/ percentage fatality winter climbing in uk
I have read people saying the % chance of dying on Everest is around 10% based on the number of deaths compared to ascents. So what about winter mountaineering in the UK.
Even if we look at a year by year basis.
When force to pluck random figures from my arse I thought maybe 5000 routes get climbed and there are 50ish deaths a year. So 1%.
What are the real figures?
But it IS a stat I can discuss with my wife!
I always think back to a day in one of the three main cwms of Ogwen valley a couple of years ago. In one cwm a death, in another cwm a multiple injury but no incident in the cwm I was in. Around 15 people in the cwm I was in so I guess 50 across all three. The odds seemed like those in wartime.
Fatalities are probably less than 50, say more like 20, so odds are 1 in 500, or 0.2%.
winter climbing IS dangerous and you can die doing it regardless of skill experience or grade climbed.
My wife accepts that i do this and its part of my life and that i will be as cautious and sensible as possible when winter climbing.
If you start playing the % game your admitting you are rolling the dice !
100% of winter climbers die.
I would say a lot less than 1%. That would be 1 in a 100 ! Winter climbing need not be particularly dangerous at all, if you can talk to your wife about this and lay out what a typical winter climbing day involves perhaps you can reassure her. Does she climb in summer? Maybe get her out in the hills if not. Even winter walking.
Take a look at the incident reports of the various mountain rescue teams. For example : http://www.ogwen-rescue.org.uk/incidents/incidents.php
You *might* infer from the evidence that climbing is safer than walking, that ankle injuries are more common than fatalities, and that getting lost/late is the most common reason for a call out.
So if you go winter climbing, wear crampons on icy paths, and you're back in time for dinner the odds are on your side.
1 in 500 sounds quite alarming.
For perspective, it's about 1 in 3500 for a cave dive in the uk. This figure is skewed by the large number of historic fatalities of people with relatively few dives and poor equipment.
It's well over 1 in a million for a day on a building site.
There's no correlation between grade and hazard level.
But how many of this years deaths were 'climbers' and actually 'climbing'.. not walking..
Most I can think of were essentially winter hill walking.. whether they were climbers is pretty immaterial.
- Indoor climbing is safe (safer than walking across the road)
- Outdoor rock climbing is dangerous (broadly comparable to the risks involved in driving a car/motorbike e.g. variable but much higher for those lacking judgment and maturity)
- Winter and summer alpine climbing are very dangerous (greater risk than 'dangerous occupations' such as working underground/off shore)
- Winter alpine and very high altitude mountaineering are extremely dangerous (comparable risk to soldiers fighting/dying in Afghanistan)
The following were the figures I managed to compile:
Risk of any young person dying in the UK:
0.52 deaths per 1000 population per year, with appreciable numbers from car crashes, suicide and murder.
Rough estimate of the risk involved from regular rock climbing:
0.06-0.3 deaths per 1000 participants per year (on a par with car crashes).
Risk of climbing big mountains - Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Denali etc.
1-3 deaths per 1000 ascents/attempts.
Risk of climbing really big mountains (8000m+ and exploratory 7000m+)
5-50 deaths per 1000 ascents/attempts.
Chance of a committed Alpinist/Mountaineer dying
5-20 deaths per 1000 population per year.
In the context of this thread, my best estimate of the risk of UK Winter climbing would be somewhere in the range 0.2-2 deaths per 1000 participants per year.
Yes don't say 1%! That would be terrible odds!
Yes, your more likely to die on the drive to the crag or mountain than on it!
Generally you can make the climbing as risky as you want..although i accept sometimes you don't always set out to put yourself at the risk you end up doing. Most of the deaths this year where caused by people not appreciating the risk. Get educated build up experience slowly and you'll live a lot longer.
Some like to make their sport out to be more extreme/dangerous than it is though.
Most of the deaths this year where caused by people not appreciating the risk.
Really? Mostly just bad luck, I think.
