With any expedition, whether solo or supported, putting aside external pressures and having the right mindset is paramount – and Laura understands this more than most. When she climbed the North Face of the Eiger alone she needed to be sure that she was taking risks for the right reasons.
How do we know we’re not pushing the limits for praise, social validation or sponsorship deals? The Strong Mind team wanted to learn from how Laura uncovers her motivations and checks in with her mindset for dangerous alpine ascents? Hazel spoke with Laura about her ascent of the Eiger, her approach, and what drives her.
Motivations in mind
For Laura, it all starts with understanding her motivations for the climb by asking questions like, “Why am I doing this?” and making sure the answer doesn’t come from her ego. For Laura, she knows her mindset is in the right place when her drive to try the route comes from a place of curiosity and the desire to experience rather than conquer. “I wanted the experience and I was curious about how I would react to the situation and how it would feel,” she told us. “So that was the motivation [for the Eiger].”
Laura admits to being very questioning when it comes to her motivations. She says, “I think I'm a person who always questions everything. Like why we do things.” From her questions she is able to weigh up the risks, allow herself to turn back without shame or regret, and find out if and why she really wants to tackle the challenge. When speaking about her solo Eiger climb she said, “It doesn't matter if I do it or not... I want to do it. I want to try.”
Climbing the North Face of the Eiger was a challenge that Laura knew she needed to be in the right headspace for. On the day she set out to do the climb her mind was not in it. She took the wrong turn and lost 2 hours. Questioning her motivation and mindset, she explained, “I was just trying to get in my mind and understand how I feel. And then I was… somewhere else.”
After discovering she wasn’t in the right headspace for such a challenge, she turned back. She said, “If I’m not doing it for fun, but to prove myself, for myself… then it’s the wrong motivation for me.”
After a day recharging and resetting her mind, she refreshed her expectations and motivations for the climb: “to get down safely, and to have fun, not to have it feel like an exam, but rather go there with curiosity.” The day she completed the climb, her doubts had disappeared and she had a good feeling: “It’s the right moment at the right place.”
Mental training at work
At Strong Mind, we know there are two types of motivators, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivations are internal and linked to the task at hand such as the love of the movement and challenge of climbing. Extrinsic motivators are external drivers such as social validation, likes on Instagram, positive attention from friends, and sponsorship deals. While extrinsic motivations have their place, they’re not as powerful as intrinsic motivations and are often fear-based.
Laura’s intrinsic motivations and her love for the mountains drew her to the climb. She was curious, she wanted to know how it felt to be on the wall alone, she wasn’t out to prove anything to herself or anyone else. Following these ‘love-based’ motivators allowed her to be positive and present during the climb. If her motivations were to prove something, this would have put her in the wrong frame of mind, making her more fearful and distracted. A distracted mind is not only detrimental to our performance and enjoyment but also to our safety when climbing dangerous routes.
An inspirational mindset
Laura’s story tells a different narrative to the predictable, “It was hard, but I did it anyway.” Her mindset is refreshing in the world of alpinism, it's less driven by ego, and more driven by her curiosity and love for climbing. As climbers, we can learn from her ability to walk away from a challenge without shame, her self-reflective strategies, and her positive mindset of putting curiosity before conquering.
You can follow Laura’s adventures on her Instagram.