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glassgowkiss

Applauding risk acceptance beyond your own limits

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6 hours ago, olyclimber said:

you also usually don't hear of climbing being classified as text book addiction though.   

It's exactly like with alcoholism, less with heroine or other opiates. But if you look at the pattern, some can drink alcohol occasionally, and do not get addicted, but some personalities can't live without. There was an article looking at "adrenaline sports", like BASE and some people present classic addiction pattern. 

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1 hour ago, ScaredSilly said:

 During my last year I climbed number of 5.11 R rated routes on a regular basis.... I have attributed the head space to do those climbs to being highly focused on grad school which carried over to my climbing. 

I only climb 5.11 R in my head space too.

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6 hours ago, JasonG said:

I'm curious, do you consider wind an "objective hazard" in your paragliding @glassgowkiss?  I understand you have sideboards as to when you'll take off, but it seems like it isn't totally within your control either.

Of course it's an objective hazard. Each site will have it's own. However you use wind socks, streamers as wind indicators. You can use wind meter, determining turbulence, by measuring wind speed variation. You never fly on lee side, you have to understand Venturi effect. You use instruments that actually show your air speed, ground speed. I have rules I stick to: I do not take off above 12mph and if it's crossed more then 15 degrees. Walked of launches a few times. 

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10 hours ago, glassgowkiss said:

Of course it's an objective hazard. Each site will have it's own.

I think this is where the the argument never ends. Most people have their mind games that they play to convince themselves that they understand the risks of their particular activity and are making sound decisions.  The rest look on and say that you're a crazed adrenaline junkie/addict.  No matter the activity, if it is more risky than driving to work and sitting at a desk, many are going to judge, based on their own experience and biases.

But at least this debate beats actual work!

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Posted (edited)

There's a risk assessment tool used in SAR that is similar to some stuff I've read on go/nogo for alpine activities:

Each category (team experience, route planning/knowledge, team fitness, weather, route conditions etc.) gets a green/amber/red grade, any reds must be mitigated or the mission is called off. I know SAR has a different goal than alpine climbing or BC Skiing but I It think something like this can be helpful in a situation where accidents are caused by a series of bad decisions, especially with newbs.

 

 

Edited by Bronco
oops

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40 minutes ago, Choada_Boy said:

Again, this is horseshit argument, these issues are not binary and not even connected. BTW, Anker-with all his fitness and training suffered MI in Nepal. Even if you watch "Meru"- Ozturk suffered a stroke while on the climb. And that was one of these idiotic moments, where he should be evacuated to a hospital asap and treated properly, but they pushed on to the summit instead. 

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just going to have to agree to disagree there.  you are picking and choosing what is related and connected to support your argument...that or you are completely missing the point:

no matter what your path in life, there will be risks.  as @Choada_Boy link shows, there is even risk in sitting on your ass and doing nothing all day.   and people will not stop making "stupid" decisions just because you told them to.  who in the hell thinks paragliding is a smart thing to do you adrenaline fueled risk junkie!  :sheep: :wink:

it also seems like you are over investing in the idea that you are somehow in control in the self-will of others, or that they are particularly interested in your assessment of the risks they take.    I know I'm personally doing so by continueing this conversation with you! :laf:    It has been a very thoughtful and interesting to see different points of view on the topic.  

in this country in particular, self-will and individual choice are bedrock to the human psyche.  any affront to this is usually not received well.

 

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36 minutes ago, glassgowkiss said:

Again, this is horseshit argument,

And this is why we love you @glassgowkiss.  Even if we sometimes talk past each other.  :battlecage:

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It's great we have this thread with bob talking about how safe paragliding is so if he dies paragliding we can use it to shit-talk him.

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Just don't be sad or surprised.  Bob would hate that.  :wink:

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Posted (edited)

 

In an era of carefully crafted images Mark was entirely refreshing in his no-apologies attitude as just another dork from the PNW who loved climbing.   Though his vision and abilities surpassed mine by many, many magnitudes,  he always felt like one of us and I am sad for his passing.   

