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Climbing Deaths and Injuries in 2013 Taking a Toll
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By Simon Thompson
From New Paltz, NY
Sep 23, 2013
CBW wrote:
you'll find that the top four reasons people die while climbing is due to HUMAN ERROR. So if you are skilled, conservative and always learning, you can live to be a has been.


You hit the nail on the head. I just returned from a climbing trip and witnessed a rescue and/or body recovery in every national park climbing area I visited. In almost every case, the accident was completely avoidable and could be attributed to poor decision-making and lack of honest evaluation of one's own skills.

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By Buff Johnson
Sep 23, 2013
smiley face
1. Is the percentage of climbers dying or getting injured from climbing rising?

As a percentage, no. More people are outdoors enjoying these activities. With advances in equipment and ease of access, it's just a reality.
Although, Vallone brings up some great parallels with the "pro" but not pro skiers, and the increased visibility of accidents.

2. If so, why?
3. Are we as a community ok with that?

Nobody is "ok" with accidents

4. If not, how do we change it?

First, you can't fix stupid. No matter the effort into education or equipment, people do stupid shit and will continue to do stupid shit.

Second, shit happens. The mountains are never 100% safe.

Third, aside from my first and second points, everything else (95+% of every accident) is an avoidable one that had a basis in human-based decision making. Ignorance, complacency, bias, arrogance..what can you do? Not a damn thing, except educate yourself and take care of your partner(s) and vice versa.

Otherwise, free expression and risk acceptance are the name of the game; people are responsible for themselves.

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By doligo
Sep 23, 2013
Jose Cuervo Fruitcups dirtbag style
Dustin B wrote:
Get an AAC membership if you don't already have one. Their 'accidents' book that comes free when you join.


Plus you get a copy of the AAJ - don't know what trip reports the OP is reading, but the cutting edge ascents described in them I rarely want to attempt. Take for example, Kyle Dempster and Bruce Normand's FA on Mt. Edgar - both of them have said that they never want to climb that mountain again. When it's hard and desperate, there are usually no film crews. You get a better perspective by reading written accounts from places like Alpinist or AAJ, not from the ReelRock Tour.

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By Greg D
From Here
Sep 23, 2013
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W.
Buff summed it up pretty well.

This question gets asked every year, though. So, I don't think this year is unique. I think the op's awareness has grown and media coverage is greater. As a percentage of the growing numbers I don't think there has been any change. I don't have stats to back it.

Climate change, oh my. The term global warming had to be replaced because the predictions didn't happen. Well, it turns out the climate has always been changing including in all recoreded and non recorded history. But, the media needed a new catch phrase. Yes, we are seeing changes. But, the climate has always been changing. I have the weather channel on right now. There is a special on climate change. Makes for great tv.

Someone above mentioned Mills Glacier. It is larger and more stable than it was in the 90's. It was so warm up there people were climbing in shorts.

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By PosiDave
Sep 23, 2013
Jeff Thilking wrote:
Nice write up. I blame Reel Rock Film Tour, GoPro, and Red Bull.


To blame anyone but yourself or to not make anyone take responsibility for their own actions is stupid. You are doing something dangerous and pushing limits (personal or more) will likely end up with you in the injured or dead at some point.

Next thing we know it will be: Spoons make people fat, Guns shoot people & Climbing routes throw people to their death.

Another example: I have been cycling for about 15 years & went downhill riding for the first time this weekend. Half of the people riding should not have been riding any downhill trails without expecting to get hurt, people were crashing 5 feet of the lift before they even got to trails.

So the problem isn't just climbing it is anything that people wish they had the "nuts" to do and society has given people this instant gratification issue and that makes a dangerous combo.

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By Martin le Roux
From Superior, CO
Sep 23, 2013
Stairway to Heaven
Chris Kalman wrote:
Is the percentage of climbers dying or getting injured from climbing rising?


Short and unhelpful answer: No-one really knows.

1. There's no reliable mechanism for reporting climbing accidents. ANAM's a good publication, but they rely on voluntary submissions. Many accidents go unreported.

2. No-one keeps an accurate count of climbers or climber-days. There are some statistics such as national park visits or outdoor gear purchases that can be used as rough benchmarks, but they rarely distinguish between climbers and non-climbers.

