/ Perceived Risk v Actual Risk in Trad?

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Goucho on 17 Jul 2017
One of my old climbing friends has been down for the weekend. Last night as the wine flowed, we went travelling back down memory lane, recounting tales of daring exploits and adventures on the crags, as two old farts tend to do, when left alone with wine and rose tinted bifocals.

My son who's also on a visit, was sitting at the other end of the kitchen, when without lifting his head from his ipad, he wryly said "Listening to you talking about your climbing life Dad, is like listening to Robert Duval in Appocolypse Now."

We laughed, but it got me thinking.

In this day and age of mass communication on forum sites like this, are folks from my generation, with our tales of the old days (invariably embroidered slightly for maximum dramatic effect) possibly contributing in some small way, to the perception that Trad is more serious and dangerous than it actually is?




1poundSOCKS - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

> In this day and age of mass communication on forum sites like this, are folks from my generation, with our tales of the old days (invariably embroidered slightly for maximum dramatic effect) possibly contributing in some small way, to the perception that Trad is more serious and dangerous than it actually is?

The more interesting stories and the most vivid memories will tend to be when it nearly or did go pear shaped. So I would say yes. But not just the old days.
elsewhere on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:
Visiting an injured climber in hospital - the 3 other visitors were also climbers. Only 1 of 5 of us hadn't been to A and E at some stage for something climbing related.


Rog Wilko on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Recently I happened to be scanning through a Jan 1948 edition of "Mountaineering" the BMC bulletin of that time. There is a a short article about accidents which lists 4 climbing deaths in 3 accidents in the 2 months of July and August 1947.
I also recently browsed the Keswick MRT report for last year. If I remember correctly out of just shy of 100 callouts there was only one involving climbers and no fatalities.
Basically, things have got a lot safer than they were when we started - not that that was in 1948!
veteye on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Ten years ago I had an accident(through checking a piece of gear/pulling on it to see if it was safe, and not sufficiently protecting myself with my other hand) which ended up with me being off work for six months. If I had not been wearing a helmet I probably would have died. Even then it was a close run thing, and certainly there still are people who are less lucky than myself. Nevertheless I went back climbing, at Kern Knotts, before I went back to work.

I think that improved survival rates are not just down to improved protection, but also down to better emergency medical competence and ability. The NHS staff were brilliant in treating and nursing me.
Mike505 on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Surely it comes down to how dangerous you make it? Some will do all they can to remove the risks e.g top roping a route first while others enjoy the uncertainty and will push for the onsight.
As for perceived risk I'm sure some will perceive they're in a high risk situation whenever there isn't a runner above their head while others will feel fine as long as ground fall isn't an issue.
henwardian - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> The more interesting stories and the most vivid memories will tend to be when it nearly or did go pear shaped. So I would say yes. But not just the old days.

This is a big one. The filter of history changes all sorts of perceptions, just consider how much crap music there is on the radio today; there was just as much crap around in the 1960s but because people remember standout tunes and forget mediocrity, we all tend to think music back then was so much better than now on average.
But climbing definitely was more dangerous back in the day... as were building sites, chemical plants, driving a car, etc. etc. Basically, as time progresses, the safety standards improve, the equipment improves, the training improves and the abilities of medicine to reassemble collections of people parts into whole people again gets ever more advanced.
I'm sure there are some nice stats out there of the risk of injury per climbing trip that throw this into sharp relief but I can't be bothered to look for them :P
rgold - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

> In this day and age of mass communication on forum sites like this, are folks from my generation, with our tales of the old days (invariably embroidered slightly for maximum dramatic effect) possibly contributing in some small way, to the perception that Trad is more serious and dangerous than it actually is?

Well first of all, you could only be contributing to the perception that trad used to be more serious and dangerous than it is now, and as a number of posters have already pointed out, that is probably true.

Of course the equipment revolution since the 1950's has been profound. But there has also been an information revolution, not only in how accessible it is, but also the quality and depth of it. Climbers now have the opportunity to know far more than they did fifty years ago.

Perhaps a downside of all this information is that it doesn't come with a good sense of proportion. I think climbers can ignore substantial risks while obsessing over things that are exceptionally unlikely to happen.
Michael Gordon - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to henwardian:

> The filter of history changes all sorts of perceptions, just consider how much crap music there is on the radio today; there was just as much crap around in the 1960s but because people remember standout tunes and forget mediocrity, we all tend to think music back then was so much better than now on average.
>

I don't think it has to do with what one remembers (in the 1960s most people below 40 didn't consider bygone periods to have better music than what was then the present). I'd say there are two reasons, (a) the music in the 1960/70ss WAS better on average than now, or at least more innovative considering what had gone before, and (b) good music from that era also tended to be better known to the general public, relatively speaking, than nowadays. Plenty of good bands about now but unlike Jimi Hendrix, Cream etc, they aren't known to the public at large.
Mick Ward - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to rgold:

> Perhaps a downside of all this information is that it doesn't come with a good sense of proportion. I think climbers can ignore substantial risks while obsessing over things that are exceptionally unlikely to happen.