That said the only surprise here is that he died while climbing with a partner.    However strong his technical skills may have been, it was readily apparent that caution was thrown far, far to the wind a long time ago.   There's only so much loose rubble and thin ice you can speed solo, only so many bad anchors you can belay and rappel off of, before something gives.  To wit in the obituaries I've read there are descriptions of collapsing ledges while he onsite-solos 5.11 rockies limestone and rappelling and jumaring off a single nut on Mt Chephren.    There's no way that sort of attitude was going to end well. Yet the climbing community as a whole considers this an admirable quality!

I think the point Bob tries to make is that the climbing industry has come to glorify excessive risk taking, primarily soloing. In the language ("scrambling", "cordless") in the advertisements, articles and feature length films.   I'm not sure why that is.  Maybe Alex Honnold was just really photogenic, or it's a reaction to the sterility and ubiquitous of gym climbing.  Maybe it's that 12 year-olds can climb 5.15. What ever the reason there's undoubtedly a positive feedback loop of approval and achievement.   I'm getting old, and I climb less and worry about my kids more.  It's not hard to look at this culture and see something twisted in it's hierarchies and myths a sort of polarity that values either extreme difficulty or extreme risk but nothing in between.   

I don't have any direct exposure to paragliding culture but my impression is if you came down and said "I just thermaled to 30,000' in that thunder cloud!" you'd be taken to task.   But when the climber comes down from the solo adulation increases with the risk and seriousness of consequences.

So, yes grieve and grieve hard for the loss of a great friend.  But as community maybe it's worth stepping back and reconsidering  what we value and what kind of outcomes it leads too.

 

 

Edited by dberdinka
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A good perspective @dberdinka, thanks. 

But I didn't get the sense the Marc cared terribly what anyone thought of his achievements?  He seemed genuinely stoked on the adventure and wild positions he realized his abilities and approach could take him.  Isn't it central to your premise that the praise pushed him farther than he would've pushed himself otherwise? 

Maybe I'm just a wimp, but even in my younger days fear was a powerful motivator that blocked all else out.   Unless it was actually fun/reasonable for them (even if only in their minds), I can't see Marc or Alex or any of these guys pushing the boundaries as hard as they do.  But maybe I'm just naive.

 

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Heck.  I don't understand why I act the way I do much less someone else...

More interested in the idea of why and should we applaud such high levels of risk taking. 

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1 hour ago, dberdinka said:

More interested in the idea of why and should we applaud such high levels of risk taking. 

I think this has more to do with media coverage of climbing than anything else. In today's world, clicks/likes = dollars, so this drives the media machine. Look at Loren and Jens' TR on Jberg. It drew a lot of clicks, even if a fair number of people talked about how it was an unwise risk. Would Into Thin Air have become a best seller, or even been written, if everyone came back alive? No. Death and death defying feats sell.

You may recall that Clif Bar backed out of sponsoring climbers who engaged in free soloing. This included Potter, who is now dead, and Honnold, who has gone on to become a mega-star known for free soloing. 

That said the general public is still quite ignorant about climbing and doesn't understand that the risks of climbing the Dawn Wall are actually pretty low compared to many other kinds of climbing. With Honnold, everyone understands that if he falls he dies. Ueli Steck was thought to be the Swiss machine who was super safe, but they didn't factor in that he was doing his thing in the mountains, where objective hazards are higher than on the rock walls of Yosemite. 

I agree with others above that climbing needs a better culture of rational risk assessment and management. These may be better in other fields, such as avalanche safety and paragliding (apparently). One challenge is that climbing has way more things that can go wrong and hence risk factors to assess compared with avalanche safety.  An organization like the Mountaineers could play an important role in this education.

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Hey guys, thanks for the good discussion. I've posted on and off here for a few years though I wouldn't call myself a regular the way some people are. I avoided reading this thread until after I knew the outcome of Marc and Ryan... burying my head in the sand I fully admit. I recently had an accident myself; I was returning to the car at Smith Rock and in my haste I chose to solo/scramble a short chimney through the basalt rimrock. Long story short I did not notice that it had one or more detached blocks at the top which caught my pack and then came down on top of me. I took a 30+ footer and managed to self-arrest on a small ledge. Luckily I had friends in the vicinity who were able to get to me quickly and keep me stable while we waited for 3.5 hrs for SAR to extract me. I'm super lucky to be alive and with intact head/spine. My knees took most of it and I will be several months repairing and rehabbing the various broken bones and torn ligaments but should be fully functional again.

