/ Do we talk about climbing accidents enough?
Do we talk about climbing accidents enough?
There will always be an element of risk in climbing but it seems to me that climbers are taking risks that can be avoided with a little more awareness. Is it human nature to think it won’t happen to me? There seems little in the climbing press about accidents and the causes, raising awareness can only be a good thing.
Everyone follows Speed Records on the Nose but do they know about the accident leading to a paralysed climber and the two fatalities in recent weeks? Both accidents occurred while the climbers were trying to go fast.
There have been two recent crevasse accidents with multiple fatalities but I guarantee there will be more crevasse accidents on Vallee Blanche this summer. And this is despite there being an article every summer about someone falling into a crevasse.
Someone decked out at Kilnsey a few weeks ago, but I’ve no idea if that’s a bolt that failed, anchor failure, loose rock, belay error, quick draw failure, not checking knot etc. (I hope they are okay and on way to recovery?)
The North America Mountaineering Association publish yearly statistics on accidents and fatalities in order to raise awareness. I think the BMC started collating information through Summit/Scenario but I couldn’t find any annual findings?
If statistics were reported on UKC it might raise awareness, start discussions, reduce accidents and I for one would rather spend my time reading something that may save my life than yet another article telling me how to train better for climbing indoors.
Once again, I'll repeat our stance on this:
We don't feel that UKC is the place for announcing accidents and evaluating them. Occasionally forum responses aren't always particularly thoughtful and sometimes attract mainstream journalists looking for soundbites without questioning the validity of the speculations/comments etc. There are plans being discussed for a UK national incident reporting system for climbers and mountaineers and we are in communication about linking through to this system from UKC.
How do you think people should find out about accident then, in a timely manner.
Any national reporting system would take a long time to 'feed through' to the climbing consciousness.
If someone has an accident because a bolt or anchor fails, then I want to know about it.
Do you demand a similar level of immediate detail about road accidents?
What do you NEED to know in a timely manner following any kind of incident at a crag?
1. Any loose rock that is hazardous
2. Any bolts/belays/stakes that have been impacted
3. Any other hazards to climbing that might have resulted or any temporary/permanent access restrictions
Surely these can be discovered without going into speculation about an accident, and surely a BMC hosted access site/page is what is the best vehicle.
What you don't NEED to know in a timely manner is any gossip or speculation about the incident and particularly the people involved.
Therefore, for my money, what we NEED is rapid reporting of anything impacting the safe climbing at a crag. This needs to be broadcast widely and quickly, but any other details should be released at an appropriate time and considering any sensitivities, particularly families of those involved.
> If someone has an accident because a bolt or anchor fails, then I want to know about it.
Why? What are you going to do about it?
If the news that a bolt or anchor has failed is going to stop you relying on bolts or anchors, I can help you make that decision in an even more timely manner: stop now.
> Therefore, for my money, what we NEED is rapid reporting of anything impacting the safe climbing at a crag.
Quite so. And that kind of thing is often flagged up on here, which is absolutely fine.
> Do you demand a similar level of immediate detail about road accidents?
In the aftermath of a road accident that was close to where you live or on a route where you were likely to be going, you would want to know how long the road was going to be closed for and not a lot else. Perhaps if you had witnessed the accident you might want to know if everyone is ok, but would you be posting on the internet asking for information?
> How do you think people should find out about accident then, in a timely manner.
> Any national reporting system would take a long time to 'feed through' to the climbing consciousness.
> If someone has an accident because a bolt or anchor fails, then I want to know about it.
You could always start your own website if it's of such great concern to you?
> Therefore, for my money, what we NEED is rapid reporting of anything impacting the safe climbing at a crag. This needs to be broadcast widely and quickly, but any other details should be released at an appropriate time and considering any sensitivities, particularly families of those involved.
TBF I think this is already done fairly well on the occasions when an an ongoing risk is identfiied in the immediate aftermath of an accident.
I think it is useful to know if the bolts on a particular line at a crag have become unreliable or are missing, especially if I am going to climb there. I think that might have been the point of that response rather than wanting to know every detail of every accident at every crag...
I agree frankly. There are occasions when something has happened at a crag and you aren't aware of it, but normally loose rock/bolt issues are widely reported without going into the personal/sensitive details of accidents.
> Do we talk about climbing accidents enough?
Christ, which rock have you been hiding under?
It seems to me we never stop talking about the bloody things!