I completely agree. Formerly with rubbish/no gear, pretty much any route (no matter now lowly graded) was potentially a death lead. So for leading, steadiness was required from day one. In one way or another you had to 'serve your apprenticeship' as the late Ken Wilson, bless him, was wont to put it. If you were lucky, serving your apprenticeship meant getting mentored; if you were unlucky, it meant surviving your mistakes (gulp!) But, either way, you needed to gain judgement. And that judgement was your collateral, underwriting your ahem 'adventures'.

Compare with nowadays. People get good at bouldering, then sport climbing. They buy every cam going, get as much info as possible. Then out they go - and the rock fights back!

To get the judgement, you need to serve your apprenticeship. There's no other way. As ever, when it really mattered, Ken was right.

Mick


1poundSOCKS - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to henwardian:

> But climbing definitely was more dangerous back in the day

I don't think that was even the question, and I wasn't trying to answer it. I was talking about perceived vs actual risk.
DubyaJamesDubya - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to henwardian:



> But climbing definitely was more dangerous back in the day... as were building sites, chemical plants, driving a car, etc. etc. Basically, as time progresses, the safety standards improve, the equipment improves, the training improves and the abilities of medicine to reassemble collections of people parts into whole people again gets ever more advanced.

> I'm sure there are some nice stats out there of the risk of injury per climbing trip that throw this into sharp relief but I can't be bothered to look for them :P

But climbing has at least one major difference to building sites in that people can use the improvements to push themselves further into dangerous areas rather than removing risky activities.
stp - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:
My impression is that many trad climbers feel threatened by sport climbing and so often make out that trad climbing is far more serious than it really is to bolster their egos. To be sure some trad climbs are really serious. But my impression is that such climbs are avoided by the majority of climbers. Just like sport climbers most don't seem interested in doing death routes. And usually when they do, the climbing is often far below what they're capable of. Doing a runout HVS is far less serious if you climb E2 than if HVS is your limit.

There is certainly a perception amongst those who have never climbed trad that it is much more serious than it really is. Personally I don't think most trad routes should be any more dangerous than the average sport route providing you're competent at placing gear. There are plenty of situations where incompetence on sport routes could lead to accidents too, particularly falling off when pulling up rope to clip second or third bolts.

Interestingly the exaggerations about the seriousness of trad is putting younger climbers off trad and making sport more popular.
Post edited at 09:07
Lord_ash2000 - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

If you're talking about the danger of death then trad is actually not very dangerous at all. The vast majority of accidents, fatal or otherwise happen on easy routes (sub VS) partly due to the fact they make up the majority of routes climbed and often because its the inexperienced people who lack skills falling off with crapply placed gear who get hurt.

But still the actual number of people who die per year from trad climbing in the UK is very small indeed. I started a thread a long time ago discussing what the hardest route someone has ever died on in the UK. Turns out it is probably only E2 or 3 which means in the whole history of UK trad climbing no one has ever died climbing anything 'hard'(lets say E5 and above) on trad ever. Literally non of the many really bold or hard death routes out there have have ever actually claimed any victims ever.

It isn't to say they are not very dangerous though but its often the opposite situation to punters decking out on hard severe's. They are generally only climbed by very experienced climbers who have the route well within there physical and metal abilities and are very skilled in placing the gear and well generally well prepared to take on the route.
hms - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Lord_ash2000:

your information is utterly incorrect. Not everything that happens gets trumpeted to the roof tops, and I'm not going to break a confidence by saying more.
davidbeynon on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Thinking about routes I have done in the past, all my most vivid memories are either "firsts", or of things going pear shaped. I can vividly remember my first lead, my first few multi pitch routes etc. I honestly couldn't tell you as much about the routes I climbed last week.

Similarly, epics are memorable. Getting benighted on an easy route round the back of Lochnagar, climbing in the dark and getting back to the bothy at 7am sticks in the mind far more vividly than any of the successful days out.

Deadeye - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Lord_ash2000:

Well the Axe is E4 for a start
oldie - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:
"our tales of the old days (invariably embroidered slightly for maximum dramatic effect) possibly contributing in some small way, to the perception that Trad is more serious and dangerous than it actually is?"

In sport climbing the risk is largely removed and climbers can concentrate on enjoying other aspects. A comparatively small set of rules for using protection is sufficient and all protection is theoretically bomber.
In trad there is much more to learn, more mistakes are possible, and protection may be marginal or absent.

However modern climbers have the advantage of better equipment and readily available training and knowledge. From indoor and sport they often already have good climbing technique, an understanding of aspects of protection, and have held frequent falls.

So yes they are potentially more prepared for climbing trad than we were and our tales of yesteryear probably exaggerate the dangers.


paul__in_sheffield - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

Well said Mick. I took a rope with me on a trip to Wales this weekend for my first trad leads in 10 years after going to the sport/bouldering/Beastmaker dark side. It was as if the intervening time hadn't happened! So I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to the t**ts I served my apprenticeship with, all the verbal abuse, sandbags, misinformation, being pointed at overhanging rubble, and general p*ss taking. I guess I must have learned something from them ;-)

Do you not think STP has also got a point too? The average weekend activity on the UKC logbooks is sub-VS and on the whole pro is only limited by how much you can carry up with you. I think the perceived risk is probably higher than actual risk which is actually on a par with sports climbs on average. It's (in)competence or a lapse of concentration which turns it into an adventure sport...
What do you think?
Paul
Lord_ash2000 - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to hms:
It isn't my information, it was the general conclusion of the thread back when I first asked the question. I didn't recall hearing about any deaths on higher E grade climbs myself so I was wondering if anyone had been known to die on anything hard and the general conclusion seemed to be no. If you know otherwise then that is fair enough but very few climbing deaths don't make some sort of news, even if it is just a mountain rescue report.