While I will never be close to what MA Leclerc did, I have engaged in my fair share of solo outings and dicey alpine shenanigans. I'm sure some of you have read my TRs on here about a few of those. For a long time I justified this bullshit by thinking that the variables in the mountains are rational and predictable things that I could assess logically and therefore avoid danger. I used to quip that driving my car to a climbing location was more dangerous than anything I did climbing. The loss of Marc and Ryan on top of my recent accident has really made me reassess what I can (and what I'm willing to) get away with. I realize that while mountain variables are predictable to a degree they are not always predictable. Also, as much as I would like to consider myself rational and focused, I am a fallible human and if I put myself in these positions enough I will screw up.

One of my climbing partners and I discussed risk a lot over this years ice trip to MT/WY and he gave me this article which while focused on avalanche avoidance is also applicable to most of the hazards we face while alpine climbing: http://arc.lib.montana.edu/snow-science/objects/issw-2012-501-505.pdf

With that article we've discussed a lot about how low probability but high risk outcomes are still bad, and asked how often do you have to take that risk before you actually have a high risk of that bad outcome happening one time and really screwing you. There is also some research to suggest that when we put ourselves in a risky situation and get away unscathed that can incorrectly reinforce the idea that such a risk is actually safe. This lets people get too comfortable and drop their guard as well as allowing them to make similar risks in the future without really understanding the probability of f#$%ing up. I would say my accident was in this last category.

Anyway, this all got me thinking that maybe it would be good to try get some actual numbers. It would be good for people to be able to say, well I got away with this 3 times, but statistically if I do it ten times I'll die on one of those occasions so I probably should stop doing that. Or, I know someone who f%^ked up and got hurt doing that once, but statistically that's a 1 in 100,000 accident and so I should be cautious but can do that carefully on several climbs in my life and feel good about my risk tolerance. I have started making a Google Form survey that I'm thinking of sharing here and on other forums and want to know...

What QUESTIONS should I include?

Thanks,

Sam

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And then there's the curious case of Michael Reardon - basically eschewed roped climbing altogether and then dies from a freak rogue wave. Life is unpredictable.

That said, there's no getting around the fact climbing mountains is fraught with objective dangers compared to rock climbing and the subjective/objective risk ratio is stood on its head. In fact, in many instances, it's tantamount to gambling and that's an individual call I for one will not second guess. 

 

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2 minutes ago, JosephH said:

And then there's the curious case of Michael Reardon - basically eschewed roped climbing altogether and then dies from a freak rogue wave. Life is unpredictable.

That said, there's no getting around the fact climbing mountains is fraught with objective dangers compared to rock climbing and the subjective/objective risk ratio is stood on its head. In fact, in many instances, it's tantamount to gambling and that's an individual call I for one will not second guess. 

 

Life is unpredictable for a single individual, but quite predictable for a sub-pupulation (e.g. excessive risk takers). Reardon lived a very high risk life, and passed away unfortunately early. Leclerc even more so.

 

29 minutes ago, bedellympian said:

Hey guys, thanks for the good discussion. I've posted on and off here for a few years though I wouldn't call myself a regular the way some people are. I avoided reading this thread until after I knew the outcome of Marc and Ryan... burying my head in the sand I fully admit. I recently had an accident myself; I was returning to the car at Smith Rock and in my haste I chose to solo/scramble a short chimney through the basalt rimrock. Long story short I did not notice that it had one or more detached blocks at the top which caught my pack and then came down on top of me. I took a 30+ footer and managed to self-arrest on a small ledge. Luckily I had friends in the vicinity who were able to get to me quickly and keep me stable while we waited for 3.5 hrs for SAR to extract me. I'm super lucky to be alive and with intact head/spine. My knees took most of it and I will be several months repairing and rehabbing the various broken bones and torn ligaments but should be fully functional again.

