Bad things happen when bad decisions are made

February 21, 2017

Richard Gilbert

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(Editor’s note: Thank you to vice president of the outdoor club and graduate student Richard Gilbert for submitting a guest column to The Scribe for publication).

     We are all lucky to call Colorado home.

     Ask anybody outside of the state what he or she thinks of first when they think of Colorado, and they’ll say the Rockies.

     With epic mountains come epic adventures and with that, comes epic responsibility. Everybody knows that outdoor activities come with a certain amount of risk, but is this risk as serious as we think it is?

     Come to find out, the answer is both yes and no.

     According to the American Alpine Club and the U.S. Census Bureau, a climber is 313 times more likely to get into a traffic accident than a climbing accident.

     A climber is 182 times more likely to get injured in a traffic accident than a climbing accident and is 10 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than while participating in recreational rock climbing.

     I’ve been climbing for over a decade, and I have never witnessed, let alone been a part of, a climbing accident. But with that said, I’m no Conrad Ankor or Jimmy Chin.

     Seeing that I’ve never witnessed a climbing accident, I was curious to know why these accidents happen. I wanted to know why accidents were happening to other people and not me.

     I wanted to know what I was doing right, and what a tiny sample of the climbing community was doing wrong.

     As the biggest piece of the pie chart, climbing un-roped accounted for 16.9 percent of mountaineering accidents.

     Now, I’m a huge fan of Alex Honnold, who is known around the world as the best free soloist rock climber. What that means is that Alex climbs giant tracks of rock without any sort of rope support. If he falls, he dies.

     Never in my entire life have I ever had the urge to climb a route without a rope, but then again, I’m not a world famous rock climber who makes his living climbing some of the hardest routes in the world.

     If I was, then I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t last very long in that profession, and I would suggest that my parents take a life insurance policy out on me.

     The second leading cause to mountaineering accidents is exceeding one’s abilities, which came in at 15.1 percent. When I climb, I’m not thinking about pushing myself to the next level. Some climbers do think about those things, but I’m just stoked to be on the rock, in the outdoors and doing my thing.

     If at any point I think about climbing above my abilities, I ask myself why I want to push myself. If the reason has anything to do with social pressure, then I pack up and I stop climbing for the day.

     I have nothing to prove to anybody, especially when it comes to climbing. I wasn’t surprised to learn that inadequate equipment/ clothing came in at 11.3 percent and that inadequate climbing practices carried a 12 percent chunk of the pie. Basically, inadequate decision-making was responsible for 23.3 percent of mountaineering accidents.

     So in summary, 55.3 percent of mountaineering accidents come from being an idiot and having poor decision-making. Proper decision-making comes from experience and good training.

     Want to cut climbing accidents down by 55.3 percent and protect yourself from being a statistic? Take a class, check out what S.O.L.E. on campus has to offer and join The Outdoor Club. These are all resources that will help create a conversation of safety.