To Dead eye, if someone has died on an E4 then again, fair enough but still unless hms knows of an event my general statement holds "in the whole history of UK trad climbing no one has ever died climbing anything 'hard'(lets say E5 and above) on trad ever."

But at the very least we can say such events are thankfully extremely rare.
Post edited at 11:10
GrahamD - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

I think 'trad' encompasses just too wide a range of actual climbing experience to generalise. At one extreme you have a 8m high gritstone crack into which you could bury 10 pieces of solid gear and render it 'safer' (as in better protected) than 90 % of bolted routes. At the other extreme you are looking at the crossover into Alpinism with far higher levels of objective danger and far lower amounts of protection.

The impression a dyed in the wool old timer gives is entirely down to the sort of 'trad' they do.
Big Lee - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

From a top level climbing point of view maybe it's because the 'golden age' of UK trad has largely passed. There's not the same incentive to risk your neck now that 'those' lines have been climbed. The likes of Paul Pritchard and Johnny Dawes for example seemed to push the envelope of risk a little more with bold trad onsights compared to anyone of the current era. When I read about some of the lines those guys put up on sea cliffs for example it strikes me as being incomparable to a lot of stuff that gets climbed today. The emphasis seems to have shifted towards hard redpointing, rather than hard onsighting.

Alpinism incidentally saw a similar phenomenon with a lot of the boldest hardest climbs on 8000m peaks getting done in the 80s. Probably because the first ascent / new route carrot was still dangling back then. Now those lines have been completed people are evidently less prepared to accept the associated risks that come with those type of climbs.

Also, maybe people of previous eras were better at dealing with discomfort whilst on a climb compared to current due to the lower levels of prosperity and consequently greater discomfort through childhood. This would potentially have better prepared people for the uncomfortable feelings experienced whilst on bold, hard climbs - and consequently lead to more accidents as a result. Living in Norway has made it pretty obvious to me that most people here poorly handle the feelings of discomfort associated with bold climbing compared to the UK because they generally experience less discomfort in their lives as a consequence of the high standards of living. Maybe we will see an abnormally large crop of bold climbers in about ten years after this current period of austerity!
Offwidth - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Lord_ash2000:
I'm pretty sure there was a death on Calvary as well and there are rumours of others (people usually won't gossip). So your thesis is frankly a bit silly as the number of lead attempts on very hard routes are vastly smaller than on bumbly routes: a typical busy day on Stanage will massively exceed every lead attempt on E8 and above ever in the UK. Mistakes do happen on hard routes and the avoidance of serious injury is sometimes more about luck: Meshuga is an E9 in that category.

Having said that skilled climbers do have much lower actual risk than we percieve. The real serious risks for such climbers come in places where objective risk is high and where concentration drops on easier terrain (read the John Dill Yosemite accidents article)
Post edited at 11:42
Offwidth - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Big Lee:
I don't see that golden age statement being strictly true, impressive as those onsights were. I didn't start climbing until after then and there has been plenty of measured high risk since. The most sensible viewpoint is the number of falls on serious hard routes compared to attempts, as it shows how hard people are pushing the limits of risk. As no one keeps statistics you need to talk to people who are doing this. Many climbers denigrated the acceleration of headpointing but some were pushing at their technical limits on many of these ascents from the 'hard grit' era. I have friends and people I know who had nasty falls with serious consequencies (that could have been much much worse) on stuff up to E6 ( that being White Lines, in the last decade). I know of quite a few falls on routes harder than E8 after the golden age.
Post edited at 13:41
Jon Stewart - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:
> My impression is that many trad climbers feel threatened by sport climbing and so often make out that trad climbing is far more serious than it really is to bolster their egos.

Yes, this is true, but it's not just about ego. I tend to like bold routes, and when I'm on them I feel genuinely like I am going to die if I fall off. In the last few weeks I've done Bloodhound (again) which is, I think, serious. The side-runner for the crux (didn't place it last time when I went direct, did this time) wouldn't have stopped me hitting the ground, would have just hit the ground further right, from about 35ft. Then you get the gear at about 40ft, which is tiny anyway. Then you do a load of climbing that's still 5a/b up until you're facing a groundfall from 85ft. Then you do 15ft of easy protected climbing to the top.

Another one was Tumbleweed Connection which has big run-outs (maybe to groundfall on the first one, just before you get gear, again 5b climbing on an E2; the other is an enormous pendulum form a peg, into the sidewall).

