/ Let's talk about accident/bereavement threads

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Jamie B - on 29 Jun 2013
It seems like a good time. There is a debate to be had but it inevitably seems to surface in the wake of an actual tragedy where it may cause real offence to people who are already hurting, and it quite rightly gets chased off the page.

Happily, nothing tragic seems to have happened this week, so we can keep the discussion to the theoretical and please avoid citing historical case-studies.

I don't have any particular axe to grind or entrenched perspective but I would like to know if we can balance the need for respect with the desire for information.
xplorer on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

Hmmmmm,

What exactly needs debating?
Pursued by a bear - on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to xplorer: The appropriate place for information, speculation, discussion and learning; where such things are appropriate.

It isn't on threads that report things. Where, then?

T.
JSA - on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:
>
>
> Happily, nothing tragic seems to have happened this week, so we can keep the discussion to the theoretical and please avoid citing historical case-studies.
>
Sadly, something tragic has happened this week.

http://news.sky.com/story/1109528/austrian-alps-fall-kills-british-climber
JLS on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

How about a perpetual accidents thread that picks up on the most recent incident or a sepate forum (for registered users only) which allows free and frank discussion (including enevitable speculation*) on the topics of the day, quite separate from factual reporting and condolence threads?

* while speculation may not be a acurate, it can at the same time raise awareness of issues that may prove to be useful safety information for some people.
JLS on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to JSA:

Are you trying to stifle discussion on this thread on purpose?
Milesy - on 29 Jun 2013
Some people get offended.
Some people get p1ssed off.
Some people troll them.
Some people like them.

Like everything other thread.
Offwidth - on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to Milesy:

I post against speculation on such threads. I'm not offended or pissed off as such but I have seen how hurtful they can be to friends and relatives and when the information is incorrect I fail to see how anyone other than an ignoramous will learn anything. Such speculation will always happen just like rubbernecking people will always do dumb things.

I also nearly always add this (so will again) as it warns against good climbers getting complacent and that things you might learn from proper analysis are often surprising:

http://www.friendsofyosar.org/safety/climbingSafety.html
wurzelinzummerset on 29 Jun 2013
I take the opposite view. A degree of speculation may be necessary in the analysis of an accident. For example if someone takes a groundfall and survives neither the climber or belayer may be able to recall exactly what happened. A resulting discussion between the two after leaving the hospital would consider possibilities, then hopefully arrive at the most likely chain of events that led to the incident -- is this not speculation? The discussion might also highlight other problems with their climbing that they decide to address.

In other words speculation results in a learning process. If this process is then transferred to an internet forum, with a wider selection of contributors, then surely it's a good thing even if those directly involved in the accident aren't contributing. The experienced climbers who chip in with their opinions are providing useful information for less experienced climbers to consider. For example I would assume many newcomers are unaware of the danger of nuts unzipping in a fall in certain circumstances, it maybe someones experience of this is described in detail during a discussion over an accident where it's speculated this has occured and someone reading looking to lead their first route takes this onboard.

And of course, if it's likely to offend you, then don't read it, and if you read it and it's inaccurate then contribute and correct the problem.

I'll add the caveat that the people who run a forum might have good reasons for not wanting this kind of discussion over accidents. That's understandable, as is the need for some discretion where someone's died.
The Lemming - on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

I try to avoid such threads like the plague.

I have the perception that many of the contributors are rubbernecking for their own personal macabre reasons. :-(

Its like when I'm stuck in a traffic jam and find out that the delay was caused by nothing more than people slowing down for a good lingering oggle and hoping to see some gore with which they can be offended by. :-(

And as for the excuse of learning from the events, I don't buy into that theory. That's what investigations are for by people qualified to do, not armchair internet jedi's to dwell over to relieve boredom.
Bulls Crack - on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to The Lemming:

I think there is a genuine interest to know the facts of what happened - not necessarily pedagogical but because it's basically what we do. However, at some point that morphs into a potentially macabre interest but via the limited medium of posts that line is difficult to determine.
SimonCRMC - on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

Thanks for starting this thread now as it often seems to be winter which produces the largest number of accidents and/or fatalities.

UKC seems to be fairly good at self-regulating in the immediate aftermath of a death with comments being limited to expressions of sympathy and strong reactions against immediate discussions of what happened and why. That seems right to me and to some other posters on this thread out of concern for grieving relatives and friends.

However there may well be things we can learn from incidents which will help us and others stay safe in the dangerous games we all play. I commented on a thread last winter (not about a specific accident) that perhaps a way forward might be for a respected body like an MRT to publish a report on an incident after a suitable length of time (and in the case of a fatality after an inquest which will seek to establish what happened and why). For example if someone gets avalanched it is useful to know whether it might have been avoided or whether they were just unlucky.

That kind of news item on UKC might allow those who wish to talk about incidents without causing upset in the immediate aftermath.

Come to think of it, as an experienced instructor working at a well-known Scottish centre, you might be the person to moderate this, Jamie!

Simon
Rock Badger on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

I think it would be good to discuss accidents when they happen so we can learn rather than ignore what may have caused the accident. If i died or had an accident i would want it discussed straight away by forum users so as people could learn from any mistakes made. I think it is respectful to discuss what happened, to learn.
bpmclimb - on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to The Lemming:
> (In reply to Jamie B)

>
> And as for the excuse of learning from the events, I don't buy into that theory. That's what investigations are for by people qualified to do, not armchair internet jedi's to dwell over to relieve boredom.