Who incidentally described incidents from the US , France and finally the UK . A worldwide database would be a big thing.
I don't envy whoever is speccing this database
> In the aftermath of a road accident
Difference being, we are required to take lengthy tests and licensing requirements to drive, the automotive industry investigates in detail if defects caused a fatal crash, driving courses are long and mandatory and through them the lessons of causes of accidents are disseminated, and safety rules are enforced by law.
Does that sound like climbing to you?
Someone dies or suffers life changing injuries in climbing and we are unlikely to know it even happened, let alone the causes.
> If statistics were reported on UKC it might raise awareness, start discussions, reduce accidents and I for one would rather spend my time reading something that may save my life than yet another article telling me how to train better for climbing indoors.
Really ? you mean if the percentage of climbers abseiling off the end of their rope were only 0.001% as opposed to the 0.1% you first thought, then you wouldn't bother to take as much care ? Personally I don't care about the statistics - I know abseiling off the end of a rope is dangerous and avoidable without having to be told and I would also suggest that anyone who needs to be told this is in the wrong passtime.
At some point you needed to be told, and maybe even reminded, though, surely?
And there are dozens of everyday aspects of climbing which we need to hear about, be reminded about, or which are not entirely intuitive (pay particular care when walking off, don't stand after topping out with your back turned, don't talk to people when setting up, be aware that ropes and slings slice through themselves, where is it better to use equalising or knotted anchors, what slings can you knot, etc etc.). Especially as we seem to value the unregulated nature of the sport and everyone's right to climb without licensing or formalised training.
Then there are dozens more old-wives-tales that are presumed to cause accidents but actually do not.
Allowing open discussion separates the wheat from the chaff. It seems like some people would rather that discussion either doesn't occur at all, or is made as impractical as possible, for rather weak reasons.
"We don't feel that UKC is the place for announcing accidents and evaluating them."
That is UKC's prerogative, and it is a wonderful climbing site, but I think the stance is wrong. It seems to me that UKC allows climbing accidents to be announced here and then closes off discussions if it feels that have become insensitive, irrelevant, whatever. That procedure seems to work well enough in practise, and the degree of "self-policing" on the site, through posters offering different views until a consensus emerges seems to be quite effective. Good stuff all in all.
A BMC working group has been set up to look at detailed proposals for a reporting system, and UKC have offered some form of integration, link to a post on another thread here:
I have seen a couple of accidents indoors and the same outdoors. Some have upset me quite a bit (but obviously trivial compared to the emotions of those directly involved which are, of course, the most important). I have been glad to find out that the individuals concerned had either escaped with minor injuries (remarkably) or at least were making a good recovery. Quite often a quick report - 'Thanks for all your help - the person concerned is doing fine' on UKC is nice to know.
> posters offering different views until a consensus emerges seems to be quite effective.
Effective in achieving what exactly?
People gossiping over garden fences rarely achieve anything. Not only that but the majority of people who will be offering their points of view will not have any formal qualifications, will not have been at the incident, will not know anybody at the incident and will not have climbed at the location. What does it achieve?
There seem to be several schools of thought about discussing climbing accidents.
The first is generally just a brief report of an accident, and where fatal, tributes and condolences are offered. There is nothing wrong with this.
The next is a very understandable human reaction of people asking what happened? In any human activity of course we want to know what happened. If you get home from work and learn that your neighbour dropped dead this morning wouldn't most of us be shocked and naturally ask what happened? It would be very strange if we didn't. So if we learn of a climbing accident on UKC I don't hold it against people who will post enquiring about it, after all we can emphasise with others who have been unfortunate because we share the sport.
Where enquiring after someone who has been so unfortunate runs into problems is when the full facts are not known and people start to speculate. This is not helpful to any one and can cause distress to victims and/or relatives.
I think there has been a tendency for people making honest and concerned enquiries to be unreasonably accused of rubbernecking when all they are doing is making a normal human enquiry.
very well said
I feel a very similar way to you, though I think I would categorise more queries as rubbernecking than concern than perhaps you would. I believe there are 3 key motives:
1. Curiosity. Very human. We didn't have anything to do with the incident but, as you put it Trangia, we have the very human response of wanting to know what happened. This doesn't mean we will learn anything - just curiosity. I would say that restraint in posting is needed in this case.
