/ What is it about this winter?

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balmybaldwin - on 26 Feb 2013
Is it my imagination or has this been a particularly bad winter for serious accidents and deaths in Scotland?

We seem to have had one incident a week where someone(often more than one) has died in the Scottish mountains, the latest tradgedy occuring yesterday...

Is there any particular reason behind this?
Are there more people on the hills?
Are the people on the hills less experienced or under equiped?
Are the conditions significantly different to the average winter (weather/jetstream related)?
Are the accidents just being reported more?
Is it just an unlucky year?

Do people think this a trend that will continue next year? http://www.mcofs.org.uk/assets/mountain-incidents-report.pdf Provides some interesting reading, and I note in the period they studied (1996-2005) only 14 deaths occurred where as this year we are close to reaching that number (I count 10?) and it's only February

Trangia - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin:

I agree the news has been grim recently, no doubt a pattern may emerge once the inquests have been held. It's very sad, any death is one too many.
Milesy - on 26 Feb 2013
Sometimes humans tend to see a pattern where non exists. Random events can sometimes cluster.

In other cases you just do not have enough information to develop a pattern. If you have no idea how many people where out in the hills this season, in particular days, doing particular activities then you can draw no pattern from the incomplete data you have.
Flinticus - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin:
I can't see where you got a figure for 14 deaths over a 10 year period (1996-2005) or am I reading your sentence / or the report wrong?

From the MCOFS stats for 2011, the 'mountaineering' deaths in 2011 were 21 (with 16 in 2010)

http://www.mcofs.org.uk/assets/mrcofs%20annual%20report%202011%20v5final.pdf page 9
Cuthbert on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin:

>
> Is there any particular reason behind this?
> Are there more people on the hills?
Yes
> Are the people on the hills less experienced or under equiped?
I don't think they are under equipped but less experienced I do think so and crucially, unwilling to recognise this or realise it. The traditional apprenticeship takes too long for people wanting to be seen to be slick and fast mountaineers and doesn't fit with the presentation of self-image on a blog.
> Are the conditions significantly different to the average winter (weather/jetstream related)?
No
> Are the accidents just being reported more?
About the same I think.

> Is it just an unlucky year?
There is no such thing.
balmybaldwin - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to Flinticus:
> (In reply to balmybaldwin)
> I can't see where you got a figure for 14 deaths over a 10 year period (1996-2005) or am I reading your sentence / or the report wrong?
>
> From the MCOFS stats for 2011, the 'mountaineering' deaths in 2011 were 21 (with 16 in 2010)
>
> http://www.mcofs.org.uk/assets/mrcofs%20annual%20report%202011%20v5final.pdf page 9

I was looking at table 16 in this report: http://www.mcofs.org.uk/assets/mountain-incidents-report.pdf

(I may have misread.)
MG - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin: The time period isn't very clear from the table but I doubt 14 is the total deaths over a ten year period. I don't get the impression there is much increase in accidents from that report (although it is dated). There have been two serious accidents this year that account for almost all the fatalities - probably statistical noise. Nothing to me in the accidents to date this year suggests lack of experience is the problem.
MattJP - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin:

Its 14%, not number of deaths.
ScraggyGoat on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
but less experienced I do think so and crucially, unwilling to recognise this or realise it...

The multiple fatalities in the two reported avalanches, from whats been reported of thier backgrounds do not seam to support this conclusion whatsoever, nor the recent loss on the Ben......

As for lesser, and generally unreported injuries, who knows....
MG - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to MattJP: It even say so:-) So, about 23 deaths a year in that period.
IainRUK - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:
> (In reply to balmybaldwin)
>
> [...]
> Yes
> [...]
> I don't think they are under equipped but less experienced I do think so and crucially, unwilling to recognise this or realise it. The traditional apprenticeship takes too long for people wanting to be seen to be slick and fast mountaineers and doesn't fit with the presentation of self-image on a blog.
> [...]
> No
> [...]
> About the same I think.
>
> [...]
> There is no such thing.

Looking at many who died.. they had experience..

I do think you have unlucky years.. you get random permutations in numbers out, deaths etc..

Things can happen in batches. Wait til all the inquests are held.
Robert Durran - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to Milesy:
> Sometimes humans tend to see a pattern where non exists. Random events can sometimes cluster.

Yes. The most likely explanation.
Try throwing a tube of Smarties on the floor; they will not, by any means, be evenly spread out.
Same thing happens with people falsely assuming causality with random leukaemia clusters round nuclear power atations and so on.
ScraggyGoat on 26 Feb 2013
Agreed. Experience and age do not provide immunity, and those that seek to disregard this message are failing to realise the nature of the activity they undertake.
Milesy - on 26 Feb 2013
Inquests will tell you very little. Inquests are there to deal with other issues.