On both these routes, I felt like I simply could not fall off, else it would be life-changing. And these are just normal, classic Lakes E2s where the guidebook doesn't even mention them being scary - which says a bit about Lakes E2s! Anyhow, the experience of both was intense, and having been to Chapel Head a bit recently and sat on a rope complaining about how crap all the holds are and how pumped I got, it's just a totally different world of experience. While no, not that many trad routes are really serious, some are for just a few little sections, and as such the experience is so drastically unlike sport climbing that comparing the two seems pretty meaningless.

These routes I mention aren't miles below my limit. I can only reliably climb 5c first go (90% maybe?), and these routes are bold 5c or 5b. And the're classics, they get done a fair bit - although they're not everyone's taste (but everyone has crap taste 'cause these routes are amazing!).

> There is certainly a perception amongst those who have never climbed trad that it is much more serious than it really is. Personally I don't think most trad routes should be any more dangerous than the average sport route providing you're competent at placing gear.

You're really over-compensating here. On loads of trad routes there is only one piece of gear between you and injury, and gear fails a lot! There are plenty of trad routes that are as safe as sport routes, but you have to pick them carefully. Come up to the Lakes and climb at your limit with that attitude and I think you might be headed towards Cumberland Infirmary before long!
Post edited at 13:54
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Jon Stewart - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:
To add a bit more, I'm not saying that on these trad routes it's actually likely that you'll come to serious harm. On Bloodhound, if you're going to fall off, it'll be from the crux at 35ft and it's down a slab which becomes broken. You'd probably limp away but might twist/break something if you're unlucky. But when I'm facing that kind of fall I tend to go with the assumption that there'll be blood everywhere and bones sticking out at funny angles. You won't fall off the serious bit, if you've got that far it's just totally unlikely.

Much of bold trad is the illusion that it's high risk, when what you're most often dealing with is very high impact, very
low probability risk. On Bloodhound, if the climbing was hard (i.e. 5c for an E2 leader) with an 85ft ground fall, then it wouldn't be E2. And you're going to fall off 5a slabs with flat holds, then there's no way you should be climbing an E2 slab! So the chance of an E2 climber actually getting badly hurt are minimal, but it's because the probability is low, rather than the impact. All of which makes it incredibly exciting, but not actually very risky - but for completely different reasons to why sport climbing isn't very risky.
Post edited at 15:01
Jon Stewart - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Big Lee:

> Living in Norway has made it pretty obvious to me that most people here poorly handle the feelings of discomfort associated with bold climbing compared to the UK because they generally experience less discomfort in their lives as a consequence of the high standards of living. Maybe we will see an abnormally large crop of bold climbers in about ten years after this current period of austerity!

Very interesting idea, I wonder if it stacks up? The people who like bold climbing in the UK are very often from the molly-coddled middle classes (exhibit A: me, but then as a low-E grade plodder I am quite tame). But then on the other I have experienced a fair bit of stress in my life, so perhaps this is why I'm so fond of tip-toeing around above my gear! Would be a fair bit of work to find out if there was such a relationship - sounds like a completely pointless PhD chapter to me...
Big Lee - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

It's funny I would have said the opposite. The first chapters in half of the hard alpine biographies that I own seem to start with parents separating at a young age and general rocky upbringings.
Jon Stewart - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Big Lee:

We're talking about different groups of people. I'm just talking about my mates that climb bold trad, up to the high E grades, not rock'ard alpinists.
Mick Ward - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

> Do you not think STP has also got a point too? The average weekend activity on the UKC logbooks is sub-VS and on the whole pro is only limited by how much you can carry up with you. I think the perceived risk is probably higher than actual risk which is actually on a par with sports climbs on average. It's (in)competence or a lapse of concentration which turns it into an adventure sport...

> What do you think?

It's a tricky one. As Graham pointed out, trad covers such a wide spectrum from Stanage Popular to Cloggy, Red Wall etc. Nowadays many people going from sport to trad seem to have several (physical) grades in hand, e.g. climbing F6a and Hard Severe. And nowadays people carry what seem to be to be huge racks (but maybe I'm joining 'em!) In 'Big Wall Climbing', Doug Scott had a photo of someone with (to him at the time) a ridiculous rack on grit. That's pretty normal now. And nowadays people have as much info as they need (and proper grades, courtesy of altrustic souls such as Offwidth).

And yet... and yet... all of these seem like attempts to tame the beast. (And ironically when the beast is tamed - sport climbing/climbing walls - people become complacent, feel safe and indulge in unsafe practices.)

Most of my hairy moments trad climbing have come not on hard routes (for me) but when things have gone horribly wrong.

For instance, chosen at random:

Stopping Jim Erickson when he slipped at the top of Cenotaph Corner. He was about 14 stone; I was eight and a half. We slid helplessly to the edge and really both of us should have gone over.

Getting right up shit creek on a new route in Ireland (still undone over 40 years later!) and staying on the same smears for about an hour, facing horrible calf pump, knowing a slip would be fatal.

Missing the crucial runner placement on Man of Straw and reversing the corner in an unexpected deluge, with no gear.

Having another unexpected deluge on Central Buttress at Avon and having to carry on (couldn't really stay where I was) on glassy, polished, soaking wet limestone, with no gear.