While I will never be close to what MA Leclerc did, I have engaged in my fair share of solo outings and dicey alpine shenanigans. I'm sure some of you have read my TRs on here about a few of those. For a long time I justified this bullshit by thinking that the variables in the mountains are rational and predictable things that I could assess logically and therefore avoid danger. I used to quip that driving my car to a climbing location was more dangerous than anything I did climbing. The loss of Marc and Ryan on top of my recent accident has really made me reassess what I can (and what I'm willing to) get away with. I realize that while mountain variables are predictable to a degree they are not always predictable. Also, as much as I would like to consider myself rational and focused, I am a fallible human and if I put myself in these positions enough I will screw up.

One of my climbing partners and I discussed risk a lot over this years ice trip to MT/WY and he gave me this article which while focused on avalanche avoidance is also applicable to most of the hazards we face while alpine climbing: http://arc.lib.montana.edu/snow-science/objects/issw-2012-501-505.pdf

With that article we've discussed a lot about how low probability but high risk outcomes are still bad, and asked how often do you have to take that risk before you actually have a high risk of that bad outcome happening one time and really screwing you. There is also some research to suggest that when we put ourselves in a risky situation and get away unscathed that can incorrectly reinforce the idea that such a risk is actually safe. This lets people get too comfortable and drop their guard as well as allowing them to make similar risks in the future without really understanding the probability of f#$%ing up. I would say my accident was in this last category.

Anyway, this all got me thinking that maybe it would be good to try get some actual numbers. It would be good for people to be able to say, well I got away with this 3 times, but statistically if I do it ten times I'll die on one of those occasions so I probably should stop doing that. Or, I know someone who f%^ked up and got hurt doing that once, but statistically that's a 1 in 100,000 accident and so I should be cautious but can do that carefully on several climbs in my life and feel good about my risk tolerance. I have started making a Google Form survey that I'm thinking of sharing here and on other forums and want to know...

What QUESTIONS should I include?

Thanks,

Sam

I saw this discussion, and thought of the exact same paper (and just the general 3x3 risk reduction concept). It is striking how absent (or at least unknown) these concepts and data are in climbing compared to backcountry skiing. Perhaps because in skiing, so much emphasis is placed on a single hazard (avalanches), it makes it easier to distill the root cause and look at objective statistics. The equivalent in alpine climbing would be to control for things like team size, roped/unroped, weather conditions, avalanche forecast, terrain type (ice, mixed, rock, glaciated), elevation.

It would be a worthy objective to investigate risk in climbing, but I dont think a google survey is the correct approach. Rather, vigorous mining of international climbing accident and participation data is probably the only way to come up with something objectively equivalent.

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Play with this calculator and you'll see that even if the chance of a given bad outcome on a single day is low if you roll the dice long enough the chance of that bad outcome happening can be quite high. Simple risk model from SJSU

A survey would be interesting, but I think it will yield anecdotes more than useful data. For larger numbers of anecdotes and data check out ANAM issues. Patterns emerge pretty quickly, and there are stats available. I think this should be required reading for all outdoor climbers.

 

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1 hour ago, Rad said:

Play with this calculator and you'll see that even if the chance of a given bad outcome on a single day is low if you roll the dice long enough the chance of that bad outcome happening can be quite high. Simple risk model from SJSU

A survey would be interesting, but I think it will yield anecdotes more than useful data. For larger numbers of anecdotes and data check out ANAM issues. Patterns emerge pretty quickly, and there are stats available. I think this should be required reading for all outdoor climbers.

 

Agreed. Alpine climbing involves such a complex web of dynamic variables that trying to quantitate into some kind of an reliable predictor of risk is unlikely to be helpful, to put it mildly. IMO simple rules of thumb that promote safe safe habits are much more practical and useful.

Everyone should read ANAM, and other compilations of close calls if they can find them. Back when life didn't make getting out for a bit of alpine climbing next to impossible I can remember encountering things like a loose ledge traverse between rappel stations and saying "Alright - looks like we're in the ANAM zone here..." before starting a discussion of what we could do to mitigate the risk. 