The figures given by The Ex-Engineer are probably reasonably accurate - as far as any attempt to quantify what are essentially random events can be.
Many years ago I was told by an insurance actuary that adding weighting to life insurance for climbers because of the "increased risk" would be counteracted by the fact that they were healthier individuals and therefore other risks were reduced.
There's also perceived risk vs actual risk. Climbing accidents get reported mainly because they are so rare and climbing isn't an activity that most people have any concept of - it makes a good story. Look at how your local paper reports fatal road accidents for example - we're accustomed to them - they aren't news, the front page is more likely to be taken up by a councillor complaining about the noise of market traders selling their wares.
An analogy might be someone stating that all winters in the 19th century were cold and snowy - after all there's lots of shots of snowy winters from that time. But consider that photography was expensive and the equipment hard work to lug about so given the choice of taking a shot of a rare snowy winter or a usual drab grey one, which do you think gets taken?
I doubt that the figures are as high as people are saying, even for the Alps or other ranges. The numbers who climb in the Alps are enormous and although there are quiet a few accidents - around 50 a year in the Chamonix Mont Blanc range compared to the number of climbers this is still a low percentage.
Also it is not really valid as the chance of having an accident is not just random, it depends enormously on how you climb: the level of risk is very much self imposed, even, I'd say especially, in the bigger ranges. Accepting to turn back after spending a lot of money and effort, knowing you will likely never have another chance, takes willpower that many don't have, and they are then far more likely to die.
In other words, if you are careful, and not stupid, there's a fairly good chance you will survive - it's mostly, not absolutely entirely as bad luck can take anyone, up to you.
Really, just bad luck? Or a mistake in judgement or lack of skill/experience allowing them to make a good judgement?
> Really, just bad luck? Or a mistake in judgement or lack of skill/experience allowing them to make a good judgement?
Based on the details reported, I can't say I would have behaved substantially differently to most of those killed this year in most cases. Maybe I am reckless or have poor judgement but I think there is lot more luck involved than often admitted.
I am afraid that argument is completely flawed.
There are vastly more novices and intermediate level climbers than there are those at the top level. That, combined with the numerically low numbers of fatalities means that an absence of fatalities on high grade routes is certainly not statistically significant.
Not sure I'd set any store in the reported details as data enough to come up with an answer as to the reason for the accidents though.
Quantifying what percentage of the reason as 'bad luck' I'd guess would be impossible, but I really don't like the message that saying it was mainly that conveys, as IMO I'd say a poor judgement and lack (or lack of using) skills and knowledge are more likely to be the cause.
Even with slips and trips, which you could argue have a higher element of bad luck to their cause, but then you have to ask how well versed were they in self belay, what ground were they on, could they ice axe arrest well, when did they last practice it, and was the ground even suitable for their level of skill?
Are you counting people walking in the mountains and getting avalanched as winter climbing? Climbers getting in killed in falls seems fortunately very very rare.
I'd suggest you actually do some primary school level arithmetic before making sweeping statements. I completely stand by the numbers I quoted for Mont Blanc and similar trophy peaks as being entirely realistic.
They also tally with other analysis. An estimate of 1.5 deaths per 1000 ascents/attempts is given at the end of this article which provides some good historical perspective http://www.summitpost.org/mont-blanc-why-so-many-deaths/808297
For what it's worth, biographical information I've collected on members of the Scottish Mountaineering Club provisionally indicate that of over 920 members no longer extant, 40 died in the mountains - 25 in Scotland, 6 in the Alps, 9 in other ranges. At least 5 of those died of natural causes (heart attack etc) rather than through any accident. And despite the fatalities, the figures suggest that overall, SMC members enjoyed longer-than-average life expectancy.
"Every year about 20.000 people try to climb Mont Blanc, taking as base number 30 annual deaths in the whole massif, one arrives at a mortality rate of 0.15% annually;"
Which implies to me it is looking at the numbers who attempt MB and comparing to deaths in the whole MB range. Shouldn't it either compare MB ascents with MB deaths, or MB range ascents with MB range deaths?
