Very Interesting Infographic on Accidents in North America


Original Post
Ted Pinson · Feb 26, 2016 · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 40

I found this very interesting, and a few points were particularly surprising, namely:

Most accidents occurred during ASCENT (70%) rather than DESCENT (30%)
-This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that rappelling/lowering off the ends of your rope is where most accidents occur. Granted, the study does not distinguish between fatal and non-fatal accidents; maybe the numbers would look different then? Still, an interesting graphic. I also found the "nut pulled" incident rate surprisingly high; did they lump cams and other forms of pro in on this category, or is it really that common?

Derek DeBruin · Feb 26, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 445
Ted Pinson wrote: I found this very interesting, and a few points were particularly surprising, namely: Most accidents occurred during ASCENT (70%) rather than DESCENT (30%) -This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that rappelling/lowering off the ends of your rope is where most accidents occur. Granted, the study does not distinguish between fatal and non-fatal accidents; maybe the numbers would look different then? Still, an interesting graphic. I also found the "nut pulled" incident rate surprisingly high; did they lump cams and other forms of pro in on this category, or is it really that common?
If I recall correctly, ANAM uses "nut pulled" to mean "protection pulled" more generically.

As for the ascent vs. descent numbers, that's been established for quite a few years and is a commonly perpetuated myth. However, rappelling and lowering errors account for an exceedingly large number of *preventable* accidents, and encompass most of the accidents that occur on descent. They are also nearly always due to subjective factors, rather than objective factors. Consequently, eliminating these preventable errors would cause a sizable reduction in overall accident rate.

Healyje · Feb 26, 2016 · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100
The main problem with the graphic is the conflating of alpine and rock climbing. Take out the alpine and the ratio would shift quite a bit the other way.

aikibujin · Feb 26, 2016 · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 135
Ted Pinson wrote:Most accidents occurred during ASCENT (70%) rather than DESCENT (30%) -This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that rappelling/lowering off the ends of your rope is where most accidents occur.
These data include hiking, mountaineering, scrambling, etc. So the "descent" here is not just rappelling/lowering, but includes hiking/scrambling/downclimbing. You can take a look at the raw data linked below, between 1951 and 2012 there were 1,223 accidents on the descent, 345 were rappelling related accidents.

Similarly, the "ascent" here includes hiking, scrambling, mountaineering, etc. So you cannot draw any conclusion from this mixed data to support or debunk the theory that more accident happens on rappelling/lowering in rock climbing.

http://aac-publications.s3.amazonaws.com/anam-13201213205-1433425689.pdf

Ted Pinson · Feb 26, 2016 · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 40
Healyje the problem with that is that alpine makes up a very small % of accidents, since it has a much lower capita compared to rock climbing. Aiki has a good point about conflating unroped hiking/mountaineering, so it would be interesting to focus exclusively on the data for technical rock climbing.

Healyje · Feb 27, 2016 · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 100
I think you're interpreting the rock vs snow aspect of chart a bit too literal - given the states they are highlighting I think you can assume a bunch of that rock is alpine / mixed terrain rock and not pure rock climbing.

mbk · Feb 28, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0
I think it makes more sense to think of the relative risks of different activities over time.

For example, accidents per hour of ascent vs. per hour of descent.

I suspect that in most climbs the descent is faster than the ascent.

So, even if the data show a greater number of ascending accidents, that doesn't tell us the relative accident rate; descent may well be significantly more dangerous (per unit time).

will ar · Feb 28, 2016 · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 215
An interesting point one of my instructors brought up during SAR training (allegedly compiled from ANAM data) was that while most accidents occur while ascending the #1 cause of fatalities were rappelling related accidents.

mbk wrote:So, even if the data show a greater number of ascending accidents, that doesn't tell us the relative accident rate; descent may well be significantly more dangerous (per unit time).
Since we're talking specifically about climbing (as opposed to canyoneering or recreational rappelling) I don't think the rate per unit time makes a huge difference in the analysis. I would be more interested in seeing the rate of accidents vs different modes of descent.

rgold · Feb 28, 2016 · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 40
Far less time is spent descending; many climbs have walk-offs and so there is no real descent component.

I've always been a bit confused by the non-overlapping nature of the ANAM's categories. For example, a single accident could easily be classified in several categories, eg fall or slip on rock, exceeding abilities, nut pulled out, off route, and equipment failure could all refer to the same accident. But these are fallaciously depicted in the graphic as mutually exclusive regions, which clearly misrepresents the reality of the corresponding accidents. Moreover, if these categories are treated as mutually exclusive, then certain accidents are being counted multiple times in any numerical analysis, so it is hard to get a clear picture of what's occurring.

Ted Pinson · Feb 28, 2016 · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 40
True! You exceeded your abilities, causing you to fall or slip on rock...and your nut pulled.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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