And I, for what it's worth, don't buy into that theory. I can think of cases where I've learned more from intelligent, independent speculation than from "qualified" people, who may in fact have various vested interests.
bpmclimb - on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

Do grieving relatives, in the wake of a tragic accident, make a point of visiting public forums and scan through comments and speculations, in search of something to be offended and upset by? Well, we're all different, but I can say for myself that if I were in that position that's the last thing I'd be doing.

Knitted Simian - on 29 Jun 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:

They do, quite often.
ice.solo - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

im all for the discussion of accidents and even foul-ups that dont necessarily up in death/injury (ie successful rescues, near misses etc).

seeing and discussing patterns in the scene are important for connecting not just the climbers, but also the responders and even retailers and towns nearby.

people need to be able to ask questions and give opinions, respectfully of course.
maybe by simply stating their connection/reasoning in the first line it would help minimize problems. shit stirrers and ambulance followers would soon be identified. likewise those directly involved.

my basic premise is; these things will be discussed, one way or another. we have a good resource here, so lets make the effort to turn it into a responsible and useful platform. afterall its not bowling we are all involved in.
ice.solo - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:

not to be intentionally offended, but regularly to say thanks and clear up misconceptions.
bpmclimb - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Knitted Simian:
> (In reply to bpmclimb)
>
> They do, quite often.

Well, maybe so. I don't know - all I know is that I wouldn't, because I would know in advance pretty much what I would read - a mixture of condolences and speculation.

The reality is that "accidents" have a cause, whether climbing accidents, road accidents, fires at home, or whatever. I take the view that relatively few of these are freak accidents, and that most are caused by someone making a mistake. Of course it's always possible that a climber got hit by a meteorite or lightning bolt, but to put it bluntly it's far more likely that they f***ed up in one way or another. I don't see the virtue in pretending otherwise.
Timmd on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to wurzelinzummerset:
> I take the opposite view. A degree of speculation may be necessary in the analysis of an accident. For example if someone takes a groundfall and survives neither the climber or belayer may be able to recall exactly what happened. A resulting discussion between the two after leaving the hospital would consider possibilities, then hopefully arrive at the most likely chain of events that led to the incident -- is this not speculation? The discussion might also highlight other problems with their climbing that they decide to address.
>
> In other words speculation results in a learning process. If this process is then transferred to an internet forum, with a wider selection of contributors, then surely it's a good thing even if those directly involved in the accident aren't contributing. The experienced climbers who chip in with their opinions are providing useful information for less experienced climbers to consider. For example I would assume many newcomers are unaware of the danger of nuts unzipping in a fall in certain circumstances, it maybe someones experience of this is described in detail during a discussion over an accident where it's speculated this has occured and someone reading looking to lead their first route takes this onboard.
>
> And of course, if it's likely to offend you, then don't read it, and if you read it and it's inaccurate then contribute and correct the problem.
>
> I'll add the caveat that the people who run a forum might have good reasons for not wanting this kind of discussion over accidents. That's understandable, as is the need for some discretion where someone's died.

Except that, when somebody dies, it very often seems to turn into speculation about what the person who died did wrong, or possibly what their belayer might have done wrong. I'm not sure if your example can be applied.
Jamie B - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:

> Do grieving relatives, in the wake of a tragic accident, make a point of visiting public forums and scan through comments and speculations, in search of something to be offended and upset by?

No, but sometimes the threads become virtual shrines, with climber friends using then to share cherished memories. These can unquestionably bring succour to the grieving, but the thread becomes effectively neutered at that point for any sort of objective analysis.
Timmd on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:
> (In reply to Knitted Simian)
> [...]
>
> Well, maybe so. I don't know - all I know is that I wouldn't, because I would know in advance pretty much what I would read - a mixture of condolences and speculation.
>
> The reality is that "accidents" have a cause, whether climbing accidents, road accidents, fires at home, or whatever. I take the view that relatively few of these are freak accidents, and that most are caused by someone making a mistake. Of course it's always possible that a climber got hit by a meteorite or lightning bolt, but to put it bluntly it's far more likely that they f***ed up in one way or another. I don't see the virtue in pretending otherwise.

It can also be from previously unknown about problems or quirks in climbing equipment, like when figure of 8 belay devices were found to be able to lever open the belay carabiners. It suddenly became known about after years of them being used seemingly without accident.
Jamie B - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Timmd:

> when somebody dies, it very often seems to turn into speculation about what the person who died did wrong, or possibly what their belayer might have done wrong.

Isn't this what happens when tragedy strikes elsewhere (car crashes, building collapses, etc) and the mainstream media reports on it? Is it a peculiarity of the climbing community that we seem to share this extraordinary (over?)sensitivity?
bpmclimb - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:
> (In reply to bpmclimb)
>
> [...]
>
> No, but sometimes the threads become virtual shrines, with climber friends using then to share cherished memories. These can unquestionably bring succour to the grieving, but the thread becomes effectively neutered at that point for any sort of objective analysis.

Yes, that's true.
aln - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B: OK. Does everyone on UKC have to feel bad when someone dies?
Robert Durran - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to SimonCRMC:
> UKC seems to be fairly good at self-regulating in the immediate aftermath of a death with comments being limited to expressions of sympathy.

I actually think that this is UKC at its worst, and I am certainly far from alone in this opinion. The "condolences to friends and family" posts come across as (intentionally or not) insincere - too easy to imagine someone posting briefly like this about the death of someone they never knew or had heard of before reading the thread, then immediately clicking on the next bit of bouldering porn. Surely the place for condolences is to friends or relatives you actually know, privately, probably in person or by letter. Certainly not to strangers on a public forum.

