Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Secret of Climbing Perception

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It turns out that Tom Stafford, co-author of Mind Hacks, is a rock climber. He wrote a nice blog post about the psychology of perception and climbing entitled Rock Climbing Hacks. In this post he gives some of the neuroscience background to what climbers call 'route-finding', in other words the ability to pick out handholds and footholds as you go up a wall.

I really appreciated this post after this past weekend when I climbed to the summit of some of the best rocks in the Mid-Atlantic. Somewhere midway up the several hundred foot rock I learned that my idea of a 'good' foothold had changed dramatically. Suddenly a good hold was any little nubbins of a protrusion that I could use to balance on my big toe. And a 'good' handhold was one that I could hold onto just enough to stay balanced on my toes. Miraculously, it worked and I didn't fall. Pretty cool.