A lot more than 20000 climb in the Mont Blanc range, but it depends a lot on what you call a climber.
When ex-engineer says:
> 5-20 deaths per 1000 population per year.
I'd say that was a vast exaggeration, if we take actual figures 50 or 60 in the range, then this statistic would imply that only between 3000 and 12000 people climb there!
Not walkers, but I am certainly trying to 'count' climbers getting avalanched approaching or descending from routes as has happened on both the Ben and the Buachaille in recent years. However, this is a rather hard distinction to make in practice which is one reason why there is a large uncertainty in the estimate.
Unfortunately, I'd say you're wrong on that. We still have a depressing number. There have been at least 3 fatal 'climbing falls' this year:
On top of that, another 3 of those killed this season were most certainly active mountaineers and winter climbers although they may not have been engaged in technical climbing on the days they died. Also, one of the 'walkers' sadly killed in March in the Lake District was actually out rock climbing on Pillar.
Taking the figure of 3 climbers dying and a high estimate of 15,000 winter climbers gives a best case estimate 0.2 deaths per 1000 participants.
Taking a worst case figure of 8 climbers dying in a year and a lower estimate of 4,000 active winter climbers gives a worst case estimate of 2 deaths per 1000 participants.
If you, or anyone else, thinks they have better estimates for the number of winter climbers and can improve on my rough estimate of somewhere between 4,000-15,000 then I'd welcome your thoughts.
This was an attempt to quantify the risk posed to alpinists and mountaineers of the likes of the late Alison Hargreaves. It doesn't help the debate when you question the figures without taking any effort to ascertain exactly what they actually refer to.
The figure was based, in part, on published death rates of European Mountain Guides. In that context, I can assure you that the figures were greater than 5 deaths per 1000 per year.
It was also based on estimates of the risks taken by committed climbers of the sort who undertake multiple Alpine North Faces in a season or who have climbed numerous 7000m/8000m peaks.
It was also very much in line with the experience of several long-standing UK mountaineers I know who can list multiple friends who have died in the Alps and Greater Ranges over the years.
Despite all that, the figures were compiled in 2009 and there may be some evidence of a gradual decline in death rates on harder Alpine routes and in the Greater Ranges. As such, it could well be argued that the figures perhaps over estimate current risks to 'professional alpinists' by perhaps a factor of 2.
No wonder you're an ex-engineer..
Have a look at this link
1995 - 2006 a study by Bob Sharp on Scottish Mountain Accidents!
It doesn't matter what the stats say, we will carry on and do it. Car crash stats are available. We accept/play down/ignore the risks and still drive.
There's more chance of your wife loosing you through divorce than an accident: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/mar/27/britishidentity.divorce
Dare I suggest more so if she tries to stop you climbing.
No, I haven't deliberately done anything, I have no axe to grind I lost 5 friends in one Summer, of 1972, buried one myself, so I know it can happen, and I also think that the fatality rate for people who really push it can be very high to - I just read a book about Polish climbers that I was given and it's incredibly morbid, nearly all of them died over a few decades, but when you read just what they got up to in the Himalayas it's not surprising.
However, overall I don't think climbing is much more dangerous than many other sports, assuming a certain level of care, and I also wonder (only wonder, no need to get uptight) if the figures for the Alps aren't warped by what seems to be a quite low estimate of the number of climbers climbing there. The area I know well, around Chamonix, is so crowded, and although at times the helicopters seem to be very active, from memory the figures are around 50 to 60 deaths per annum in the range. Given the huge numbers climbing there this doesn't seem enormous, especially as IIRC this figure includes deaths on all levels of climbs - the ordinary route on Mont Blanc being about the most deadly despite it's technical level.
