In preparation for our upcoming trip to the Revelations this spring, I have been practicing the process of self-visualization. It has been very interesting to work out, repeat and refine this mental rehearsal process.
I remember my step-dad talking to me about self-visualization when I played baseball as a kid. He tried to get me to rehearse the process of watching the pitch, following the ball and connecting all the way through with my bat. While I was never a great batter, I always found the process to be very intriguing.
Years ago when I first started learning about alpine climbing I picked up Mark Twight's book, Extreme Alpinism. He dedicates a portion of the book to visualization. In it he says "visualization presupposes a belief in your ability to achieve a goal."
Trying to read and understand an unknown mountain, route or path is in some ways an aspect of visualization but I think it falls more under the category of planning.
Our upcoming expedition into the Revelations is stacked with some pretty heavy objectives. Seth and I have been putting our time in under the weights and we feel physically strong. For the past month though, I have been trying to perform a daily ritual of self-visualization of our intended climbing route, from start to finish.
Usually well before work, while enjoying a morning cup of coffee i will put on some non-distracting music and lay on the couch. Then I close my eyes and focus purely on the climb and the mountain. I try to visualize and feel everything...the cold, my breathing, the weight of my pack, snow crystals forming on my face. I try and imagine timeframes for different conditions...how fast will I be able to get to the first alcove if the snow is firm and fast? What if it is deep? How will that change our outcome? Where will the cruxes be and how will I feel when I get to them? Then I try to visualize myself climbing fast, strong and confidently, observing from both the first and third person perspectives. In my head I can look down from half way up a mountain that I have never even touched.
In my self-visualization process (which can range from five minutes to well over an hour), I try to focus only on success. I do not stop until I have successfully completed a positive visualization.
In my head I have already climbed our intended route a thousand times. I can close my eyes and see a burned in picture of our route. I remember where critical rocks and snow gullies are. I feel 'more' comfortable with our mission.
That said, I still have fear and apprehension. I dream about our climb all the time. There is definitely something to be said about the practice of self-visualization. While it didn't make me hit a baseball any better as a kid, I am quite confident that it has prepared me to approach our upcoming climb with more familiarity and a measure of mental fortitude that I have not had on previous endeavors. Some of these times have suddenly become so intense that they feel like a vivid dream. It has been a unique approach to climbing that I've never explored before. I have no doubt that it will make me more comfortable, familiar and most of all, confident on our upcoming climbs in the Revelations.