3. The term "climber" isn't well defined. What about people who never venture outside climbing gyms? Ski-mountaineers? Hikers who get into trouble on mildly technical terrain?

4. It's human nature to see patterns or trends when sometimes you're just looking at random noise. Climbing deaths or serious injuries are rare events; it's hard to tell the difference between a trend and a small number of unlucky accidents.

This isn't meant to imply that accident reporting isn't a worthwhile exercise. There's lots to learn from these reports; it's just that anecdotal evidence isn't a good basis for statistical analysis.

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By Mark Pilate
Sep 23, 2013
Pretty much agree with Buff’s assessment above.

Except for expanding on item 3 a bit. While the good angel on my right shoulder wishes nobody any harm and I actively and routinely assist other climbers in need (such as all my insightful, always on topic, and very useful posts on this website), the bad angel on my left shoulder whispers, “you gotta weed out the weak and stupid somehow” and I’m OK with it.

Basically it is carrying the “can’t fix stupid” 5th fundamental law of nature to its logical conclusion. Do what you can to help educate and assist, but its gonna happen regardless.

Just yesterday, a girl had apparently collapsed and cut herself as she fell. I happened to be 50 feet away when someone started yelling for a doctor. Long story short, she was just supremely hung-over. The good angel made me stay with her, treat her, call her Mom for her, escort her out, etc etc. The bad angel makes me talk smack on the internet about such people. Does this make me Bipolar?

Edit: This post does not address the smaller % of unavoidable, "legit" accidents of just being out there, "can happen to anybody" type incidents

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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Sep 23, 2013
...
LOL! Good one!


I believe the cause of so many accidents is Obamacare! If less people were uninsured they wouldn't go out and try risky sports. They would stay home, clean their guns and watch Fox news where they belong."





You have one person driving on a race track and can only have one crash. Have two and the potential grows, etc...

Nothing new is going on...

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By The Stoned Master
Administrator
From Pennsylvania
Sep 23, 2013
Day Lily.
Mark Pilate wrote/asked: Does this make me Bipolar?

Im sure you werent truly asking Mark but you made me think. that makes you the opitomy of human. the modern human mind (maybe mind period?) is bipolar naturally, the aristolian logic (= black and white, not grey like life) we're induced with (a2+b2=c2, better/worse, good/bad) is a big part of this.

we all have a sinner and a saint within us. we all see the positive and negative (potential or part of the WHOLE potential). the difference between us all is what we choose to do, commit to.

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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Sep 23, 2013
...
For the record, pretty sure it's epitome.


Not oPitUhMe.

;-)


Oops!

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By jon weekley
From Denver, Co
Sep 23, 2013
avocado gully
2013 Accidents NAM
2013 Accidents NAM




As you can see by the current Accidents report (2013), There has NOT been a significant increase in fatalities in North America, since the early 80's.

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By The Stoned Master
Administrator
From Pennsylvania
Sep 23, 2013
Day Lily.
thanks locker. im sure youve picked up how to spell alot of words correctly over the last 80+ years of your life...

theres not more deaths, just more media attention (media = facebook, forums, news sites, climbing sites, etc). ALOT more info is being taken in/shared these days.

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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Sep 23, 2013
...
"thanks locker. im sure youve picked up how to spell alot of words correctly over the last 80+ years of your life..."

Your math also has a weeeeeeeee bit to be desired.

LOL!

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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Sep 23, 2013
Chris Kalman wrote:
Is the percentage of climbers dying or getting injured from climbing rising?


Well, don´t know about the USA but Germany,the country with the largest Alpine Club and painfully exact accident statistics reporting gives the lowest number of deaths ever in real terms and 1/13th of the accident rate since 1952 for their membership of around 1,000,000 in 2012. The weather in 2012 was particularly favourable (it was bad!) but the year-on statistics show climbing/alpinism/mountain activities in general are becoming steadily safer.

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By Chris Kalman
Sep 23, 2013
Thanks everyone for your thoughts, especially to those who showed some of the data on accident totals past and present. It is interesting to see that in fact it seems that participation has increased, but accidents have decreased in the U.S. since 1980. I didn't expect to see that! I think this information precludes the value of my third and fourth questions, and the thoughts I had about them.