So if this was 1% than that would mean only 5000 climbers, which is clearly absurd. All to say that I think the OP's wife can sleep easy as long as he isn't silly. Nothing more or less.
Some figures for Switzrland:
Hiking is more deadly than mountaineering, but it doesn't give any figures on numbers of people participating.
Around 230,000 people engage in mountaineering activity each month. That equates to nearly three million each year. That means the average climber in Scotland would need to climb every day for 55 years before having an accident.
Not an unreasonable risk really.
Tell her it could be worse, you could be doing Crown Green Bowls or Golf. I once say some stats that showed these two had the highest mortality rates.
To the OP... You just need to join the BMC, quit your job, have a sex change, become a housewife, forget anything you know about climbing, and spend plenty of time reading maps and planning, making sure never to walk to the bottom of your climb. That way you'll be safe as houses. Correlation does equal causation right?
Most accidents happen in the home. Dangerous place.
tell her 100% of all winter climbers die, but almost none of them when winter climbing.
THe accident on AM happened aafter the climber untied from the rope at the top of the route and slipped.
I seriously struggle to believe 1-3 deaths per 1000 ascents of the Matterhorn. How are any guides alive at all?
Sure, it feels high; with the Hornli Hut holding 50*, you only need twenty full climbing days (what's that, 1-2 months in summer ?) to get your first fatality even at the lower end of the band.
I'm guessing anyone who's been amongst the pandemonium on the Hornli ridge would agree that you could expect a few deaths.
It isn't the guides that do the dying, though, is it ?
*1998 Valais Alps West
There was no clear split between winter climbing and other non-skiing mountaineering activity above 750m, but a HIE 1996 report showed £230.8 million each year was spent by mountaineers in the Highlands alone and a lot of that was in the winter. This equates to a LOT of people and doesn't count any other UK winter climbing area. So nearly 2 decades later, the money spent will be a lot more and the active population is now huge. The all year round figure for 750+m in all UK mountain regions will be in 7 figures of visitor days. A trawl around the likes of the MCofS or BMC websites might produce some more numbers.
You also have to consider that only a tiny proportion of UK mountain deaths occur when climbing.
A completely unreliable, unsubstantiated, random web page which is the 2nd result on a Google search for 'Matterhorn death rate' says "Over 500 people have died climbing the Matterhorn since 1865ís tragic accident, many on the descent. Deaths average now about 12 annually." - http://climbing.about.com/od/mountainclimbing/a/MatterhornFacts.htm
If I find time (unlikely), I may try and find some more reliable and up to date figures but I don't struggle to believe the numbers are in the right ballpark.
Anyone with even a modicum of statistical knowledge would realise that when dealing with single digit annual figures, proving that the absence of contribution from a minority signal (only 1% of Winter climbs are grade VI+ on UKC logbooks) is statistically significant even if only to a 90% confidence level would be pretty much impossible.
I put forward an hypothesis which I believe is solid.
If you feel it is flawed, you are more than welcome to post data and analysis that disproves it, rather than just a unsubstantiated critique. After all, that is the basis of the scientific method...
This is brilliant.. I say something that you don't have stats for yet claim its wrong.. then ask me to prove it.. couldn't you just do that yourself if you are so confident..
You believe its solid. I don't. You are the one making claims on significance from no data.
No, he's not. And he explained reasonably clearly why he's not. Incidentally, he's making you look a bit of a wally, which is not how you usually come across.
As we both have jobs neother will have time. All you'd look at is number of fatalities/climbs look over a 20 year period.
Of course number of climbs will be estimated.
Compare two different groups..
Maybe its coming from a statistical background but I'd never suggest something was certainly significant without data.. if thats being a wally fair enough..
Cheap insult.. just because I have a different view.. I'd normally expect better from you..
Didn't follow his logic ? Perhaps that's why you're an ex-statistician.
Now THAT was a cheap insult.
Actually, I hadn't given my view on the question much thought, so, no, I wasn't disagreeing with your opinion, just your critique.