One of my personal rules of thumb was to stick to alpine routes at least two number grades below the top end of what I could lead at the crags, at least if I was going to be the one leading the harder pitches on the route. I still had close calls and epics, but I would have been in much worse shape if I didn't have that extra margin to play with when getting off route, encountering wet conditions, bad pro, etc. 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, bedellympian said:

Anyway, this all got me thinking that maybe it would be good to try get some actual numbers. It would be good for people to be able to say, well I got away with this 3 times, but statistically if I do it ten times I'll die on one of those occasions so I probably should stop doing that. Or, I know someone who f%^ked up and got hurt doing that once, but statistically that's a 1 in 100,000 accident and so I should be cautious but can do that carefully on several climbs in my life and feel good about my risk tolerance. I have started making a Google Form survey that I'm thinking of sharing here and on other forums and want to know...

What QUESTIONS should I include?

Thanks,

Sam

Great discussion in this thread. I've done some thinking about the numbers regarding climbing risks and come to the conclusion that probably about a 1/10,000 chance of dying or being seriously injured on any given trip is a "reasonable" risk to take. How do I come to that conclusion? Let's say you climb every weekend of the year (50 times per year) and want to climb for basically your entire adult life while capable of doing so (for example, 40 years). 0.9999 chance of surviving each outing adds up to an 81% chance of surviving all 2000 outings you're going to do over that 40 year climbing career. A 1/5 chance of dying in the mountains over the course of your life is about the same chance as other "natural" causes so seems to be not unreasonable. In my mind, that's at least a way to start thinking quantitatively about risk.

On the other hand, if you increase the risk per trip to 1/1,000 chance of dying, the chance you'll die in the mountains increases to 86.5% over that 40 year climbing career, or 40% just in the first 10 years, which is horribly more risky than anything else (the average person's chances of dying from the age of 25-35 are about 2.5%, so climbing at the 1/1000 risk per weekend level would be about 16 times more risky than everything else in life combined in that age range). 

Based on this, if I see something that I feel like has a 1% chance of going horribly wrong, I know that that's far outside my risk tolerance (by a factor of about 100).

Of course, quantifying risk tolerance in this way is only helpful if you can quantify the risks meaningfully too. Are you gonna go up an avalanche gully that has a catastrophic slide once per 100 days, and you're gonna be in it all day? Probably way too high risk, then. Are you gonna be in it for 10 minutes? Maybe ok then based on the above risk tolerance because that's about a 1/14,400 chance of it sliding while you're in it. Are you gonna cross 10 such gullies on that 1 trip? Well, then the chances of dying in that 1 day are too high. But most often, no such statistics are available, and risk assessments of any given route, terrain feature, or move are rough guesses that can easily be orders of magnitude off. 

Based on this line of thinking, I think key questions in any risk analysis survey would have to include how often someone climbs, for how many years they plan to climb, and what their tolerance is for a % chance of dying as a result of climbing over that time span.

Edited by ilias

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2 hours ago, TrogdortheBurninator said:

Life is unpredictable for a single individual, but quite predictable for a sub-pupulation (e.g. excessive risk takers). Reardon lived a very high risk life, and passed away unfortunately early. Leclerc even more so.

 

I saw this discussion, and thought of the exact same paper (and just the general 3x3 risk reduction concept). It is striking how absent (or at least unknown) these concepts and data are in climbing compared to backcountry skiing. Perhaps because in skiing, so much emphasis is placed on a single hazard (avalanches), it makes it easier to distill the root cause and look at objective statistics. The equivalent in alpine climbing would be to control for things like team size, roped/unroped, weather conditions, avalanche forecast, terrain type (ice, mixed, rock, glaciated), elevation.

It would be a worthy objective to investigate risk in climbing, but I dont think a google survey is the correct approach. Rather, vigorous mining of international climbing accident and participation data is probably the only way to come up with something objectively equivalent.

Can you summarize the 3x3 concept for us Trogdor? I was Googled it and got lost pretty quick.

Also, while I agree mining accident data on a large scale is useful, I think that its important to compare against the number of successful ascents and the caliber of climber that is attempting. For instance I don't think that the South SIde of Mt. Hood is nearly as dangerous as a meta study of accidents would make out. On the other hand, despite having zero accidents and several successful repeats I would argue that the Slovak Direct on Denali is pretty darn serious and has some major risks involved.

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