As for speculation about accidents, it is just a matter of sensible judgement. Inevitably some people will get it wrong.
Martin Bennett - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to SimonCRMC)
> [...]
>
> I actually think that this is UKC at its worst, and I am certainly far from alone in this opinion. The "condolences to friends and family" posts come across as (intentionally or not) insincere - too easy to imagine someone posting briefly like this about the death of someone they never knew or had heard of before reading the thread, then immediately clicking on the next bit of bouldering porn. Surely the place for condolences is to friends or relatives you actually know, privately, probably in person or by letter. Certainly not to strangers on a public forum.
>
> As for speculation about accidents, it is just a matter of sensible judgement. Inevitably some people will get it wrong.

Very well put. I am in total agreement and just posted the same message then took it down again as I had turned my conviction over this into a rant that might have offended some! You're tempered expression of these ideas may just educate them. Let's hope so. It's for sure such public sympathy from a stranger would bring nothing to the bereaved, even if they were to see it.

MJ - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:

I actually think that this is UKC at its worst, and I am certainly far from alone in this opinion. The "condolences to friends and family" posts come across as (intentionally or not) insincere - too easy to imagine someone posting briefly like this about the death of someone they never knew or had heard of before reading the thread, then immediately clicking on the next bit of bouldering porn.

Totally agree with you. It strikes me as odd, that someone reads a report or obituary about a strangers death and feels inclined to say such empty and meaningless words.
The only one I have posted on was for David Hooper. Didn't know him personally, but having been on these forums for a long time and therefore getting to know him in that fashion I felt it was the right thing to do and spent some time thinking of a suitable epitaph.


In reply to the thread in general: -

As for speculating about the details of a fatal accident. Please, out of respect, don't start raising technical questions in the initial thread. Probably best to wait for the inquest results and take it from there...
Timmd on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:
> (In reply to Timmd)
>
> [...]

> Isn't this what happens when tragedy strikes elsewhere (car crashes, building collapses, etc) and the mainstream media reports on it?

Yes it is. Which could be seen as a good or a bad thing.

>Is it a peculiarity of the climbing community that we seem to share this extraordinary (over?)sensitivity?

You could call it extraordinary over sensitivity, or you could call it not apportioning blame or responsibility until the facts are known, as far as possible.

I think that's probably a good thing to do when any relatives or friends are wanting to find out what happened as well, and are going to be feeing sensitive. In this context, I can't quite see what's wrong with waiting for any facts to become clear(er)?

Timmd on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

I almost think people like to work out who was at fault, or may have been, as a way of reassuring themselves that they won't do something daft, having worked out the fault or mistake of somebody else.

Obviously, there is the scientific angle to these threads, in just wanting to know what happened, but there seems to be some psychology at work which could be unique to risky activities, where on some level, highlighting another persons' mistakes could provide some reassurance that the person(s) doing the highlighting are 'safe climbers'.

bpmclimb - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Timmd:

But is there usually anything sufficiently technically detailed made public by authorities in the aftermath of a serious accident? Detailed enough information to be of any actual use to the climbing community?

For example, does the public record of an inquest ever say something like "the leader appears to have failed to place a sufficiently omnidirectional initial runner, and his higher runners, being wires that weren't particularly deep-seated and therefore vulnerable to an outward pull, unzipped from the bottom up"?

Or how about "the climbing on this particular route is sustained, and the leader climbed him/herself into a dangerously run out situation, despite an abundance of protection possibilities"?
Timmd on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

The tone of these threads is really important, I think. I think it should just be about whether there is any information about what happened, like what was the route, and the conditions, and what gear was being used, and on which placements, and what was the resulting accident.

Only when those things are known, I think, should people try and work out where human error could have played a part. If this information isn't around, though, at least in the early stages, I can find myself a bit unsure about why people speculate. Surely it's easier to wait for information to become apparent than to speculate?

Going back to the tone being important, I think it should always be stressed that it's possibilities which are being talked about, if somebody dies on a route which should normally be easily protectable, where there isn't enough information to know what happened.

You can get comments which speculatively judge the deceased or the belayer's competence, which I think are wrong.
ice.solo - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:

i think what youre saying there is correct; the actual forensics and tech details are usually not released or known...leading to possible speculation that can get out of hand.

BUT - with the caveat of being winter-centric - things like the conditions, altitudes, temperatures etc of accidents that occur due to avalanches, rock fall, hypothermia etc are useful to broadcast.

being out of the loop tho, maybe the BMC does collate and release these sorts of data (like the AAJ does), in which case a sufficient platform may exist.

accidents are a fact of the game that we are playing. if we can use the aftermath as a resource we may as well.
Timmd on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:
> (In reply to Timmd)
>
> But is there usually anything sufficiently technically detailed made public by authorities in the aftermath of a serious accident? Detailed enough information to be of any actual use to the climbing community?

Probably not.

> For example, does the public record of an inquest ever say something like "the leader appears to have failed to place a sufficiently omnidirectional initial runner, and his higher runners, being wires that weren't particularly deep-seated and therefore vulnerable to an outward pull, unzipped from the bottom up"?

Not usually.

> Or how about "the climbing on this particular route is sustained, and the leader climbed him/herself into a dangerously run out situation, despite an abundance of protection possibilities"?

Fair point, if that's what happens. I've seen speculation morph into why somebody might have been on a route in the first place, though, which is where I think people need to be careful.
Offwidth - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to ice.solo:

So, as one example in a serious winter accident (lucky not not be a fatality) that I was nearby when it happened and as a friend was closely involved with in the aftermath in hospital. The speculated information posted here about conditions in a few cases implied serious errors of judgement when in fact the forecast was significantly innacurate and had changed from good after they got on the hill. Then another bizzarely tried to work out how they got to where they were found. This was part of a student club trip so climbers being climbers it was inevitable friends would be looking on forums. In a second case where a friend died in the alps, someone said they saw their footprints and axe about a few hundred yards from safety across easy terrain (they were over a mile away stormbound in a crevasse) and another had x-ray eyes and saw them from the valley. So given some journalists bad behaviour, maybe its no wonder we get some of the wildly inaccuarte stories that we do. Despite this I'm open to being shown examples where we did learn something even if I'd prefer these wait a while.

