Female Rock Climber and Freediver Explains How to Overcome Fear and Live Life to the Max

How to manage living in fear? Sure there are ways to overcome fear and luckily Vivian from Angus and Vivian Adventures has found to control it through her sports, rock climbing and freediving.

In this interview, Vivian together with his boyfriend Angus, share their rock climbing and freediving adventures, tips and guides, favorite rock climbing and freediving gear, and find out where climbers usually go on their first date!

Angus and Vivian Adventures

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Vivian. I’m an American Asian female from Colorado, USA. I’m a 25-year old weekend warrior who works a full time job in a cancer research lab, and on the weekends I am camping, backpacking and doing all things outdoors. I’m an avid climber, freediver, and hiker.

Angus, my boyfriend and partner in crime, is the second half of our blog, Angus and Vivian Adventures. He’s from Scotland, lives in Manchester, England working for a pharmaceutical drug company as a chemist. He’s also a big climber, hiker and freediver.

Angus and Vivian Adventures

How and why did you get into climbing and freediving?

The first time I went climbing was actually on a double date. My boyfriend at the time had our first date with another friend and her boyfriend, and we went climbing after dinner. I somehow managed to tackle a 5.10a on my first try despite my fear of heights, and have been addicted ever since. Angus started climbing with his friends in Glasgow, Scotland, and weirdly enough our first date was at a climbing gym as well! I would say I’m responsible for getting him really into it.

Angus had always been interested in freediving after seeing epic YouTube videos of Guillaume Néry going down into the Blue Hole in the Bahamas. When I moved to the UK and lived with him, we talked about learning how to freedive when we had the chance. We finished our finals, booked a flight to Malta and did a freediving course with One Breath Freediving‘s owner, David. He taught us all the tips and tricks and we were completely hooked. Now, when we travel, we choose climbing and/or freediving destinations.

Why is climbing and freediving important for you?

Fear. A lot of people aren’t willing to do adventurous things such as climbing and freediving simply because it scares them. And it’s a completely healthy fear. But for me, I grew up living in fear or almost everything. Swimming, rollerblading, fear of falling off my bike, etc., etc. I hated it, and I hated that I couldn’t control being scared.

When I started climbing, I learned to control my fear and to place it to the side until I got to the top. The same applied to freediving. When you’re down 60 feet in the water, the last thing you want to be is afraid. You have to let go of your instinctual fear and let the water guide you. It’s meditative, really.

Angus and Vivian Adventures

How do you train and become better at climbing and freediving?

I usually go to my local climbing gym, or on most days I prefer to go outside and climb on real rock. My training plan isn’t really a plan, it’s mostly going into the gym climbing a few warm up routes, heading up some harder things, then finally making my way to a project. I do a lot of cross training such a lifting, running and swimming to keep myself in good shape. Angus and I also use a freedive training app that helps with O2 and CO2 levels while you’re holding your breath. It trains you to hold your breath for longer and is completely customizable to your abilities.

What are the hardest parts of climbing and freediving?

The hardest parts about these two sports is that it’s very mental. Of course, you have to be in some sort of good physical shape. But it’s mostly your mentality that will keep you going. Again, fear plays a big part of both these sports. When you’re 100 feet up on the rock, or 100 feet below the water, you have to hone in your abilities and not let your fear take over. When it does, that’s usually when trouble invites itself in. I have had my fair share of panic attacks 100 feet up on the wall, and let me tell you, it’s no fun.

How do you prepare for events/races? (if any)

I’ve done a few bouldering competitions, and managed to take first place in one! To be honest, I didn’t do any intense training other than going to the bouldering gym a few times a week and bouldering with friends. Like I mentioned, I’m all about doing a variety of cross training sports to keep me in shape. Running, hiking, weights, HIIT and swimming generally keeps me fit.

Angus and Vivian Adventures

How do you eat and sleep?

Angus and I are morning people, so we tend to sleep by around 11 and wake up between 6 and 7 on a weekday. On the weekends, our schedule varies. We’re typically camping or doing something outdoorsy so we can be up at 3am doing a 14er on a Saturday or sleeping in till 9 or 10 on a Sunday. We’re great at traveling, so it doesn’t affect our sleep too much even when the jet lag hits. We love doing yoga together. Yoga with Adriene and Fightmaster Yoga are great, free YouTube videos that we LOVE.

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

I broke my thumb a few months ago attempting a Dyno move (A climbing move in which the climber jumps or moves dynamically from one hold to another) that I’d already stuck, but a friend wanted to watch me to do it again. I had to stop climbing for awhile, and stick to easy stuff. I kept the cross training up and would never push my thumb to do more than it could.

What is your best advice people new to climbing and freediving?

Stick at it! I didn’t like climbing when I first tried it because the whole being afraid of heights thing really stressed me out. I hated the feeling of being up there. But I kept going, and eventually fell in love although my fear still haunted me. Over the last few years, I’ve really been able to gain control of my fear and have learned to love being up high.

Best advice for people who have been climbing and freediving for years?

Climbing and freediving are now sports that are becoming ever increasingly popular, which are good and bad things. I guess, my biggest advice is to please respect your surroundings and leave no trace. Please don’t go to a crag and pee all over the place and leave your trash around. Please don’t step and touch all the coral you see when you’re freediving. All of this has huge potential to damage the environment around you, and ruin the area for many. Being mindful of what you’re doing while climbing and freediving benefits us all.

Angus and Vivian Adventures

How do you balance normal life with climbing and freediving?

We don’t climb or freedive competitively, so balancing normal life with these sports isn’t an issue. In fact, it’s part of our balance. Climbing and freediving are our way to relax and unwind from the busy workday, so we love doing them. It’s social, so we hang out with friends while we are climbing/freediving and it’s a great way to meet new friends.

What kind of climbing shoes and clothes do you use?

I’ve worn my La Sportiva Miuras for the last six years and I love them. I have a pair of La sportiva Geniuses that I have yet to break in, it hurts so bad to put them on! Angus loves his La Sportiva Katanas Lace-ups.

I typically climb in leggings or my Prana Monarch Convertible pants.

What has been your best sport purchase below $100?

For climbing, I would say my Mammut Climbing Helmet. That thing has been with me through many class 4/5 14er climbs where I’m fearing my life, it’s been with me through multipitches up the Italian Dolomites, and on hard sport climbs in Golden, Colorado.

For freediving, definitely my mask, the Sporasubs (I can’t remember what model). They’re flexible enough to fit my high Asian cheekbones and wider face without bringing water into the mask.

Angus and Vivian Adventures

What other favorite gear do you have?

Cams. Whenever I’m leading a trad climb and I stick a cam in a nice crack, I breathe a sigh of relief and pray that the next place for protection isn’t so far.

What will the future bring?

We’re getting into mountaineering, but of course the gear on that costs quite a bit! But we want to train for avalanche safety and eventually backcountry skiing/alpine touring. We’re also very keen on learning to spearfish so we can be self-sufficient on our freediving adventures! Because who doesn’t want freshly caught fish?


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