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How not to die!


Original Post
Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,445

That title, it really grabs ya.

Tying to separate my points regarding climbing fatalities from the fatalities themselves I have started this thread in hope of getting those points across without the morality squad distractions. There are many ways to die climbing, how do you avoid them?

I started thinking deeply about this when Goran Kropp dies in 2002. Here's a link to the accident report. For those of you who have never heard of him, he wasn't a particularly strong climber but he WAS a total bad-ass. See his Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6ran_Kropp Anyway, he died on a 5.10a, probably a route well within the reach of most of us. It wasn't R or X, it was just a regular climb. The point is that his death is relatable to our climbing but his skills are not making his case a unique perspective into "How not to die!". In theory or on paper, Goran should never have died but obviously, he did. The exact "why" doesn't really matter but it's a real jump-starter into thinking about death while climbing.

Personally, I believe climbers in general don't take the risk of climbing serious enough, we get complacent in our practices and we just try to ignore the real possibility of death from innocuous circumstances. Somebody died climbing? Musta been "bad luck" or their gear failed, or whatever excuse we have to use in order to get it out of sight and out of mind. If we are thinking about death while climbing our "proj" we might psyche ourselves out and back off, right? That's the fear isnt it? That will come home from the crag having failed because we didn't "go for it"?

So, what's your philosophy regarding your own safety while climbing? What do you do in order to not die?

Keenan Waeschle · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 200

No one knows when it's going to be their time to check out. I think that rather than pondering all the possibilities for how it's going to come about, a better thing to do is carry yourself like less of an asshole and love your friends while you can.

SeƱor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

Goran was famous particularly BECAUSE he took a rather casual approach to risks that most of us would avoid. While he died on "just" a 5.10a he's a guy who took a very balls out approach to everything in life.

I'm too old and have a family depending on me to push risk envelopes in the same way. I very deliberately calibrate my actions (especially climbing) to not be on the ragged edge of my abilities. I've been out there and seen the edge. Had a couple times in the ocean where I thought I was dead and a couple times in the mountains where I easily could have died, but there's a skill to self-awareness an knowing when to back away.

Sean Onasch · · fort collins · Joined May 2016 · Points: 80
Tradiban wrote: That title, it really grabs ya.

 Somebody died climbing? Musta been "bad luck" or their gear failed, or whatever excuse we have to use in order to get it out of sight and out of mind. What do you do in order to not die?

"Kropp was relatively inexperienced at placing natural gear, and though a powerful athlete, was at his lead limit." 

His gear did pull though and he was climbing at his limit? 
Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456

Mountain climbers sometimes don't make the best rock climbers as some just have a different relationship with risk and protection which can come off as quite cavalier to experienced rock climbers. I've seen this again and again since moving to the PNW with such climbers making one bad protection decision after another on rock climbs with little to no concern for the very real risks involved. This could otherwise easily be mistaken for boldness, that is until you second and clean their leads at which point it's just kind of frightening.

r m · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 0
Tradiban wrote:
So, what's your philosophy regarding your own safety while climbing? What do you do in order to not die?

Be a skeptic and a cynic.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,445
Keenan Waeschle wrote: No one knows when it's going to be their time to check out. I think that rather than pondering all the possibilities for how it's going to come about, a better thing to do is carry yourself like less of an asshole and love your friends while you can.

This is the exact attitude I disagree with; shrugging off death because "no one knows...". Of course no one knows exactly but what you can know is when your decisions are putting you in unreasonable and senseless risk. 

Loving anyone doesn't keep them alive or immune from a mistake. Prayer will get you knowhere here. It may be uncomfortable for you to ponder death, I suggest you to grin and bear it for your own sake.
don'tchuffonme · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 25
Tradiban wrote:There are many ways to die climbing, how do you avoid them?

Pick your partners wisely.  

Accept risk incrementally so that it correlates with knowledge and experience.

Stay humble.

Always have a plan for worst case scenario.

Never stop learning.

