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How not to die!


· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0
Tradiban wrote: I got an easy one, get all the information you can on whatever route you want to do, check multiple guidebooks if you have them and especially check MP. There's been at least two accidents on Tahquitz, one a fatality, where if the climbers simply had checked MP for beta they probably wouldn't have had the accident.

This is a really good one! Guide books tend to give you the bare amount of information to do the climb which sometimes is just not enough. You can often save yourself, frustration and terror, and certainly at the extreme end injury and death, by seeing what mountainproject users have to say about it.

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,075

This thread has taken a good turn and offers some solid insight.

I would add to Jake and Joe's points something I've observed.

The "masses" "getting into climbing" these days driven by the gyms monetizing the sport and down-playing the danger are treating climbing like a video game.

They need to get to the next step, the next grade, the next whatever ASAP.

They make their first list often after one trip to the gym.

"I really like this, I need to get a harness and shoes"

"I'm getting pretty good, I need to start leading"

"I need to transition to outdoors"

One year later.....MP thread titled First trad rack.....

People aren't learning to climb with the mindset that it's dangerous, that it takes time to get really good at it or that the gear (bolts included) won't always save you.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456
Old lady H wrote:Joe and others' mention of complacency leads me to ask: what if it goes beyond that? You do your due diligence, faithfully, for decades in Joe's case. But. What about seeing what you expect to see? Especially if you are on your own, such as cleaning an anchor, or rope soloing?

I just finished reading a novel, as the beta reader. Last chance before release. The author has checked and rechecked many times, yet, I still found mistakes. It's notoriously difficult to proofread your own copy. I think this is the case in climbing more often than we think. Not just simple complacency and laissez faire.
You'd have to elaborate on "What about seeing what you expect to see?"

Rock climbing is a pretty slow, known and constrained problem space as they go and there are a smallish number of things that have to be accounted for before and after leaving the ground, this is especially so in sport climbing. So given an adequate set of base competencies and experience, then mindful checking of all the factors involved is generally adequate to get the job done. There are certainly edge cases and extenuating circumstances at times, but then recognizing and dealing effectively with them is also part of the learning curve and developing good judgment.

Once you have all that covered as an experienced [rock] climber, then the circumstances that can kill you are limited: complacency, failure to recognize an edge case, and a mistake in judgment. And there are some subtleties in there as well, such as when Todd Skinner simply wore an ultra-lite harness one day too many. But I'd say that in rock climbing, with experienced climbers, it's complacency that's responsible for most accidents; in alpine I'd say its more a matter of failure to recognize edge cases and mistakes in judgment.

John Barritt wrote:
People aren't learning to climb with the mindset that it's dangerous, that it takes time to get really good at it or that the gear (bolts included) won't always save you.
This and the exploded demographic are indicative of how [commercially] successful climbing has been and how well it's now been woven into our media and popular culture. The problem with that is gyms, and subsequently, sport climbing are by design highly and artificially constrained environments which result in what could almost be described as a built-in complacency but is really more a matter of folks, simply being sheltered from exposure to the full force and scope of reality. It's a case of not operating with a full and clear understanding of just how bad bad can be and how dire the consequences of getting it wrong can be.
Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 566
Healyje wrote: You'd have to elaborate on "What about seeing what you expect to see?"

Rock climbing is a pretty slow, known and constrained problem space as they go and there are a smallish number of things that have to be accounted for before and after leaving the ground, this is especially so in sport climbing. So given an adequate set of base competencies and experience, then mindful checking of all the factors involved is generally adequate to get the job done. There are certainly edge cases and extenuating circumstances at times, but then recognizing and dealing effectively with them is also part of the learning curve and developing good judgment.

Once you have all that covered as an experienced [rock] climber, then the circumstances that can kill you are limited: complacency, failure to recognize an edge case, and a mistake in judgment. And there are some subtleties in there as well, such as when Todd Skinner simply wore an ultra-lite harness one day too many. But I'd say that in rock climbing, with experienced climbers, it's complacency that's responsible for most accidents; in alpine I'd say its more a matter of failure to recognize edge cases and mistakes in judgment.

This and the exploded demographic are indicative of how [commercially] successful climbing has been and how well it's now been woven into our media and culture. The problem with the is that gyms, and subsequently sport climbing, are by design, highly and artificially constrained environments which result in what could almost be described as a built-in complacency but is really more a matter of folks, simply being sheltered from exposure to the full force and scope of reality. It's a case of not operating with a full and clear understanding of just how bad bad can be.

Joe, I totally agree with your earlier post, that the checks have to also become part of the full process. Why? Not just to be fairly certain they get done, but, hopefully, something will just bug the hell out of you if you somehow skip it. That pause could save your life.