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By hikingdrew
From Los Angeles, CA
Sep 23, 2013
dorky helmet
I'm going to risk appearing a bit pedantic by posting about stats on a climbing site, but I often get asked questions about climbing safety and stats.

When you're counting something (like climbing accidents,) for it to be a 'statistically significant' change, the increase or decrease has to be at least the square root of the count. So if there were 100 accidents one year, the next year would have to have more than at least 110 (or less than 90) accidents for you to think it significant. For smaller numbers, it still applies; so 10 one year and up to 13 next year may not be significant, even though it's a 30% increase.

This isn't a hard and fast rule either, a way to think of it is to say that increasing from 100 to 110 may be just statistical fluctuation, but 100 to 120 is probably not due to just chance.

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By bearbreeder
Sep 23, 2013
i suspect that many of the accidents that dont involve fatalities or SAR never show up in the ANAM, especially if people can self-evacuate from the crag

there are accidents in squamish all the time, but generally youll rarely see em in the ANAM

remember that, as far as i know, there is no required reporting for "accidents", which itself needs definition

what i have noticed is quite a bit of sketchy activity by some climbers, often those who are new

lack of basic anchor knowledge, crap belaying techniques, lack of multi experience, learning off the intrawebs, no rap safety, etc ...

the bluffs in climbing season is home to all the shenanigans ... youll see it all along with people doing approaches in high heel boots, little kids playing at the base under trad climbers, etc ...

of course youll see the inverse ... newbies screaming at other people about how UNSAFE UNSAFE UNSAFE they are for nothing, like not using 4 lockers and an equalette for a TR anchor ... which is just as bad because its crying wolf when theres real safety issues

;)

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By Dylan B.
Sep 23, 2013
Orgasm Direct, Devil's Lake, 5.11a  c. 2008
So we have no data to support the contention that the rate of accidents is going up. The OP thinks, anecdotally, that maybe he's heard about more accidents this year than in years past. The substance of his observation is totally unverified.

There are all sorts of variables that could account for this observation that are entirely unrelated to the general level of risk that climbers are undertaking. It could be that the OP is paying more attention this year than past years. It could be that more accidents are being reported. It could be that the accidents are more dramatic, and therefore more memorable. It could be that the OP has become a little more mature, and is paying more attention to risk and consequences.

Even if it's true that there have been more accidents in 2013 than in years past, there are lots of explanations that cannot be verified or debunked just based on the rate of accidents. It could be a normal deviation from the mean. It could be that there has been a change in climbing conditions that is making previously moderate-risk climbing more risky (i.e. the climate change theory). It could be that there have been a bunch of cases of faulty gear in 2013. It could be that the unit of measurement is skewed. (Why is the period chosen from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2013? How do you define "climbing accident"?).

These are just reasons that come off the top of my head that have nothing to do with too many n00bs, or people taking greater risks, or an overall change in climbing culture and climber conduct. There could be any other number of reasons I haven't thought of.

Without real data, this value of this conversation is limited to an intellectual exercise. It is based on no real-world information, and therefore provides no real-world insight. We're analyzing a hypothetical situation which may or may not correspond to reality.

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By Mark Pilate
Sep 23, 2013
Always cracks me up when someone questions the real world value of a forum discussion....

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By vincent L.
From Redwood City
Sep 23, 2013
First day of school
Loud and clear D. Buffum ....

The OP pretty much acknowledges as much in his last post . It's still a worthwhile and interesting discussion IMO .

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By Dylan B.
Sep 23, 2013
Orgasm Direct, Devil's Lake, 5.11a  c. 2008
vincent L. wrote:
Loud and clear D. Buffum .... The OP pretty much acknowledges as much in his last post . It's still a worthwhile and interesting discussion IMO .


How is it "worthwhile"? What "worth" is there to this entirely speculative thread?

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By vincent L.
From Redwood City
Sep 23, 2013
First day of school
Well first I would argue that it is worthwhile to the OP , as he had one viewpoint and has since changed his opinion based on the input and data of others .

Secondly it is worthwhile to me to learn what other climbers think or don't think the reasons are behind climbing accidents .

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By Buff Johnson
Sep 23, 2013
smiley face
somali pirates on obamacare, that's why

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