The rest of it, I believe, is just practical, technical mistakes that comes from not doing one of the above.
don'tchuffonme · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 25
Tradiban wrote:

This is the exact attitude I disagree with; shrugging off death because "no one knows...". Of course no one knows exactly but what you can know is when your decisions are putting you in unreasonable and senseless risk. 

Loving anyone doesn't keep them alive or immune from a mistake. Prayer will get you knowhere here. It may be uncomfortable for you to ponder death, I suggest you to grin and bear it for your own sake.

Settle down, white Confucius.  What he's saying is that instead of saying "make sure cams are in solid rock and won't walk" or "make sure your belayer is solid" just be more general.  Like be a master of your craft, or something similar.  Listing all the ways you can die climbing is dumb and could go on forever.  And it's also a poor excuse and a feeble way to veil your butthurt from the Smith Rock thread.  

We got it, dude.  You want to dissect every little detail of every accident regardless of who may be watching or how painful it may be to them.  Guess you're the wrong person to start a "how not to be a jerk" thread.  You routinely violate rule #1 often just by being yourself.
Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,445
don'tchuffonme wrote:

Settle down, white Confucius.  What he's saying is that instead of saying "make sure cams are in solid rock and won't walk" or "make sure your belayer is solid" just be more general.  Like be a master of your craft, or something similar.  Listing all the ways you can die climbing is dumb and could go on forever.  And it's also a poor excuse and a feeble way to veil your butthurt from the Smith Rock thread.  

We got it, dude.  You want to dissect every little detail of every accident regardless of who may be watching or how painful it may be to them.  Guess you're the wrong person to start a "how not to be a jerk" thread.  You routinely violate rule #1 often just by being yourself.

Chuffer, the point is to list "How not to die" incessantly. Being general about it, is the problem. The possibility of being severally injured or killed while climbing doesn't seem to be real enough for many people.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 195

I’m the kind of guy that looks both ways when crossing a one-way.  I guess that kind of sums up my approach to climbing.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,445
Ted Pinson wrote: I’m the kind of guy that looks both ways when crossing a one-way.  I guess that kind of sums up my approach to climbing.

Be more specific Ted. For example, what is going through your head and what actions do you take while setting up a top rope at Devils Lake? Do you harness up and clip in when you are X number of feet from the edge? Do you always stay X number of feet away from the edge? While leading do you use any strategies in order to avoid falling? Do you take a whipper or do you mostly down climb to your last piece and take?

Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 380

I'm glad that you brought up Kropp; his tragic case and the recent accident at Devils Lake had a lot of things in common (which I don't want to get into, other than gear pulling out on a popular and not particularly dangerous 5.10).  This went through my mind just yesterday, as I was doing a quick after-work session with friends.  The only warmup was a 5.10 gear climb that I've done many times.  This time, however, I had not brought my own rack, and I cobbled together a minimal rack from my friends.  I was not 100% familiar with the cams as I wiggled them into placements that I usually don't use on this route.  Honestly, since I was just warming up and on a climb I knew well, I treated a lot of the placements casually, and ran a lot of sections out.  I never felt sketched, but at the crux the thought entered into my mind that if I happened to fall, there was a chance that gear could pull out and I could easily wind up like one of these two cases.

I've never had a perfectly placed cam or stopper pull out in a fall (DUH, if it pulls out it was obviously not perfectly placed), but there have been plenty of times I placed gear that I was 70-90% sure of and I've fallen.  It usually holds, but I've also had gear pull maybe 6 times in my climbing career.  These falls have been safe with bomber gear below the failed placements in all but one case, and even in that case I was injured not from hitting a ledge or decking, but from my partner giving me a very hard catch as soon as the gear pulled.  

This is just something that maybe we all need to be more aware of-- there are a lot of times in trad climbing that we're placing gear that is not 100% bomber for placement or rock quality reasons, and we need to have our head in shape to switch into more of a "do-not-fall" mentality at those times.

don'tchuffonme · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 25
Tradiban wrote:

Chuffer, the point is to list "How not to die" incessantly. Being general about it, is the problem. The possibility of being severally injured or killed while climbing doesn't seem to be real enough for many people.