If you brought up a map of the world you could circle a cluster in the west, a cluster in the east, and then a cluster in scotland. You could then maybe draw a cluster with the UK and the Alps taking in their incidents and someone in the USA could see "a pattern in Europe".

The number of incidents might have increased proportionally or disproportionally, and without the other variables you cant do the equation.
balmybaldwin - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to MattJP:
> (In reply to balmybaldwin)
>
> Its 14%, not number of deaths.

So it is! Doh!
AG - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin: This report from the weekend - looks like some folk are still going out ill equipped....although the skier lost on his first ski tour seems to have done everything right (except posting a video on here!)
http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/local/angus/veteran-walkers-praised-for-helping-to-avert-glen-doll-...
OwenM - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin:
> ...
>
> Is there any particular reason behind this? NO
> Are there more people on the hills? YES
> Are the people on the hills less experienced or under equiped? Maybe
> Are the conditions significantly different to the average winter (weather/jetstream related)? NO
> Are the accidents just being reported more? YES
> Is it just an unlucky year? YES
>
>
Roberttaylor - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin: I want to think that the publicity and investigation will lead to better informed hillsides but that may be wishful thinking.
IainRUK - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to AG:
> (In reply to balmybaldwin) This report from the weekend - looks like some folk are still going out ill equipped....although the skier lost on his first ski tour seems to have done everything right (except posting a video on here!)
> http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/local/angus/veteran-walkers-praised-for-helping-to-avert-glen-doll-...

I'd say novices are more likely to call for help.. like the skiier..
MelH - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply all:

Let us not forget that a very experienced and knowledgable climber died in Corrie Fee recently (was it 2011 or 2012?)

Accidents do not only happen to the ill prepared, or those with less skill/ experience/ knowledge. They just happen. We all know the (calculated) risks when we head out. Sometimes people are just unlucky- wrong place at the wrong time!


Obviously my thoughts go out to friends and family of all involved in these recent incidents.
Offwidth - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to MelH:

Experienced climbers also make mistakes...read the Yosemite accident analysis here:

http://www.friendsofyosar.org/safety/climbingSafety.html

As for someone postulating on luck above...of course in a risk based game probability plays a part. However, the stats may relate to other non-luck based factors such as conditions and it's hard to factor out the variety of possible contributing factors from the roll of the dice. I think some of the accidents this winter involved clear unnecessary risks (based on views from other people in the area at the time).
MelH - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to MelH)
>
> Experienced climbers also make mistakes...

Yes, of course. But we all make mistakes in every day life. We are all fallible. Making a tiny mistake on the hills can sometimes mean the difference between life and death - to me this can still just be as simple as pure bad luck. It's only my opinion of course.
ScraggyGoat on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

Climbing is an unnecessary risk!

We should defend our right to take risks as we choose, if someone wants to go and climb something far to hard for themselves in poor conditions, that is their choice and who are we as fellow climbers to judge/stop them.

The difficulty is in explaining this to the masses and those that may seek to control us.

The tragedy is when the deceased weren't intending to play the game with such high stakes, they didn't choose the level of risk encountered.
Cuthbert on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

I am not referring to any particular incident or any one person. It's just a general observation made on the hill.
IainRUK - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to ScraggyGoat:
>
>
> The tragedy is when the deceased weren't intending to play the game with such high stakes, they didn't choose the level of risk encountered.

Good point..

There have been a few deaths in running and thankfully families involved have taken that view and not looked for blame.

The risk is part of the challenge, whilst we mitigate we never remove it, nor would want to.
The Ex-Engineer - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to Milesy:
> Sometimes humans tend to see a pattern where non exists. Random events can sometimes cluster.

Exactly.

There were 'bad' years with high profile clusters of accidents in 1995, 2006 and again in 2010. Unfortunately this year is nothing out of the ordinary...
Sean Kelly - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:
> (In reply to Milesy)
> [...]
>
> Exactly.
>
> There were 'bad' years with high profile clusters of accidents in 1995, 2006 and again in 2010. Unfortunately this year is nothing out of the ordinary...

Interesting to note that all those years highlighted were all cracking winters too with great conditions.
Erik B - on 26 Feb 2013
In reply to The Ex-Engineer: I remember finding a big increase in accidents when folk were using the scarpa bevelled heal boots!! obvious in hindsight, but noone twigged at the time
xplorer on 26 Feb 2013
This thread is poo
Offwidth - on 28 Feb 2013
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

Although I agree that experienced climbers should manage their own risk I don't support a right to irresponsible approaches, such as someone deliberately climbing something far too hard for themselves in poor conditions. All climbing deaths are tragedies the only difference in the second case is the tragedy is arguably avoidable you are ignoring the risk. If the extra difficulty wasn't apparent or the conditions worsened unexpectedly, that would obviously be different.

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