People talk of useful 'databases' but these cost money to run and would have to work under very sensitive conditions (it takes a brave person to publicise a mistake they made that badly hurt someone), hence mountain rescue provide what they provide in their reports. The BMC don't keep such detailed information but they do look at things like equipment failure and general lessons. Yet when they run events, of which I've attended many excellent ones (at places like Plas Y Brenin, on tour like the winter lectures, and at area meetings) they are often at small venues and half empty despite the prostestations of the importance of learning from the UKC rubbernecker support brigade.

On the 'macarbe' posting of condolences from strangers... really?? It's harmless in any respect, as climbers it's easy to feel a common bond and in some cases (David Hooper is an excelllent example) the warmth and helpfulness of a person on a public website is inevitably going to lead to many heartfelt posts from comparative strangers.



Goucho on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:
> (In reply to The Lemming)
> [...]
>
> And I, for what it's worth, don't buy into that theory. I can think of cases where I've learned more from intelligent, independent speculation than from "qualified" people, who may in fact have various vested interests.

The trouble with speculation, is that no matter how intelligent or experienced the speculator, it is still speculation - you've as much chance of being wrong, as right.

Many years ago, a dear friend of mine died in 15' fall when his runner ripped, and he landed awkwardly, and hit the side of his head (temple) on a boulder.

I can imagine what the response from the many 'experts' on UKC would have been, completely unaware that 3 weeks earlier he had just completed a season in the alps which included The Freney Pillar, Chechinal Nominee, American Direct etc, and earlier that year had done Nabisco Wall, NW Face Half Dome, North America Wall etc in Yosemite - I know this because I was privileged to have been tied to the other end of his rope on each of them.

The fact is, freak accidents can happen to the best of us, and no amount of speculation and pontificating will change that.

As fellow climbers, the first thing we should do, is show some respect, and wait for the FACTS!
Trangia - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Goucho:

The immediate aftermath of a tragedy is the wrong time to enter into any internet discusion on the accident and posts should be limited to expressions of condolence.

This is because we have no information other than press reports which we all know are notoriously inaccurate.

The time for analysis of the events, discussion of them on the internet, and learning from them is after the results of the Coroner's Inquest have been published. It is at that stage that accurate information (or as accurate as you can get it) has come to light and is in the public domain.

Until that time all arm chair analysts should keep silent.

As an aside why are Inquest reports given such little prominence by the press, who seem to revel instead in the sensationalism of inaccurate accident reporting?
Goucho on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Trangia:
> (In reply to Goucho)
>
> As an aside why are Inquest reports given such little prominence by the press, who seem to revel instead in the sensationalism of inaccurate accident reporting?

Didn't you know that the No1 rule of journalism is - never let the facts get in the way of a good story!

David Martin - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Timmd:
> (In reply to wurzelinzummerset)
> [...]
>
> Except that, when somebody dies, it very often seems to turn into speculation about what the person who died did wrong, or possibly what their belayer might have done wrong. I'm not sure if your example can be applied.

Is there anything wrong with that? I'd struggle to think of an incident where the deceased didn't play some role in their demise, be that simply choosing to get out of bed that morning.

If the speculation is incorrect then, like Wikipedia and forums in general, the posting populace will likely correct that misinformation, or at least challenge it.

A separate "space" for condolences threads, one where a login isn't necessary seems like a good idea. Equally, a separate space for discussing accidents, which can be un-selected from your profile if you get offended by these things, would allow for discussion by those who want to.

I always bang on about it, but it shocks me that there is so little information on accidents and so many practices in climbing that are based on hearsay and assumption.

David Martin - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Goucho:

> As fellow climbers, the first thing we should do, is show some respect, and wait for the FACTS!

And when are we likely to get those facts?

ads.ukclimbing.com
OMR - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B: Just as an aside, there is no such thing as an inquest in Scotland. There may be a Fatal Accident Inquiry, at the discretion of the Procurator Fiscal, but I don't know if one is inevitably held. Inquests are in England. (And on UKC. :) )
JJL - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

I agree with that mostly.

I suppose condolences from stgragers may possibly have a supportive effect if family etc. do find the thread - "lots of people seem to feel they were a good person" etc.? I do find it a bit uneasy though.

On the issue of learning (or otherwise), I'd make 2 points. Firstly, a very solid review of what causes accidents in general has already been done - the YOSAR piece says it all. If you want to learn from others' mistakes then that is the piece for people to read and re-read.

Secondly the value of any retrospective is in whether it changes anybody's behaviour. The excellent YOSAR summary actually says little that most folk don't, in their hearts, already know. I *know* when I am cutting corners or doing something just a bit more dangerous than usual. One day that might result in a "why wasn't he tied on" type thread I guess.

If you take steps to avoid falling off, have food and water, avoid getting hit by something else and are suitably attired (including protective equipment in the event that you do fall) then you'll probably be ok.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Trangia:

> posts should be limited to expressions of condolence. ... because we have no information other than
> press reports ... The time for analysis ... is after the results of the Coroner's Inquest have been published.

I beg to differ. In some cases some of the people posting were there and thus do know the facts. Many of these "speculation" threads have actually been informed and sensible. And people do defer to information posted by people in a position to know.