2. Empathy/sympathy. We were there, or knew the people involved, or knew of them. Perhaps it includes a fatality and we feel sad about it. Often we will just want to know if everyone is ok or perhaps offer condolences. This is understandable - part of the human process of dealing with the shock of an event.
3. Learning. We want to get some knowledge from the incident. Is there something dangerous about the crag? Are the bolts/belays intact? Are there any factors that someone going back to that location should be aware of? Is there something that gives a lesson to other climbers.
The issue for me is that too many people post on UKC under the guise of number 3, but are actually just indulging their curiosity and that ultimately doesn't achieve anything. The learning element can be done successfully online without the need to speculate, gossip or indulge in any rubbernecking, but in my view it far too often becomes unqualified speculation.
> Allowing open discussion separates the wheat from the chaff.
Except when it doesn't. Or even when it does, eventually, but generates an absolute shitstorm of brand new chaff first. Chaff that has the potential to cause a great deal of upset or even, god forbid, to get picked up by a 'journalist' trawling the site for something juicy to put in print.
I still don't think there is a problem with someone asking "What happened?" Eg "I was climbing at Swanage this afternoon and saw the rescue helicopter hovering further along the cliff with the Lifeboat standing off. Does anybody know what happened?" Yes, it's curiosity, but very natural curiosity, generally linked with some empathy that a fellow climber appears to have had an accident.
The answer everyone is hoping to hear is of course "A climber fell, and was evacuated to hospital with injuries which are not understood to be life threatening" Encouraging news like that should be given because it allays people's fears that the worst may have happened.
As we agree these are very human questions, and perfectly understandable.
Note the question is almost always "What happened?" Not "Why did it happen?"
If the news isn't good, I think there is no harm with anyone who knows responding along the lines that "A climber fell, and had to be rescued from the sea or whatever. Sadly it is understood they were killed" That's enough, just simple facts. The cause(s) shouldn't generally be discussed or speculated on unless it's something blindingly obvious like the cliff face collapsing.
When my best mate was killed. I wasn't upset by people asking what had happened. I found it more distressing when people avoided the subject as though it had never happened.
> .. a normal human enquiry.
Perhaps there is a tendency in some to confuse a thread on here with a private conversation. What you might ask or tell your neighbour privately is not necessarily the same thing you would stand in your front garden and shout into a loud hailer.
Your 'normal human equiry' in an open thread on here is less like a bit of gossip over the garden fence than it is like putting your pet theory on what your neighbour was doing when his heart gave out up on a billboard in the middle of town.
> If the news isn't good, I think there is no harm with anyone who knows responding along the lines that "A climber fell, and had to be rescued from the sea or whatever. Sadly it is understood they were killed" That's enough, just simple facts. The cause(s) shouldn't generally be discussed or speculated on unless it's something blindingly obvious like the cliff face collapsing.
I wouldn't have a problem with that, but given a platform people *do* discuss, speculate, etc. and sometimes they can be a bit thoughtless about it to say the least.
When Mountain Rescue have been in attendance, you'll generally find they publish a brief incident report along those lines within a day or two. They're not difficult to find.
That doesn't seem to be what the OP is asking for though. He wants details, pronto, posted to an open thread on here. This being UKC, if they're unavailable some will be invented soon enough by whoever is most willing to chuck in their twopennyworth and least concerned about the potential consequences of their speculation.
I was talking about the utility of stats, though. Discussion is OK provided people use it to identify broad brush things to look out for (be careful to asses your abseil for ropes over edges, knots getting stuck, rope length, anchor suitability) - but at the end of the day its your judgement. Open forum discussion are not the place to try to establish 'best practice' (always use etc....) - there are far too many armchair experts out there.
I would change the opening question a bit: Do we, as a community, take climbing safety seriously enough?
My impression is that we treat it as a private issue: it is up to an individual to decide. (I do not suggest that we introduce a "climbing police" to enforce safe behaviour.) Worse, we often promote, admire and applaud dangerous adventures.
A serious discussion about how to reduce the number of climbing accidents is long overdue.
A lot has changed due to technological progress: mountain rescue helicopters, mobile phones, nylon ropes, weather forecasts. Equipment failures are rare; they are well publicised but do not count in accident statistics.
Still, one can defeat any technology by pushing up risks. What was once suicidal can be attempted because of the added safety net. In this way, we are back to square one. (Not quite.)
Climbing is inherently dangerous: no amount of good advice is going to change it; there are too many variables involved. But I think that we can substantially improve climbing safety if we try.
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