The common denominators - things just going wrong and having to suck it up and deal with it. That's where my own 'apprenticeship' - soloing choss in Ireland - came in handy.

So how do people develop the judgement to stay out of trouble and the fortitude to see it through when they do end up in trouble?

'...you know it ain't easy
you know how hard it can be...'

Mick



Big Lee - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Fair enough. I tend to think about a lot of the mental qualities needed for bold trad rock onsighting and hard alpinism as being similar in isolation.
Trangia on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

I do recall that during the early 1960s my friends and I were called out from pubs and Youth Hostels quite a few times to assist scratch MR teams in various rescues and one body recovery. We had had no formal rescue training just climbing experience. One of the most difficult lasted 24 hours rescuing a climber with a broken leg from way up on Sron na Ciche. We had witnessed the accident and climbed up to him, where we waited with him all night for MR to arrive lowering a stretcher from above, and then assisted in the lower. We also assisted in sweep searches for missing walkers. Helicopters were not generally used in those days, nothing like to the extent that they are now, and radio coms were virtually non existent. The portable sets used by the Forces were huge, heavy and cumbersome, as big as a modern loaded rucksac, and not at all reliable.
Robert Durran - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> Personally I don't think most trad routes should be any more dangerous than the average sport route providing you're competent at placing gear.

Indeed, but I think there's a lot of people out there who are pretty rubbish at placing gear and are climbing with the confidence of a false sense of security rather than in real safety. Trad climbing is as much if not more about the ability to protect climbs as it is about climbing when the protection is poor.
Jon Stewart - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Indeed, but I think there's a lot of people out there who are pretty rubbish at placing gear and are climbing with the confidence of a false sense of security rather than in real safety. Trad climbing is as much if not more about the ability to protect climbs as it is about climbing when the protection is poor.

True, but also trad climbs often happen on big mountains and sea cliffs. You might only fall as far as a sport fall, but you might also smash your ankle, but then you're 6 pitches up a massive cliff and it's going dark. Or it's overhanging over the sea. Saying it's just the same as sport climbing is the height of complacency IMO, and an equally distorted piece of motivated reasoning as saying that trad climbers go on about how dangerous it is because they're bitter about being weak compared to their athletic (and much more handsome) sport climbing counterparts.

Stp: sorry you'll just have to bear with the sarcastic tone here, it's nothing personal. I've been sat in all day while the mountain crags are all bone dry, having had a catastrophic car death incident last night on the way to do a dream route, and then been f*cked over by not just one but two partners today. Let's just say I've got slightly crabby pants.
Robert Durran - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Sorry you'll just have to bear with the sarcastic tone here, it's nothing personal. I've been sat in all day while the mountain crags are all bone dry, having had a catastrophic car death incident last night on the way to do a dream route, and then been f*cked over by not just one but two partners today. Let's just say I've got slightly crabby pants.

And I had to go hill walking all day while the mountain crags were bone dry having had my partner have a catastrophic car death on the way to do a dream route, having had my own catastrophic car death a couple of days ago......... So feeling a bit crabby too ;-)

Offwidth - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:
I'd agree bad luck can lead to serious problems even on the safest of UK trad. Heavy rain can lead to hypothermia pretty quickly if you have the wrong clothing or even with the right clothing if your route turns into a waterfall. A lot of accidents start as a bit of bad luck then cascade with a series of further bad luck and bad decsions as you get more tired and more frightened. Mobile phones and our wonderful MR ease the overall risk a little these days but I get the impresion too many modern mountain pairs could be in trouble with an unexpected storm or injury even in the easiest grades. I'd ask the following questions:

How many climbers know how to get off a route if their partner is incapacitated?
How many climbers work out in advance any escape possibilities from a route?
How many regularly practice downclimbing or simple aid: enough to get out of a route navigation cul-de-sac?
How many know how to belay if the belay has no useable runners with the rack they have left?
How many carry warm emergency clothes in summer (or carry too much: the overcaution of the ' kitchen sink approach' can lead to more problems than it attempts to solve?
How many can see the warning signs of impending thunderstorms and act appropriately before being forced to act?
If you climb a mountain route with a novice can you solo the route to get help in an accident where phones don't work and other ways off are not possible?
Post edited at 18:32
rgold - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> My impression is that many trad climbers feel threatened by sport climbing and so often make out that trad climbing is far more serious than it really is to bolster their egos.

Spoken like a true sport climber! Let he who is without insecurity cast the first aspersion.
Robert Durran - on 18 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> My impression is that many trad climbers feel threatened by sport climbing and so often make out that trad climbing is far more serious than it really is to bolster their egos.

My impression is that many sport climbers feel threatened by trad climbing and so often make out that sport climbing is far harder than it really is to bolster their egos.
JackM92 - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Lord_ash2000:

As stated by someone else, you're completely wrong by stating that no one has ever died on a route graded E5 and above.

But correct about easy routes being statistically the most dangerous. One of my partners worked in A & E in North Wales and the routes with most casualties were the Cneifon Arete (Diff) and Main Wall (HS). Mainly because if you fall off something that easy you're almost certain to smash into a jug/ledge...
ukb & bmc shark - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Risk in climbing is nuanced and multi faceted and more than just statistics and dice rolling.