The suggestion that even those who do have accurate information should refrain from posting it just leaves the field open to inaccurate speculation (which is only human). I respect Offwidth's views on most things, but I'm puzzled by his suggestion of people reading something they know to be inaccurate, getting upset by it, and yet not wanting to correct it.

I think that we all have a duty to be aware of likely and common mistakes and sources of danger (especially those taking less experienced people climbing), and *sensible* discussion of the causes of an accident are legitimate and healthy. Of course this should be done respectfully (and such threads should be moderated closely), but saying "wait for the coroner" would effectively amount to never discussing it. Personally I think that UKC is a bit over-sensitive on this.
Coel Hellier - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Goucho:

> I can imagine what the response from the many 'experts' on UKC would have been, completely unaware that ...

You are assuming that information posted on UKC would include the details of the fall, but say nothing at all about the experience of the climber. It would be possible for it to mention both.
Goucho on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Goucho)
>

> You are assuming that information posted on UKC would include the details of the fall, but say nothing at all about the experience of the climber. It would be possible for it to mention both.

True, but it still wouldn't stop some armchair warrior with less than 3 years of experience and a best onsight grade of HS, from posting their opinions regrading gear placements.
Martin Bennett - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Trangia:

" . . . and posts should be limited to expressions of condolence".


But, surely, only from those personally acquainted with the deceased? Even then maybe they'd be better expending their energies on a personal (and, more to the point, private) letter to those most concerned. I, like others, am uneasy about the motives of complete strangers who want to be seen, mostly by other strangers, to be caring. Isn't it all a bit "Diana syndrome"?
Jamie B - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Martin Bennett:

> surely only from those personally acquainted with the deceased? Even then maybe they'd be better expending their energies on a personal (and, more to the point, private) letter

Not always possible. The nature of the climbing world is such that a big-spirited and active climber will come in contact with a huge diaspora of acquaintances, not all of whom will have contact details for the bereaved. Others may feel that direct contact with someone they don't know so well is a bit invasive at a difficult time.

I can think of instances where "condolence threads" have provided very meaningful platforms for sharing of memories, and where the deceased's relatives have also posted and given thanks. They do have value, but there is no doubt that they neuter a "news" thread for anything else.

How about.... everytime a climber is lost in action (or even to natural causes) UKC posts a thread entitled "In Memorium: Joe Bloggs". This could include a quick editorial on the bare bones (as they are known) of the mishap, possibly a bio and a clear understanding that the thread is for the sharing of memories only.

Parallel with this would of course run the usual bear-pit threads of speculation and pontification. As with all things on UKC this will always have the scope to become heated and nasty, but is that not the very nature of organic, open-forum journalism? But it can be guaranteed that in amongst the flaming you will get a lot more useful insight than a clipped (and often inaccurate) BBC link. These threads have always had to be moderated closely, but I for one think that if UKC considers itself to be a climbing news channel it has to engage with this. One obvious requirement might be that the deceased's name not be mentioned, so the thread wouldn't show up on Google.
stevieb - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Martin Bennett: We should always assume that these threads will be read by people who know those affected, so we need to show sensitivity.
But the most important thing is to minimise the chance of another accident, so sharing genuine information about the cause can be critical e.g. where existing belays have failed or key holds have been lost, where loose rock still exists, where the nature of the route has fundamentally changed or where gear has failed unexpectedly.
Jamie B - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to stevieb:

> We should always assume that these threads will be read by people who know those affected, so we need to show sensitivity.

Does that happen in other media? Or are relatives fully aware that speculation is inevitable in the wake of a "happening". I'm far from convinced that relatives will always tune in to UKC, we appear to be tip-toeing around a somewhat shaky default assumption.

> But the most important thing is to minimise the chance of another accident, so sharing genuine information about the cause can be critical etc, etc, etc

What about the importance of simply putting the information out of there, so that the public can do what they will with it? Isn't that the very definition of unbiased journalism?

BTW, credit to all who have responded. We have a genuinely interesting exchange of ideas here and without even a whiff of flaming and trolling. Would that it were always so...
Robert Durran - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:
> (In reply to Martin Bennett)

> I can think of instances where "condolence threads" have provided very meaningful platforms for sharing of memories.

This is not what I and others find inappropriate, insincere and creepy.

UKC can be a perfectly good platform for the sharing of memories by people who knew or had climbed with the the deceased. However, this is very different from the "condolences to family and friends" posts, the majority of which are clearly "drive by" posts from complete strangers jumping unthinkingly on a bandwagon and which come across as so insincere. It could be fairly argued that the deceased is "known" to someone purely though UKC (as has been sugggested in the case of David Hooper), but this is obviously not the case with most such posts about most deaths.
stevieb - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:
I would say the default assumption would be that they had climbing partners, and other climbers who knew them. Maybe even other climbers who were involved in the accident, so tiptoeing around is just showing a level of sympathy to people far more affected than you by the accident. The media is not always the benchmark of moral standards.
Jamie B - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:

> UKC can be a perfectly good platform for the sharing of memories by people who knew or had climbed with the the deceased. However, this is very different from the "condolences to family and friends" posts, the majority of which are clearly "drive by" posts from complete strangers jumping unthinkingly on a bandwagon and which come across as so insincere.

But the relatives (if indeed they are reading, nobody knows how frequent this is) don't know that. They see a weight of condolence from people who for all they know had shared a laugh or a belay with their beloved. It does no harm, whether it is motivated by mawkishness or genuine compassion.

I'm less worried about the motivations of the virtual wreath-layers and more concerned that this creates a tyranny whereby anyone trying to inject a note of objectivity gets shouted down unthinkingly.
Robert Durran - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
>
> But the relatives (if indeed they are reading, nobody knows how frequent this is) don't know that. They see a weight of condolence from people who for all they know had shared a laugh or a belay with their beloved. It does no harm, whether it is motivated by mawkishness or genuine compassion.

