If you are just thinking about starting rock climbing, then I am certain there is one question constantly running through your head- ‘Is rock climbing dangerous?’ I can beat around the bush and give you answers that might make you feel good, but no- rock climbing is absolutely dangerous.
Every time you do rock climbing, the chances are you are going to get injuries and there have been cases where people have died as well. Although rock climbing rarely leads to fatality, there have been such instances. The point of this article is not to scare you, it is so that you will be extra careful when you make your climb.
We are listing the five most common causes because of which there have been accidents that lead to fatality. This will help you assess the danger carefully and will make you more attentive towards your safety when you are climbing.
Most of the tragic accidents have occurred because of human error. People were overconfident and misused their equipment.
Before you commence your climbing, you should educate yourself about all the safety there is. We suggest that you should take up a course and find an instructor to help you learn about all the equipment.
These are the five most common causes leading to fatality
Climbing without a rope
Climbing without a rope is also called free soloing. In free soloing, you climb without any safety. Thus, it isn’t really surprising that several accidents occur while free soloing. Sure, free soloing can be extremely fun, there is no doubt without that. But that can also be done while bouldering. Climbing more than 30 feet without a safety rope can definitely be fatal.
If you still want to do free soloing then we suggest you do it over some water body. This way If you fall, you will fall into the water and not develop severe injuries.
A lot of incidents have occurred while climbing through a small spot in order to reach the actual climbing route, all the while being unsecured. This overconfidence that you don’t need to get your equipment out for just a small distance can lead to severe accidents.
Loose rocks and no climbing helmet
Loose rocks have caused a large number of fatal accidents. There are times when even a small sized rock or a stone can lead to terrible accidents. That is exactly why, as soon as you commence your climb outside, you must have a proper climbing helmet on. Stones just don’t become loose by themselves. Rockfall can be caused by the climbers or because of the climbing rope that shifts loose rocks.
Thus, a belayer should always be attentive. Apart from the attentiveness, a climber’s best protection against the loose rocks will be a climbing helmet. You will also have to keep in check what you are touching while climbing with your equipment as well as your body. Be a hundred percent certain that your rope is not running over loose rocks and you are not overlapping another climber’s route.
When you climb from one anchor to another anchor, it is called lead climbing. The climbing rope reaches the climber through the anchor from the person that is securing near the group. This is very different from top-rope climbing, where the climbing rope is lead from the belayer from the top to the climber downwards.
It doesn’t matter if the anchors are already set before the climb or you have to set them, all anchors can fail. So, make sure that before you start using the anchor, check the anchor for rust and stability. If you are planning to use your own anchors then get yourself informed about the route much earlier and check whether you have carried enough equipment, what your route is going to be and whether the rocks are loose or solid.
It is extremely important to know how to clip your climbing rope properly for lead climbing. If the rope isn’t tied properly then the consequences might include a fatal fall.
You will only require your safety equipment while climbing if you fall. But when you are rappelling, you have to hang the climbing rope and rely on various equipment and techniques like the rope, know, harness, the anchor as well as your climbing partner. When you are letting yourself fall from a height, there are various things that can go wrong.
And this is exactly the reason behind fatal incidents when rappelling. The cause may not necessarily be the failure of equipment but the wrong use of them. An example would be an anchor placed badly.
This is difficult as even experienced climbers struggle with these mistakes. That is why everyone must check everything twice before beginning their climb.
Stones, rain, lightning, strong winds, these are just examples of what mother nature can throw at us. Even a little drizzle in an afternoon can prove to be dangerous. The rocks might get slippery or it might get cold. If you had no preparation for rains and it started pouring then the best thing you could do is to cancel your climb instead of risking your life.
If you are going to be climbing amidst the mountains for several days then you should definitely be prepared for any kind of weather conditions. Fetch thick clothes, rain protection at all times with you to be safe. In mountains, weather can drastically change within seconds. Thus, don’t have a callous attitude and be prepared for any kind of change in weather.
Bouldering has a high risk of injuries as compared to rock climbing as bouldering is comparatively more intense and no safety ropes are used. It is also rough on muscles, joins and tendons. Several injuries occur when the climber is making the jump from the route’s end to the ground. This is because the legs are mainly affected. If you think the jump will be hard on your legs then make climb down slowly instead of taking a risk.
While rock climbing as well, the risks are safe. You are putting stress on knees, wrists and ankles.
Safety tips that you must follow to have a good climb
If you are not attentive and are not concentrating enough, then your experience and knowledge are not going to come in handy. You need to be extremely mindful. From the second you have started your climb till the moment you have reached the ground, you must pay attention to every single little detail.
Here are some common mistakes people make when they’re not paying attention
- The knot is tied incorrectly.
- The climbing rope is not clipped correctly. This is a very common mistake that even experienced climbers make. Learn how to clip the rope correctly by clicking here.
- The climbing rope makes contact with sharp rocks. The chances of climbing ropes breaking are few. But whenever it has happened, it has been because of sharp-edged rocks.
- Using unsafe anchors. The anchor already attached might be rusty or is crumbling or the new anchor is just not strong enough.
- The belayer is not paying attention and doesn’t notice the fall of the climber at all. A belayer has added responsibilities, thus, any distraction from them isn’t allowed.
Carry enough equipment
You should know exactly which kind of equipment you will need for your entire route, much before you secure the anchors. As discussed earlier, you should also be prepared for the weather change and must have a definite plan of what equipment you will use for different kinds of weather.
Apart from checking the equipment, you will also have to make sure, that you are carrying enough food and water. Rock climbing is a strenuous activity. You want to keep your body energized and hydrated throughout.
One would think that this would be self-explanatory, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case. There are several climbers that climb without helmets. Helmets aren’t that expensive and can most definitely save your life.
It not only protects you if you fall, but also protects you from other objects that may fall on you. There are several things that you have to consider while selecting a helmet. You can read all about it here.
Double check your equipment
You should not begin your climb without checking the following things:
- Knots: Every single knot must be properly knotted and must be firm. We suggest you check the knots along with your climbing partner as having another set of eyes might help find the mistakes easily.
- Climbing harness: Harness takes the entire responsibility of your safety. So, make sure that your harness is positioned in the right manner. The fit of the leg loops must be tight and your harness should not slide at all.
- The rope and belay device
- Proper and correct threading is severely important when it comes to safety devices that are automatic. The rope can be damaged if it is running beside the track. Check your climbing rope beforehand to make sure there are no damages on it. Use a lockable carabiner to fasten your belay device with the climbing harness.
Use safe anchors
A lot of fatal accidents have happened because of using unsafe anchors. Check the anchors for any kind of rust, whether it is secure and doesn’t wobble much before you secure yourself to it. And if you are using your own anchor then make sure that the anchor is strong enough to survive a fall. Here too, a lockable carabiner may give you extra safety.
Rock climbing is dangerous, but it is a fun activity and you will have the time of your life. But whether you reach the ground safely or not entirely depends on how much attention you are paying to your own safety. Do not be overconfident and check your equipment every time you go on a climb.
As said earlier, a lot of fatal accidents happen because of human error. So, we hope that this article has educated you about the risks of climbing. And remember, rock climbing is an activity to socialize and have amazing adrenaline rushes. Don’t be an idiot and do something that you may regret later.