I am a newish climber, but an ancient. I know full well how easy it is to function on autopilot, and in climbing, that can be super serious. It is also totally possible to make those absolutely idiotic mistakes. Thinking it won't happen, I'd never be that dumb, is a big mistake.

For myself, those possibilities are why the dire consequences should have a backup plan, put in place before the part keeping you alive is undone. Sooner or later, someone will think they did everything right, it is so inexplicable to  skip a step.  And yet, they did the inexplicable.

A huge amount of the attraction of climbing is the mental game, solving those puzzles and keeping your focus. Acknowledging that every moment of it is potentially deadly, as someone else suggested, is a good plan A.

Best, OLH
Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456
Old lady H wrote:Acknowledging that every moment of it is potentially deadly, as someone else suggested, is a good plan A.

Maybe as some background acknowledgment, I suppose, but for me, it's more a matter of dealing with danger proactively at discrete points and then pretty much forgetting about it in order to get in a 'flow state' with the movement. That's not to say that I don't have background processes churning focused on the more technical business of understanding what's out in front of me in terms of sequences and where gear and rests might be, but they're almost not conscious processes at this point. I suppose scanning for danger is in there too, but again not in the forefront so much as just sort of a green, yellow, red subconscious signaling.

Tim Meehan · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 285

Here are some things that I aspire to, as someone who enjoys multipitch traditional climbing, and prioritizes returning home healthy to his family at the end of the day. Many of these things have already been mentioned. Most of these things relate to lessons learned through first or second hand experiences. The list is short on technical details and focused more on getting my head right.

  1. Appreciate the risk. Gravity is a scientific theory, but it’s one you don’t want to test. It will almost certainly kill you, if you let it. So do everything within your control to not let it, while accepting the humbling fact that that everything is not within your control.
  2. Prepare yourself. Learn what you can about a route, so you understand how difficult it is and how to protect it, and to reduce your chances of getting off route and in over your head. Research a backup route, so you are not climbing below other parties or heading into unknown territory. Draw a topo and put it in your pocket. Bring stuff to stay warm, fed, and hydrated. Be rested and bright-eyed when you head out. And plan how you will return to the ground before you leave it.
  3. Communicate well. Get into the habit of speaking out loud the things you are thinking and doing while climbing. This keeps you focused, and helps partners double check one another, which you should be doing continually throughout the climb. Check in with your partner regularly to see how they are doing. This invites people to mention things they might otherwise keep to themselves.
  4. Climb cautiously. Find and stretch your athletic limits on top rope, and then climb below them on lead, because it is safer to not fall on lead. Know the limits of your pro by practicing placing it on the ground, and then bounce testing it. Do this a lot. Do this in different rock types in different weather conditions. Stuff rips a lot more than you might think. Once you think you know what makes a good placement, place early and often because you will still get it wrong at times. Rack plenty of gear. Extend your gear well. Double up pro when it seems wise. If you don’t like how much weight you are taking with you up a route, then commit to losing a few pounds of body fat. Keep track of the ends of your rope, back up your rappels, and wear a helmet.
  5. Take care. Don’t rush. Rest regularly. Clip into bomber gear on occasion to clear your head. Eat, drink, and adjust layers to stay sharp. Enjoy the ride. If you are choosing routes that don’t allow you time to take care, ask yourself why and understand the consequences.
  6. Accept limits. Enjoy down climbing. View retreat as part of the adventure. Accept that taking a cautious approach will limit, in the short term, what you experience as a climber. Hopefully, it limits the bad experiences at least as much as the good ones. Know that most cautious climbers still manage to have a great time.
Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456
Tim Meehan wrote: 
  1. Prepare yourself. Learn what you can about a route, so you understand how difficult it is and how to protect it, and to reduce your chances of getting off route and in over your head.

Have to say I personally don't subscribe to this and one of the bad aspects of a dependence on guidebooks is most folks then never develop their own eye and judgment. Being able to go somewhere new, eyeball lines to assess them, and then just jumping on what strikes your fancy is one of the things I like best. Oh, I might look at a guidebook or ask about a line afterward, but I generally don't want to know anything about a line in advance. This isn't in any way necessary today, but if you have an interest in doing trad FAs then I'd recommend weaning yourself from guidebooks and developing enough of an eye to map your abilities to lines by sight. Will you epic in the process of learning? Absolutely! And hard sometimes at that, but hopefully you'll start figuring it out on your own

Tim Meehan wrote:3. Climb cautiously. Find and stretch your athletic limits on top rope, and then climb below them on lead, because it is safer to not fall on lead. Know the limits of your pro by practicing placing it on the ground, and then bounce testing it. 
Can't agree with this one either and the first sentence in particular. I'd say instead learn when and where it's ok to fall on lead the then do a lot of it.                                t
Paul Deger · · Colorado · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 35
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.