"For all they know": So any comfort to the bereaved is based on a deception? I am really very uncomfortable with this and am further convinced that all messages of condolence shoud be genuine and conveyed privately.
Offwidth - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The last thing people close to a victim want is an argument. My posts at the time on the first example I gave said the information presented was incorrect and that was all I was going to say at that time. Frankly this site has too many insensitive idiots and trolls to be trusted and it's actually quite a good site compared to some out there (the posts on the second example were elsewhere).

Please link me to some of these threads with sensible analysis if you really mean "many". I remember a couple at most so mmust have missed loads. Even on the ones I know of, things look better in hindsight as UKC moderation on such threads is almost always sensible.

I also fail to see the great over-sensitivity. I'm one of the biggest voices saying wait and I don't think you need to wait that long. Yet following lots of bleating about safety from armchair heros there is a distinct lack of posts after a cooling off period and as I said earlier hardly anyone turning up to the safety lectures that I've been to. I also see the fabulous Yosemite analysis pointing the finger in the opposite direction to many UKC obsessives. Most serious accidents there are happening to experienced climbers who can lead 5.10a (roughly 5b/c uk tech, so real hard work HVS climbs or more commonly low extremes). I think we likley have a different situation on our popular crags with lots of low grade routes but some points will still probably hold true.

I should be clear not everyone talking safety is a bleater in my terminology. Lots of good practice exists here as well...you included.
Cuthbert on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

I'll dip my toe in. I have found myself wondering about the judgement of some people who have died. Obviously without being there in those situations myself at those times.

I do wonder though, what these days "experience" means. Is someone with 100 days in North Wales on rock as experienced as someone with 20 days in Scottish winter? It's the relevance of that experience that is important.

However, the BBC in particular often uses the phrase "they climbers were described as experienced".

Can you have a lot of mountaineering experience in your early twenties? Simply time on this earth provides that sometimes.

So I do wonder if people are quick to decide for themselves that they are "experienced" more as a badge which they can use to fit in with the image that people must aspire to these days of being fast, slick and getting away with it.
Rob Naylor - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:
> (In reply to SimonCRMC)
> [...]
>
> I actually think that this is UKC at its worst, and I am certainly far from alone in this opinion. The "condolences to friends and family" posts come across as (intentionally or not) insincere - too easy to imagine someone posting briefly like this about the death of someone they never knew or had heard of before reading the thread, then immediately clicking on the next bit of bouldering porn.

In my experience, most people posting condolences on threads here did actually know the person, or at least had interacted with him/her directly on the forums.
Timmd on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to stevieb:
> (In reply to Jamie B)
> I would say the default assumption would be that they had climbing partners, and other climbers who knew them. Maybe even other climbers who were involved in the accident, so tiptoeing around is just showing a level of sympathy to people far more affected than you by the accident. The media is not always the benchmark of moral standards.

Agree 100%.
Robert Durran - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Rob Naylor:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)

> In my experience, most people posting condolences on threads here did actually know the person, or at least had interacted with him/her directly on the forums.

If this is the case (and I doubt it), then why, if they know the person, do they not send condolences privately, and, if the deceased is a forum user why does this not become apparent in the thread?
ScraggyGoat on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie

One factor to remember is that information, or speculation, in these threads has been grasped upon by the main stream media. Whom have used it or twisted it to suite their agenda. Often to portray climbing, climbers in a bad light. Thus a time delay is important, not just for relatives, but to avoid us fanning the fire of our own potential future regulation.......

If the aim is to learn and educate, may be a better approach would be to allow differing MRTs (should they choose) to present an historic incident, or even an entirely fictional one, on UKC and their brief analysis of factors at play, as a spur to discussion. Maybe one per week.

By choice of incident, MRTs would get the chance to rise issues of concern to them, potentially raise donations, while Ukcers get both a structured learning from the team, and peer comment learning in the subsequent debate.
Martin Bennett - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Rob Naylor:
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> [...]
>
> In my experience, most people posting condolences on threads here did actually know the person, or at least had interacted with him/her directly on the forums.

You think so?
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Andrew Wilson - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Jamie B:
My upper lip is so stiff I had to force myself to reply to this thread. I get what people say about the seemingly throwaway nature of the brief condolence given by some to those that they do not know. I cringe when I read some posts, especially when someone goes into a misguided speculation but an overriding desire to show discretion and respect stops me trying to set them straight. I'm sure there will be loads of people that have asked a dumb question on one of these threads and wished they hadn't, I wouldn't wish to rub their nose in it. Least said soonest mended after all.
I think the idea that we might learn something for ourselves by finding out how someone bought it is misguided. Most of us know already which bits of rope to keep hold of and I see it as a form of rubbernecking and seems to be in our nature to see or hear about our fellows demise.
The Pylon King on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Andrew Wilson:

> I see it as a form of rubbernecking and seems to be in our nature to see or hear about our fellows demise.

Nail on head - human nature
Gav M - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:

> I'll dip my toe in. I have found myself wondering about the judgement of some people who have died. Obviously without being there in those situations myself at those times.

There is definitely an issue with deceased climbers being elevated to the status of experts. Most incidents are described as freak accidents.

Clearly this is not always the case. Many climbers are buffoons, but even the best can have extraordinary lapses of judgement and get caught out. I would like to see more discussion of these issues. I agree with Jamie that there is an excessive focus on presenting the standard view (expert climber / freak accident) to any grieving relatives that might be reading, and that this makes it hard to learn from others' mistakes.