I tried to grapple with the topic of risk from a different angle in an article on here 9 years ago https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1237

(Wish I hadn't included the distracting Rumsfeld quote)
leon on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

When I went for life insurance trad climbing and skydiving barely changed the premium but scottish winter climbing had a big impact. I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that....
1poundSOCKS - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to ukb & bmc shark:

> But, consider that bouldering (considered safe)

By who? Whenever you see somebody hobbling around with a pot on, you just know it was bouldering.

I don't even class indoors as safe, given some of the nasty injuries that've happened at my local indoor venues.
ukb & bmc shark - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> By who? Whenever you see somebody hobbling around with a pot on, you just know it was bouldering.


Most climbers (yourself clearly excepted)

1poundSOCKS - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to ukb & bmc shark:

> Most climbers (yourself clearly excepted)

I am shocked actually, but I can't say I've ever done a straw poll. Clearly a very deluded bunch.
stp - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

> My impression is that many sport climbers feel threatened by trad climbing and so often make out that sport climbing is far harder than it really is to bolster their egos.

Well it's easy to reverse the wording but this way round it just doesn't ring true. I pretty much never hear sport climbers moaning about trad climbers or trad climbing.
1poundSOCKS - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> Well it's easy to reverse the wording but this way round it just doesn't ring true. I pretty much never hear sport climbers moaning about trad climbers or trad climbing.

Well from what you read on here, usually an analogy of sport climbing and McDonalds, can't recall anything the other way around now you mention it.

But what I hear from friends who are sport climbers who don't trad climb is it's really dangerous and not for them.

Whereas the trad climbers who don't do sport, or do it occasionally, just see it as the same as trad but with bolts. A convenient fix without the danger. Which is obviously just a very small part of what sport climbing is, and not what the more devoted sport climbers do.
Robert Durran - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> Well it's easy to reverse the wording but this way round it just doesn't ring true. I pretty much never hear sport climbers moaning about trad climbers or trad climbing.

That's not the same thing!
stp - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

My comment was meant as a generalisation which means it applies to the majority of climbers, not all of them. That you enjoy dangerous routes simply means you're not part of that majority.


> You might only fall as far as a sport fall, but you might also smash your ankle, but then you're 6 pitches up a massive cliff and it's going dark. Or it's overhanging over the sea.

All those things are true but they can also happen on sport routes too if you include abroad. In Britain you can lower back to the ground on a single rope on the majority of routes and routes over 6 pitches are very much a rarity, as are routes that overhang the sea.

The biggest difference here in the UK I'd think is the fact that there's lots of trad in the mountains and little to no sport. Climbing, or any activity, in a mountain environment brings it's own set of extra risks. But that's not an inherent part of trad or necessarily exclusive to it once we go beyond the UK.

You may well be right about routes in the Lakes and their seriousness. I can't comment because I've not climbed there much. But in the areas I have climbed in, N Wales, Pembroke, Peak, Yorkshire and the South West, I'd say it's rare to find yourself with just one piece of gear between yourself and the deck.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> Well it's easy to reverse the wording but this way round it just doesn't ring true. I pretty much never hear sport climbers moaning about trad climbers or trad climbing.

There might be a reason for that. Given that there is very little decent easy sport in the country but loads of easy trad, the people who you think of as "sport climbers" are most likely good climbers. They'll probably have done loads of trad and loads of bouldering and just find they've settled into a groove with sport for whatever reason. Trad climbers on the other hand may never have done any sport climbing really, just a bit of onsighting on holiday in the easy grades, which while pleasant is, lets face it, a pretty boring activity that engages very little compared to trad climbing.

As such there are lots of trad climbers out there who like trad climbing and think that sport climbing is shite in comparison - because at their grade it is shite in the UK. While sport climbers operating in the 7s and 8s are much more likely to have experienced what trad has to offer, so don't write it all off as shite.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:

> All those things are true but they can also happen on sport routes too if you include abroad. In Britain you can lower back to the ground on a single rope on the majority of routes

Not on the majority of really good routes!

> I'd say it's rare to find yourself with just one piece of gear between yourself and the deck.

What I said was one piece between yourself and injury. This happens all the time - if the gear's a bit spaced and there's stuff to hit, falling off is risky!

I wish I could feel as safe as you seem to on trad routes and really go for it in a devil-may-care fashion, but I honestly think that's ill-advised. I'm pretty sure I know when I've got bomber gear and a safe fall zone and it's definitely not most of the time. But that's partly because I like wall climbing and aretes and stuff rather than straight-up crack climbing. I know many trad climbers who have totally the opposite taste and are safe pretty much the whole time. When they look up and can't see a load of obvious cracks for gear they just say "that looks awful" and do something else, whereas if it's clean, vertical rock with little holds then I'm chomping at the bit. They choose their routes carefully, and still have to turn on the bold switch from time to time.
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GrahamD - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I doubt many trad climbers complain about sport climbers at all (assuming they are in the minority that have only ever trad climbed) - far more likely that they are moaning about the presence of bolts on climbs
1poundSOCKS - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> just a bit of onsighting on holiday in the easy grades, which while pleasant is, lets face it, a pretty boring

Easy and safe can be boring in itself.
Easy and dangerous, or hard and safe, can both be exciting.
I suppose hard and dangerous is too much for most people.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> Easy and safe can be boring in itself.
> Easy and dangerous, or hard and safe, can both be exciting.
> I suppose hard and dangerous is too much for most people.