I used to live on a one way - trust me, looking both ways us just plain smart! In other words, don’t trust your safety to someone else’s bad judgement, arrogance or ignorance!

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456
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.
Can't argue with this after having had one friend wink entirely out of existence in a heartbeat because he didn't. Fortunately, he died instantly and never saw or heard the car that hit him doing about fifty.
Phil Lauffen · · Innsbruck, AT · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 2,405
Tradiban wrote:

Certain parts certainly are but like I said, it depends on conditions.

Of course shit can just happen but that is very very rare, however we like to lump most accidents into the "shit happens" category, when that's simply not the truth.

I'm sure that guy that died last year when a huge piece of El Cap fell down would have been happy to know that it was really his fault. Because you said so.

You're pissing into the wind. And getting it all over your face.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,365
Phil Lauffen wrote:

I'm sure that guy that died last year when a huge piece of El Cap fell down would have been happy to know that it was really his fault. Because you said so.

You're pissing into the wind. And getting it all over your face.

I believe that side of El Cap is known to be loose? It's not anyone's "fault" per se, it's just a reminder that dangerous and loose climbing is dangerous and loose. As I said before shit does happen but it's rare. Better to focus on what you can do to stay safe rather than just write it off as "inherent risk".

When will you stop making excuses and start taking responsibility for your own safety?

James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,108

I think it’s fair to say that once one decides to go climbing; the line between subjective and objective risks is a moving and arbitrary target. Sure the extremes are easy to define but the gray area between can be justifiably debated and disagreed upon by reasonable people on either side of the argument.

That said, once one decides to go climbing; one is responsible for the results. Though I think that leaves room to “excuse” very low probability events of which one is not the source. After all, there is risk associated with staying on the couch too.

Mark Wenzel · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 45

Frankly, I worry more about being hit by a bus (I've survived one already). Climbing accident's worry me lately due to the fact that I've seen a "lot" of stupid near misses recently. At the same time I've been hit up with a large amount of requests by gym friends to "take them outside", to hearing stories of folks hiring guides for three days... then venturing off to do serious routes on their own with three days of experience. It can't end well... and hasn't in some cases.

Phil Lauffen · · Innsbruck, AT · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 2,405
Tradiban wrote:

When will you stop making excuses and start taking responsibility for your own safety?

Stay in a gym until you can at least climb 12c, then go outside and only climb steep routes. Only climb sport. Never, ever rap from the anchors.  Stick clip the 2nd bolt.

You will never die.
James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,108
Phil Lauffen wrote:

Stay in a gym until you can at least climb 12c, then go outside and only climb steep routes. Only climb sport. Never, ever rap from the anchors.  Stick clip the 2nd bolt.

You will never die.

The fountain of youth!

J Squared · · santa barbara, CA · Joined Nov 2017 · Points: 0

complacency can be built right into the brain.... with so many people starting out only doing gym climbing for so long can be biologically a detriment... once the brain builds it's machines for a certain task it can be rather hard to re-write them

"Any advanced and thriving civilization has large numbers of people – especially at the top of the pile – who are comfortable and safe, and are so for generations.  This lack of meaningful threats, from birth onward, causes the amygdalae structures in the brain to not fully develop compared to prior, more stressed, generations because of a lack of stimulation; thus, the ability to recognize actual threats has atrophied. "

ViperScale . · · McMurdo Station, AQ · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 240
Phil Lauffen wrote:

Stay in a gym until you can at least climb 12c, then go outside and only climb steep routes. Only climb sport. Never, ever rap from the anchors.  Stick clip the 2nd bolt.

You will never die.

You know I am pretty sure people have died from their partner thinking they would rap and taking them off belay and than they fall to their death. At least with rappelling you can't die from something thinking you are going to rappel.

Franck Vee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 40
ViperScale . wrote:

You know I am pretty sure people have died from their partner thinking they would rap and taking them off belay and than they fall to their death. At least with rappelling you can't die from something thinking you are going to rappel.

Sounds like a new debate we've never heard about - I wonder what all the pros & cons could be for rappelling vs lowering?

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,075
Phil Lauffen wrote:

Stay in a gym until you can at least climb 12c, then go outside and only climb steep routes. Only climb sport. Never, ever rap from the anchors.  Stick clip the 2nd bolt.

You will never die.

Doing this won't actually make you live forever.........but it will sure seem like it...... ;)

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,365
ViperScale . wrote:

You know I am pretty sure people have died from their partner thinking they would rap and taking them off belay and than they fall to their death. At least with rappelling you can't die from something thinking you are going to rappel.

Not to mention people getting lowered off the end of a rope!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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