Robert Durran - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Gav M:

> I agree with Jamie that there is an excessive focus on presenting the standard view (expert climber / freak accident) to any grieving relatives that might be reading, and that this makes it hard to learn from others' mistakes.

I would have thought that almost all accidents can be traced back to errors of judgement, whether the victim is a beginner or very experienced; it could happen to anyone. And that's pretty all there is to it - it's pretty much stating the obvious and there's probably not much to learn except to be careful.
Gav M - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Robert Durran:

The thing is that nobody really knows how good their judgement is. I mean we all think our judgement is great, but as you get older you realise that your judgement evolves and improves and that in the past it wasn't as good as you thought it was!

If you learn that someone has died doing something that you do yourself and regard as being sensible, then you can decide to stop doing that thing. This is one of the ways that judgement can improve.
Andrew Wilson - on 30 Jun 2013
In reply to Gav M:
I typed a post disagreeing with you which I then had to delete as I realised that I was wrong.
I can remember being told about the "death by dyneema" story. Since hearing this I always tie in to the belay with the rope, never just a sling. I am also aware of telling at least one other person this story who did not already know it.
A good example of something learned.
I'm still not comfortable with the match analysis thing on a public forum.
Timmd on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to David Martin:
> (In reply to Timmd)
> [...]
>
> Is there anything wrong with that? I'd struggle to think of an incident where the deceased didn't play some role in their demise, be that simply choosing to get out of bed that morning.
>
> If the speculation is incorrect then, like Wikipedia and forums in general, the posting populace will likely correct that misinformation, or at least challenge it.
>
> A separate "space" for condolences threads, one where a login isn't necessary seems like a good idea. Equally, a separate space for discussing accidents, which can be un-selected from your profile if you get offended by these things, would allow for discussion by those who want to.
>
> I always bang on about it, but it shocks me that there is so little information on accidents and so many practices in climbing that are based on hearsay and assumption.

No, there isn't anything wrong with that, but he was talking about two people who are alive speculating with each other, which doesn't need the same sensitivity.
steveboote - on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to bpmclimb: Grieving relatives will look to anything and I for one have pointed them to threads on UKC to see/read what every grieving relative wants to read...consoling good happy comments about their loved one from their friends...not a last minute error they may,may not have made.
KiwiPrincess - on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

Have you Guys seen the American site?
One Post for accidents and incident analysis and one for Condolances, remembrance.
Seperating the discussion of the incident from the Personal comments might work.

Often Speculation is just that and based on incorrect Media reports, It would hurt to have your deceased loved one critisised, especially wrongly.

Perhaps we should wait for facts to emerge before Speculating.
I have been involved in a situation where the Journalist did not understand what Cams pulling out meant so wrote down the Climbing gear broke, which became rope broke by the article, as thats the only way they could understand someone hitting the ground, despite interveiwing those involved so it looked legitimate.

Michael Gordon - on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to Andrew Wilson:

Hi Andy, what's the 'death by dyneema' story?

Mike
IainRUK - on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to Jamie B: Do the BMC investigate/publish reports on accidents? The NZ Mountaineering council/Alpine club did, into such things as short roping, use of snow stakes etc, and it seemed really good to collate common causes of accidents and summarise the failures. I've not seen anything similar in the UK but haven't really looked.
johncoxmysteriously - on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:
> (In reply to Jamie B)
>
> Do grieving relatives, in the wake of a tragic accident, make a point of visiting public forums and scan through comments and speculations, in search of something to be offended and upset by?

1. Yes of course they f*****g do, you insensitive clown, although obviously they're searching for comfort rather than 'something to be offended and upset by'.

2. Therefore no-one with any sensibility whatsoever would indulge in the sort of ooooh-what-f*ck-up-did-the-deceased-make-which-caused-them-to-die stuff we see on the usual sympathies-and-respects thread.

3. However, as both experience and this thread show, many people lack this elementary sensibility. You, for example.

4. So the mods should ruthlessly remove this kind of post and ban the perps for a month or two.

5. However, this would cost the site money and resources which it doesn't have.

6. So we're left with the disgusting spectacle we customarily get on fatality threads.

jcm
shark - on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Amen

Topic covered at least once before. http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=304737.

Sounds like not much has changed.
bpmclimb - on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
> (In reply to bpmclimb)
> [...]
>
> 1. Yes of course they f*****g do, you insensitive clown

It was a genuine question, in the context of what seemed a good, reasonable debate. Until you weighed in, that is. Your comment is so pointlessly rude and offensive that it beggars belief. I will no longer have anything to do with you, and will have nothing to do with any thread that you start or contribute to. Starting now, so if you have some reply in mind, save your breath - I won't be revisiting this thread.

Offwidth - on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:

What a fabulous storming out of the room, especially given Mr Cox's reputation for politeness.
Jamie B - on 01 Jul 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:

> It was a genuine question, in the context of what seemed a good, reasonable debate. Until you weighed in, that is. Your comment is so pointlessly rude and offensive that it beggars belief.

Have to agree. I'd previously remarked on how cordial the discussion had remained despite the occasionally emotive nature of the subject. You've blown this John, and while I've always supported your freedom to voice the unpopular you'd do your reputation a favour to do so just a little bit less aggressively.
Offwidth - on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

I thought that was the whole point of his reputation, being kind on such threads would be the thing that got me worried.
johncoxmysteriously - on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:

It wasn’t a genuine question. You implied that grieving relatives looking for references to their lost one on the internet were ‘looking for something to be offended or upset by’. That suggests a particular view on your part, and a highly distasteful one at that.

This subject really annoys me. The right approach to these threads is a matter of elementary decency and the forum’s lack of this on such occasions is a disgrace.