Yes. I reckon the best is hard and feels dangerous but is actually fairly safe.
lummox - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to stp:




> You may well be right about routes in the Lakes and their seriousness. I can't comment because I've not climbed there much. But in the areas I have climbed in, N Wales, Pembroke, Peak, Yorkshire and the South West, I'd say it's rare to find yourself with just one piece of gear between yourself and the deck.

Really ? I can think of three routes at just one well known Yorkshire crag which have no more than one piece of gear on them and the hardest route is Severe...

Jon Stewart - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to lummox:

Grit is bloody awful for the one-bit-and-still-might-deck style. And Yorkshire grit where the routes are even more broken and short and bouldery is the pinnacle (nadir?) of this style.
lummox - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

All of these routes are pretty much unbroken slabs- the shortest is c.10m so not really boulders either..
stp - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Good summary and I agree with all of that.

> what I hear from friends who are sport climbers who don't trad climb is it's really dangerous and not for them.

I hear similar and I think it's a bit of shame as I don't think it's that hard to learn to trad climb safely and competently.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> Whereas the trad climbers who don't do sport, or do it occasionally, just see it as the same as trad but with bolts. A convenient fix without the danger. Which is obviously just a very small part of what sport climbing is, and not what the more devoted sport climbers do.

As a fully signed-up one of these, I see it as something completely different to trad - basically it's training. I give zero shits about the route, don't care if I ever finish them, certainly don't climb the same route over and over until I can clip the chains without grabbing them (which in the case you know I'm referring to is *significantly* harder than grabbing, I've been on it again since - but not because I wanted to do it properly!), and don't really have very much fun while I'm doing it. But I do have to pull really hard, so it's useful.

Compared to the style of trad I enjoy, it's chalk and cheese. The busy crag (someone might even have f*cking music playing FFS!), the repeatedly going back on the same route, the sitting on the rope for hours waiting for the pump to subside, etc, etc, it's a totally different game to trad.

On one of my last trad days we walked for hours up a mountain to find it was freezing cold in spite of the good forecast, ummed and ahhed about whether or not to do a route, my partner eventually did and it was a filthy, damp overhanging offwidth which we abbed off after the crux since it was freezing. I got no climbing done, and no doubt the majority of climbers - especially those into sport - would say it was a waste of time. But I did enjoy the day because I love the mountains. The atmosphere was incredible, even more so in the shitty conditions with mist being blown upwards onto the crag, looking out over the stunning mountain wall opposite and the remote valley leading down to the sea. To me, they're totally different activities that I do for totally different reasons.
1poundSOCKS - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> basically it's training

Same for me too in a lot of ways, but very nice to add a route the 'ticked' collection now and again.

> certainly don't climb the same route over and over until I can clip the chains without grabbing them (which in the case you know I'm referring to is *significantly* harder than grabbing, I've been on it again since - but not because I wanted to do it properly!)

Typical trad climber, lacking a bit of moral fibre.

> the sitting on the rope for hours waiting for the pump to subside

Typical trad climber, unfit.
Jon Stewart - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Haha.

> Same for me too in a lot of ways, but very nice to add a route the 'ticked' collection now and again.

As we were saying the other week, despite what many people say it's trad that provides the instant gratification when it comes to getting ones chest swollen with pride - you just go out and climb the hard route, once. You don't need to keep grinding away, slowly chipping down the route's defenses over scores of visits until you've developed the precise and specific skills needed to climb that one single route. Just turn up, climb it, celebrate. Much better for the lazy!

Sorry to derail this excellent thread about perceived risk into the sport/trad contrast/compare, but it wasn't me who started it!
bensilvestre - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Excluding winter and alpine climbing, I reckon by far the most dangerous style of climbing is bouldering. Probably 90% of the many injuries my friends have had, from popped pulleys to broken legs, have happened when bouldering.
The Ex-Engineer - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho: Sobering news today of a fatality yesterday at a popular trad crag in Scotland.

Give that this is potentially the fourth 'trad' climbing fatality in Scotland in the last 14 months, I don't think I currently feel particularly inclined to argue against anyone erring on the side of perhaps being slightly too paranoid about the dangers of climbing, whether trad or any other variety.

Like Simon, I've commented on risk in climbing numerous times over the years and nothing much has changed in the last decade. Climbing is dangerous. How dangerous we don't really know but the precise risk in absolute terms is almost irrelevant.

Human beings are individual, irrational and our opinions heavily shaped by personal experiences to the extent that it's really hard to convincingly argue that any individual's assessment of risk is any more valid than anyone else's.

