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Rock Climbling Accidents: Causes, Injuries and Trends in Boulder County
Submitted By: John McNamee on Jul 5, 2012

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Recently there was an interesting report published about climbing accidents in Boulder County betweeen 1998 and 2011.

The take aways for climbers:
◦Anchors rarely fail (2.5% of total), and when they do it is because of inexperience in setup.

◦20% of all accidents could have been prevented by better belay practices such as tying a knot in the end of the rope, or wearing belay gloves.

◦Rock fall causes a small number of accidents (4.5% of total), and may be correlated to the freeze thaw cycles of spring and climber use patterns. In early spring climbing checking the rock you're about to climb on for security is a prudent preventative measure.

◦Prior knowledge of climb rappel anchors and walk offs, and taking a headlamp, will prevent a lot of rescues (up to 45% of total).

◦The common injuries sustained are to the legs/ankles (30%) and to the head and spine (30%). Knowledge of how to improvise splinting and how to assess spinal injuries might be a great addition to a climbers toolkit.

See details at: Rocky Mountain Rescue Group

Comments on Rock Climbling Accidents: Causes, Injuries and Trends in Boulder County Add Comment
By mikejohnson1
From: Essex Junction, VT
Jul 9, 2012
This is a really informative article. I thought it was totally worth it to read the full text.... There is a bunch of useful information in there.

It would be interesting to combine this data with some information about how many people free solo/lead climb in the area to get a gauge of the relative fatality rate between them.... I have a hunch that many more people lead climb than free solo, so the "Ropless fatalities" proportion would increase significantly.
By Sam M
From: Austin, TX
Jul 12, 2012
That info is actually in the PDF they link to....

Just read that 47% of the climbers between age 20-29 that are injured in Boulder are Australian? wtf?
By lehnhof
From: Sandy, UT
Jul 13, 2012
Sam M: While it is a little confusing, Table 3 is showing the demographics of victims in Boulder County as compared to those in Australia. So in Boulder the age group 20-29 represented 46% of victims, while in Australia the same group represented 47.6%. It looks like they were just trying to find a similar data set from another location for comparison purposes. This data does not indicate that 47.6% of Boulder victims aged 20-29 were from Australia.
By Rick Blair
From: Denver
Jul 16, 2012
What I got from it is that I am never going to climb under a party in their 20s from Australia....... when I'm in Boulder. It's probably ok in Australia.
By inboulder
From: Boulder
Jul 24, 2012
◦Anchors rarely fail (2.5% of total), and when they do it is because of inexperience in setup.

◦20% of all accidents could have been prevented by better belay practices such as tying a knot in the end of the rope, or wearing belay gloves.

They seem to be using 'accidents' and 'rescue' and 'incidents' interchangeably, which distorts the useful take aways fromt this report. '20% of all accidents' includes 'rescues' for lost climbers, so really the % of accidents involving injury due to belay error is even "higher" than 20%.

◦Rock fall causes a small number of accidents (4.5% of total), and may be correlated to the freeze thaw cycles of spring and climber use patterns. In early spring climbing checking the rock you're about to climb on for security is a prudent preventative measure.

Small % of accidents that "involved" a rescue by RMR, not 4.5% of climbing injuries overall.... If a rockfall accident requires a rescue, imagine how bad it was....

I wish they would have published more detailed information on 'lead falls', the info here doesn't really help us become safer climbers at all.
By kristenbaskin
Jul 27, 2012
Hi John

Just wanted to tell you about Ben and Gil in case you hadn't heard...they have been missing in the Cordillera Blanca for 5 days. Gil is from Boulder, and he's my dear friend's brother. Please pass the story along...search has been on for 2 days and the family is trying to get a rescue helicopter.

bit.ly/MPtHN7

Thank you!

Kristen