It’s instructive to compare supertopo when John Bachar was killed. His fourteen(?)-year-old son was on the internet posting within 24 hours. I wonder if he wanted to hear stuff about whether Dad should have been wearing a helmet?

jcm
Goucho on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: +1

And added bonus points for instigating bpmclimb's magnificent 'teddy out of the pram' moment.

Nice to see you've not lost your touch :-)
shark - on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to bpmclimb:


JC was right to jump on you and hopefully a wake-up call.

What you said was one strand of the thoughtlessness that leads to crass speculation on these sort of threads.
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SCrossley on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to Jamie B: Possibly the lack of reporting and follow up is why these threads develop. If I hear about an accident I want to know what happened, because I am a climber and it is of interest to me, maybe just curiosity(nosiness) or to maybe learn something. There have been accidents at walls and crags I never seem to hear what happened, and some follow would be interesting.
I think the whole RIP and condolences thing from some strangers who thinks that as climber they are some kind of blood brother but never knew those involved is a bit creepy , but from people who knew the people however briefly could give them and maybe the family some catharsis (right word ?).
So better reporting with follow up to say if anything can be learnt and maybe a remembrance thread, but not a debate on the in`s and outs is what I think is the way ahead.
sjc
johncoxmysteriously - on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to sjc:

<I think the whole RIP and condolences thing from some strangers who thinks that as climber they are some kind of blood brother but never knew those involved is a bit creepy.

I used to think that. Then I noticed how frequently it happens that relatives post on such threads and say how moved they've been by everyone's kind comments, and I changed my mind. It doesn't do any harm, and maybe it does some small good.

jcm
SCrossley on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
Thats a different perspective for me and if that is the case I shall view in a different light.
GrahamD - on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to sjc:

Me too.
colina - on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

quote"Let's talk about accident/bereavement"

reckon you must be the life and soul of the party Jamie ,cant fail to score with that chat up line !
Ramblin dave - on 02 Jul 2013
In reply to Jamie B:
It's difficult this. As people have said, even condolences from strangers can help people to deal with the loss of a loved one, and it's grim to see some of these threads getting derailed by uninformed speculation and people harping on about how it's probably all because of some pet gripe of theirs.

But at the same time, learning what we can when things go wrong is important - there's a lot of stuff that otherwise competent and experienced people can be unaware of or forget, and knowing what went wrong this time can help to make us all safer and might prevent the next tragedy. And I've read a lot of threads where people have said that "this isn't the time to talk about what went wrong" but can't think of many subsequent occasions where people have said "okay, so now it is the time and maybe this is what we can learn from this..."
Misha - on 03 Jul 2013
In reply to Jamie B:
Idle speculation is tempting but not helpful. To promote safety, it would be useful to know the findings from coroner inquests etc. I assume these are publicly available somewhere but aren't publicised here or by the BMC as far as I know. Though publicising might be seen as insensitive by the families.
jon on 04 Jul 2013
In reply to Jamie B:

The Tito Traversa accident this week is a good example. http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=555448

According to the Dauphiné his fall was 15 > 20m. http://www.ledauphine.com/faits-divers/2013/07/03/le-grimpeur-de-12-ans-dans-un-etat-critique Just how can that happen at Orpierre? As Misha says, idle speculation doesn't help, but it's very important that we as climbers know how this happened as soon as possible. The above article reports the Procurer as saying « une déficience au niveau du montage de la corde. La dégaine a été montée d’une manière inadaptée. » Surely this is worth discussing, rather than 'this is not the time or place'?

Camptocamp have found a way around this by having two threads - one a bereavement thread and the other to do just this, discuss.
Coel Hellier - on 04 Jul 2013
In reply to Misha:

> Idle speculation is tempting but not helpful.

True, idle speculation is indeed unhelpful, but sensible discussion by experienced climbers based on the available facts can be worthwhile.
Jamie B - on 04 Jul 2013
In reply to jon:

> Surely this is worth discussing, rather than 'this is not the time or place'?

It's a moot point where public interest becomes voyeurism, and it is maybe not our business to try to draw this. People want the facts, so give them the facts. Basic journalism.

> Camptocamp have found a way around this by having two threads - one a bereavement thread and the other to do just this, discuss.

What I suggested earlier, support this fully.

MB42 - on 05 Jul 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
> (In reply to sjc)
>
> <I think the whole RIP and condolences thing from some strangers who thinks that as climber they are some kind of blood brother but never knew those involved is a bit creepy.
>
> I used to think that. Then I noticed how frequently it happens that relatives post on such threads and say how moved they've been by everyone's kind comments, and I changed my mind. It doesn't do any harm, and maybe it does some small good.
>
> jcm

So I used to have the same opinion about strangers slightly voyeuristic condolence comments...then fairly recently I had a friend get killed in the mountains. Though I couldn't bring myself to look for several days I eventually ended up on the UKC forum looking at the thread I knew would be there. Personally (and for me surprisingly) I did find peoples comments, even strangers, moving and helpful. I was also thankful for the thread police gently reminding those who were trying to make comments about possible causes that it wasn't the place for that, I definitely couldn't cope with them at the time.

I guess for me it was about 3/4 months afterwards that I felt ready to really think about what had caused the accident. I think it would have taken me several weeks after the event before I was rationally able to ignore a thread ascribing lessons/causes.

So yes in my particular case, though I know these things hit everyone differently, the condolence thread was a good thing (and thanks to people who did share their thoughts, I was in no shape to reply at the time), yes I did after a few days feel a compulsion to go looking at these things which I knew would be out there despite trepidation at what I might find and no I definitely wasn't ready to see any discussion of fault in the immediate aftermath.

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