No matter. As you assert, we all have jobs to get back to.
I provided a statement, its probably safer at the higher grades.. more mixed routes, more protectable climbs, more competent climbers, more experienced climbers, less avalanche danger.. if he disagrees so certainly.. than show it.. I just said probably.. worth looking at.. open minded approach and all that..
which I think is a logical notion.. not deeply flawed as suggested.. and I would say having published a good 20 or so papers in some top international journals I have a modicum os statistical knowledge..
I think some people like to exaggerate how dangerous or extreme their sport is. You see it in fell running.. yet the numbers show its one of the safest sports out there.. only for the incompetent would it actually be a dangerous sport.. or extreme sport.. obviously climbing has been inherent risks, winter even more so, but I don't think its a particularly dangerous sport..
Fishing and horse riding are the two which often come out as the most dangerous..
That's fair enough, I can wind my neck back in for that...
Exaggeration of danger ? I agree with you. I'm aware of two middle-aged rugby players die on the pitch in two separate heart attacks over a couple of years, in the same rugby club. My wife's cousin is having her pelvis mend after being thrown from a horse. Touch wood, and to my surprise, death in the hills has kept a distance from me so far. Anecdotes do not equal data.
Looks like you were at cross purposes. Concerning high-end climbers, I believe you think it's safer, I believe he said there aren't enough data to make a meaningful statement. Content to be corrected, but only by people who've actually read the material.
He showed to my satisfaction that the effect of high-end climbers on the total rate was negligible.
There's a trick we used to use when I was an engineer on fighter aircraft (just a couple of safety cases written, not widely published for obvious reasons, and I'm thrilled to be an ex-.) If you wanted a better-than-nothing estimate for a failure rate, you would take the known rate, assume random failures on a normal distribution (which had been separately demonstrated to be good enough for government work, as long as you didn't use it for structures or dumb stuff like that) and you could safely assert with 95% (maybe it was 99%) confidence that the underlying rate was less than 3+ the demonstrated rate.
Quite valuable, to be able to say that with zero incidents (of whatever) in 20,000 hours flying, you could be pretty sure that the underlying rate was less than one in 6,000 or so....
So, just being able to say that (for example) 100 high-grade routes a season get climbed, with no fatalities yet, should allow something to be said about the underlying rate. The fact that the rate could be low will not save the incompetent.
Agree entirely. There aren't enough people climbing at the higher grades for their lack of accidents to be statistically significant. I don't know how anyone could fail to understand that!
In 2012 we got involved in two rescues on the Ben , one a faller from Cascade when we were starting Comb Gully , we heard the fall & shouted up , other climbers sorted a rescue after one of our team got to the faller , person survived but I heard fairly badly injured but I head also recovered. The sound of the faller was truly awful , very , very off putting.
Two a girl who strayed too far left coming down from Coire Na Ciste in dark & fell down the cliff below the CIC Hut ( 80 foot fall on steep ground ) , we called a chopper in after finding her , after 2 hours she was evacuated , broken femur , ankle , pelvis , bad facial cuts , survived & recovered. We heard the fall , the clanking of iron went on a long time , far too long for it to anything other than a long one.
If you are climbing grades 1 to 111 I imagine you may be soloing the ones at 1/2 ? if so your risk is probably higher than if leading or seconding as much from things like falling ice.
We climbed Zero & Orion Direct this winter in very good conditions but on both occasions we got struck by falling ice but with minor injuries only. On both routes we found good ice screw protection on the day.
Others were soloing or climbed with long run outs with not much gear in .....great until they fall & take you with them.
I think its partly about being willing to decide not to climb if the conditions are not right , ie
is the ice thawing ?
is the weather worsening ?
is there too much of a build up of snow making spindrift avalanches or proper avalanches a real risk ?
does those cornices look stable ?
are you willing to say no & accept you wasted £200 on fuel , ......so what come back another day in better weather the routes are always there.
