edge in PA, Bear Mountain Bridge in NY, Palmerton PA and some other places. Is it possible to Uber or hitch hike across the big bridges? Are there any spots where you are cliff walking or rock climbing?

Hi Mike! Are you thru-hiking with anyone? I "had" a fear of heights and started climbing mountains, bouldering, rappelling off rock walls and climbing fire towers. Even with all that, I still don't really look down. Fear of heights is a real thing. If your fear is "man-made" structures like bridges, then maybe you could hitch across them, but don't know about all the "man-made" structures on trail. Are you all right climbing rebars? What if the stairs are made of rocks/boulders placed there by trail maintainers? How about wooden foot bridges or logs across a stream crossing? I'm just thinking about some of the sections on the AT that is "man-made" AKA trail maintainers. Each AT section is managed by different partners of the ATC and they put their own spin on things. There are also wooden foot bridges that go above the swampy, muddy sections. They are not too high off the ground. You are also ascending and descending mountains, but you don't have to follow the blue blaze for a view either. You don't have to climb up Dragon's Tooth or even look or sit near the edge on McAfee Knob. Are you OK ridge walking? Well anyhoo, I think many here already pointed out some things to consider.