That's dumb af.  Like nobody knows that you can die from ripping a pitch, or rapping off the end of your rope, or from having a shit belayer or from rockfall, or from loading the rope over a sharp edge, or from taking a long fall and hitting the wall wrong, or from dumb luck, lightning strike, toxic birdshit or from any of the other things that are common knowledge and well known?  Really, really cutting edge stuff here.  Super helpful.  j/k

And you're just so much of an egalitarian that you feel absolutely compelled to list all the ways one might die while climbing?  Because you're THAT concerned?  Why is that your job?  I don't really believe that's what's going on here, and it's likely most other people don't either.  If you were that concerned about people's well being, you would have no problem letting people grieve before going over the details of someone's death without any consideration for who might be viewing.

You just can't bite your tongue.  That's what this thread is about.  Not for a couple days.  Not for a couple minutes.  That's my whole point.  You got told essentially to stfu in another thread and simply allow some time to pass before immediately jumping in and analyzing something to death (figuratively and literally), which is callous and thoughtless.  So your response, instead of listening to what people are asking and politely obliging, which really would have no negative effect on you, is to start a new thread, with a dumb purpose so you can be heard. YOU JUST MUST BE HEARD.  That's a hallmark of rampant insecurity.

Get a hold of yourself man.  

climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215

I saw a movie a long time ago about BASE jumpers and a psychological analysis of their approach to dying while jumping.  The parallels to climbing was frightening.

In general when someone died or got severely injured the community quickly did an analysis of what the victim did wrong.  Internally the individual skydivers quickly rationalized the situation as she did this wrong, I do not do that or anything else wrong so I am not at risk.

To apply this to Goran Kropp, he pulled a piece of gear when he fell.  So we all internally rationalize, I know how to place gear well so I am not at risk and continue climbing.

The truth is climbing and many other sports are inherently dangerous.  Yes, you can reduce the risk by acquiring more skill, avoiding sketchy partners, avoiding particularly risky climbs but we cannot eliminate the risk and to think otherwise is to fool ourselves.  I never refer to a climbs as "safe" but use the term "reasonably safe" meaning it is pretty unlikely that something will go wrong but leaving the possibility open.  I also tell new climbers that climbing is a dangerous sport and you cannot eliminate the risk.  Look no further than the waiver you have to sign to climb in a gym and you should get the idea that even in the most controlled environment climbing is not completely safe.  

That said there is lots one can do to make climbing safer than it would otherwise be.  

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,445
don'tchuffonme wrote:

That's dumb af.  Like nobody knows that you can die from ripping a pitch, or rapping off the end of your rope, or from having a shit belayer or from rockfall, or from loading the rope over a sharp edge, or from taking a long fall and hitting the wall wrong, or from dumb luck, lightning strike, toxic birdshit or from any of the other things that are common knowledge and well known?  Really, really cutting edge stuff here.  Super helpful.  j/k

And you're just so much of an egalitarian that you feel absolutely compelled to list all the ways one might die while climbing?  Because you're THAT concerned?  Why is that your job?  I don't really believe that's what's going on here, and it's likely most other people don't either.  If you were that concerned about people's well being, you would have no problem letting people grieve before going over the details of someone's death without any consideration for who might be viewing.

You just can't bite your tongue.  That's what this thread is about.  Not for a couple days.  Not for a couple minutes.  That's my whole point.  You got told essentially to stfu in another thread and simply allow some time to pass before immediately jumping in and analyzing something to death (figuratively and literally), which is callous and thoughtless.  So your response, instead of listening to what people are asking and politely obliging, which really would have no negative effect on you, is to start a new thread, with a dumb purpose so you can be heard. YOU JUST MUST BE HEARD.  That's a hallmark of rampant insecurity.

Get a hold of yourself man.  

Yes, and you are helping me be heard with your response :)

Its been well established that I'm an asshole, even by my own admission. Have you established your moral righteousness enough yet?