GridNorth - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

I've said on here before that I must be a statistical anomaly. I have known personally 23 climbers who have been killed, mostly alpine or greater ranges but some soloing or on trad. Indeed I discovered only recently of a 24th who was killed in Costa Blanca earlier this year. I do not know a single individual who has been killed in a motoring accident so I am in little doubt that climbing is dangerous and I get a little annoyed when people tell me I have more chance of being killed driving to the crag. My experience suggests that's b*ll*cks.

Al
rocksol - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to GridNorth:

You must be a Jonah, but seriously climbing in general (the thread was abou trad rock climbing) can be very dangerous depending on where you climb, such as new routes in greater ranges or high grade onsights or soloing. I think if you operate at a high standard you may also require an element of luck. I can think of a few occasions (usually in the mountains) where, but for a stroke of luck I would have been killed and I can think of others who,ve also been lucky. Ron and myself were talking last week about soloing and thanked whatever climbing god there is for looking after us. Conversely I,ve known people who were just unlucky; Paul Williams or Jimmy Jewel for example. Paul was always a cautious climber and preferred to second but on one particular day he ran out of luck.
Timmd on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to bensilvestre:

> Excluding winter and alpine climbing, I reckon by far the most dangerous style of climbing is bouldering. Probably 90% of the many injuries my friends have had, from popped pulleys to broken legs, have happened when bouldering.

They're all still with us, though? I did an online psychology survey concerning 'extreme sports' and the people who do them. At the time felt like it kept asking the same questions in different ways. I got emailed back a few months later with the results from myself and other people filling it in, which said that the perception of risk of the people who partake in them changes, with the result that being familiar with the risks reduces their perceived significance, making the risks seem less high. I find that quite interesting on a forum where people can talk about driving to the crag (for example) as being more dangerous than trad leading. Possibly what is happening is people having their risk perception altered through going climbing.
Big Lee - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Timmd:

> I got emailed back a few months later with the results from myself and other people filling it in, which said that the perception of risk of the people who partake in them changes, with the result that being familiar with the risks reduces their perceived significance, making the risks seem less high.

I would tend to agree. You're bound to become desensitised to a given level of risk if repeated subjected to it without any adverse effect.
GridNorth - on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to rocksol:

Both Paul and Jimmy are on my list. I'm not sure if you are agreeing with me or disagreeing Call it bad luck, error in judgement, bad conditions, poor protection it's all part of the mix and the risk.

Al
Goucho on 19 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:
Interesting reading all the comments - and thanks for the responses.

As Mick (Ward) alluded too, in the absence of sport or much in the way of indoor walls back in the day - even the few around were used predominantly for training - trad was simply what everyone climbed (bouldering was usually an end of day social preamble to the pub) and we tended to serve pretty solid apprenticeships.

We learnt self reliance as a mandatory, not an optional extra, and in the majority of cases, moved through the grades gradually in small increments. This gave us very solid foundations on which to build our aspirations.

We accepted the levels of risk, but at the same time mitigated those risks with solid knowledge (and cunning) and the experience gained from lots of mileage over a wide variety of routes and styles. Some chose to focus on routes with good pro, while others sought the intensity of bolder (or neckier as we used to say) routes.

All this, mixed in with winter climbing in Scotland and the annual summer pilgrimage to the alps, I think contributed to being far more comfortable when things got a bit knarly.

Our heads were well honed and conditioned, and I think this maybe gave us the important ability to be able to judge the difference between perceived and actual risk?

Personally speaking, I think these days the actual real dangers and risks of trad, have got slightly distorted.

Of course, you can never eliminate risk, bad luck or the freak curved ball accident. But you can manage the risk so that you are both aware of, and comfortable with it.
Post edited at 23:22
Michael Gordon - on 20 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

>
> Personally speaking, I think these days the actual real dangers and risks of trad, have got slightly distorted.
>

In what way?
Rock Gymnast - on 20 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

Maybe the terrifying tales are true and they really did refer to situations that were just as serious then as they sound when reminiscing of them today. Climbing gear has generally become more extensive as it has developed over the years (especially with the development of the camming device) and so I reckon that any sort of scary/fluttery leading situation today would have been even more bold and worrying before the mid-70s.

Some of the trad ascents that were done decades ago with minimal gear options compared to today's choices were just extraordinary! Hats off to them!!
Goucho on 20 Jul 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> In what way?

Somewhat exaggerated regarding the average trad climber?

Of course, the one area where trad will bite your arse, is when you're having a punt at a route with sketchy gear.
Offwidth - on 21 Jul 2017
In reply to Goucho:

The vast majority of modern UK climbers, most of the time use their cotton wool wrapping to soak up the wonderful thrill. In that, the various popular games form a rather addictive mass leisure activity. Risk is still there for this group but mostly in lapses of concentration. A minority are getting on with facing real risk, mostly with intent. This is not just at the top end, I watched a guy who's best previous lead was VD, lead Delicious at Stanage a couple of weeks back and he had to try really hard on the easy 4b move near the top with a siderunner at knee level before the move and about 1.5m left (so a proper swinging clatter in prospect).

Delicious (HVD 4b) ...only HVD 4a if you cheat and bypass the first moves and use the arete at the top but Rockfax don't say that. The novice made his own ethics and went straight up: from VD to borderline HS.

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