If you are on a route sometimes you also need to fail upwards , last year we climbed Hadrians Wall Direct ( but on that day also with a guide as a 3 ) & on a worsening weather day , by pitch 3 were were in heavy upwards blowing spindrift so bad that goggles ( I failed to bring mine ) would have been useful. Had the weather crapped out so badly at the start we probably would not have started.
What is the old saying :
Good judgement is the result of experience
Experience is the result of poor judgement........
On my first time on the Ben in Jan 87 as a novice after climbing Garadh ( sp ) Gully we then climbed Glovers Chimney , getting to Tower Gap in the dark my leader said he did not know the way off.......& did I know it .... er no not been here before.
We sat it out all night from 4.00pm to 8.30am in the dark & the snow fun stuff & then finished the route & came down the red burn , I went home thinking I am not coming here again......
I think if you look at the stats you will never make sense of anything , you simply have to be brutally honest with yourself.
can you lead that pitch ? , what if you fall ? what is the belay like , can it take a factor two fall ? , can you get some gear in quick to lessen the risk of a factor two fall ? , how confident are you in your partner ? what are they like under pressure ? if it all starts to go wrong are they the type to grit their teeth & tough it out type or not ? are you the tough it out type .... time to be really honest ?
I am 49 I have two children of 16 & 14 , when I ask my wife whether she is concerned about me winter climbing or Alpine Climbing she says no "because you are very cautious" I am more worried about the 400 mile drive to the Ben & perhaps with good reason given the stags wandering onto the A82 at Rannoch moor at night.
In summary I don't think you will get any meaningful figures all you can do is be cautious & be prepared not to climb if the conditions do not warrant it.
My adventures are more modest but family have asked me if I'm worried about getting killed. Not particularly - as you say, you just have to be brutally honest with yourself at the time when it really matters. I find this process quite easy but others might feel like they're wimping out (which not to really is continuing when you don't fully understand the risks) or letting the side down. A correct and clear decision to turn back imo will be accompanied by a deep-seated satisfaction.
Wouldn't EVA help here?
Reckoning its dangerous is a method for students to get their leg over. If it was dangerous I wouldn't do it.
I just provided all the required 'data' and my reasoning so I am rather lost as to your latest comments.
I don't know why, but you seem to be completely missing something here as as the statistical reasoning is fairly trivial.
This time I will go through it step by step:
In the last 20 years (as far as we are aware) no climber has been killed on a route of grade VII or above.
This is not statistically significant.
For an absence of deaths on 'high grade routes' to be statistically significant with a confidence level of at least X%, the total number of deaths in the period of interest would need to be greater than -ln(1-X) divided by the fraction of routes climbed that are grade VII or above.
For a modest 90% confidence level that factor is 2.30 and if we then look at the UKC logbook for an estimate of how many 'high grade routes' are climbed we find 521 routes of grade VII upwards out of 55410. (I believe this is potentially an over estimate as people are more likely to record high grade ascents than lower grade ones, but it is an excellent source of objective data and easily the best figures available.) That would mean that 245 climbers would need to have died on easier routes for the lack of fatalities to be statistically significant.
I don't know the exact figures but what I do know is that fewer climbers than that have died in the last two decades, as death rates have certainly been running at far less than 12 climbers per year.
The lack of fatalities on 'high grade routes' is therefore not statistically significant.
Hopefully that can now put to rest what has unfortunately turned into a silly and pointless argument.
i disagree.. You say 20 years.. so its a lot more than 521.. I'd lower that to grade V and above.. get a better n value.. 7,000 routes done grade V or above.. 40,000 below..
The log book data only looks good for the past 5 years though..
But couldn't you use EVA to estimate the probability of the next death. Its how the Dutch predict the chance of a freak wave topping on their dykes..
Higher grades would be VII+
(Mid grade is IV-VI and Low grade is I-III)
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