Thank you to pnelson and climber Pat for your productive responses.
Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 380
climber pat wrote

The truth is climbing and many other sports are inherently dangerous.  Yes, you can reduce the risk by acquiring more skill, avoiding sketchy partners, avoiding particularly risky climbs but we cannot eliminate the risk and to think otherwise is to fool ourselves.  I never refer to a climbs as "safe" but use the term "reasonably safe" meaning it is pretty unlikely that something will go wrong but leaving the possibility open.  I also tell new climbers that climbing is a dangerous sport and you cannot eliminate the risk.  Look no further than the waiver you have to sign to climb in a gym and you should get the idea that even in the most controlled environment climbing is not completely safe.  

That said there is lots one can do to make climbing safer than it would otherwise be.  

Exactly.  Most every single route or boulder problem has brief sections that would be X-rated if you fell there-- high first bolts, 5.3 runouts to the anchors, insecure mantle topouts at 20 feet, pulling out the rope to clip the first three bolts.  We usually don't think of these because they are usually nowhere near being cruxy.

ViperScale . · · McMurdo Station, AQ · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 240
Tradiban wrote: That title, it really grabs ya.

Tying to separate my points regarding climbing fatalities from the fatalities themselves I have started this thread in hope of getting those points across without the morality squad distractions. There are many ways to die climbing, how do you avoid them?

I started thinking deeply about this when Goran Kropp dies in 2002. Here's a link to the accident report. For those of you who have never heard of him, he wasn't a particularly strong climber but he WAS a total bad-ass. See his Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6ran_Kropp Anyway, he died on a 5.10a, probably a route well within the reach of most of us. It wasn't R or X, it was just a regular climb. The point is that his death is relatable to our climbing but his skills are not making his case a unique perspective into "How not to die!". In theory or on paper, Goran should never have died but obviously, he did. The exact "why" doesn't really matter but it's a real jump-starter into thinking about death while climbing.

Personally, I believe climbers in general don't take the risk of climbing serious enough, we get complacent in our practices and we just try to ignore the real possibility of death from innocuous circumstances. Somebody died climbing? Musta been "bad luck" or their gear failed, or whatever excuse we have to use in order to get it out of sight and out of mind. If we are thinking about death while climbing our "proj" we might psyche ourselves out and back off, right? That's the fear isnt it? That will come home from the crag having failed because we didn't "go for it"?

So, what's your philosophy regarding your own safety while climbing? What do you do in order to not die?

It is impossible to know "How not to die!", the only thing we can tell you is ways people have died. However there is always a chance something could happen 1000 times and the 1001 time it happens someone dies. So it i impossible to tell someone how not to die.

DayMartin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 0

Stop climbing, and you won’t die climbing.

Any way you think you could possibly die climbing, you could die that way while climbing. It’s that simple. 

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0
don'tchuffonme wrote:

Pick your partners wisely.  

Accept risk incrementally so that it correlates with knowledge and experience.

Stay humble.

Always have a plan for worst case scenario.

Never stop learning.

The rest of it, I believe, is just practical, technical mistakes that comes from not doing one of the above.

A very good list. I'll add to it.

Verify before trusting both in partners and gear.

Backup gear when applicable and necessary.

Don't be afraid to politely and constructively criticize and have discussions with your climbing partners about safety issues you see. Be open to them bringing up issues with you.

Wear a helmet, it's cheap insurance.
Fehim Hasecic · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 115

Place early, place often, don’t fall. I guess at the end of the day it’s you that decides what to get on and climb. I for one, read on each climb beforehand. No matter the amount of stars in the rating, if it sounds iffy to me, I’ll pass and choose something else. Also, I look at safety ratings as well and take them seriously. These days you get on MP and read comments on certain R climbs and they can be all over the board, some say is others say isn’t. That’s the subjective part that gets a lot of people I think. There was an epic story in R&I about guy almost dying because in his words everything is rated R on MP these days and you shouldn’t give it much thought. I tend to disagree. One more thing, always correct and expect to be corrected when doing something wrong. I do this all the time with my partner, there’s no room for overlooking even the smallest mistakes in climbing.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Injuries and Accidents
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