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glassgowkiss

Applauding risk acceptance beyond your own limits

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11 minutes ago, TrogdortheBurninator said:

I also hate to break it to you that every time you engage in a risky activity you are staking your life on an equation.

How do you define "risky activity"?  All in life carries risk.  Do you try and figure odds for driving (what kind of car do I buy??), using crosswalks, etc?  And do those calculations change your behavior?

Seems like a lot of work. 

What I'm pushing back against is the idea that doing some calculation makes you feel confident that you're being "safe".  Maybe that's not what you're saying though.

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12 minutes ago, JasonG said:

How do you define "risky activity"?  All in life carries risk.  Do you try and figure odds for driving (what kind of car do I buy??), using crosswalks, etc?  And do those calculations change your behavior?

Seems like a lot of work. 

I’d consider a risky activity to be anything where your choices influence the likelihood of death or bodily harm. You could just as easily consider broader outcomes like financial consequence etc. I do pay some attention to risk in these activities as a benchmark to compare higher risk activities to. I’m comfortable with the risk of driving. I always wear a seatbelt and I prefer cars with airbags to mitigate risk. If I came to a realization that my skiing or climbing risks were 100 or 1000x higher than my driving risk, I would absolutely change things up in my behavior. A factor of a couple seems like a reasonable price though for these experiences. 

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I dunno Gene, all that hop-and-stop jive doesn't look like fun. Sure, you've come down something steep and narrow with slippery things on your feet, but I'd much rather just plunge step it or rip big curves down some wider face. Sure, you could free solo R&D with roller skates on, but yeah...

 

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2 hours ago, Off_White said:

I dunno Gene, all that hop-and-stop jive doesn't look like fun. Sure, you've come down something steep and narrow with slippery things on your feet, but I'd much rather just plunge step it or rip big curves down some wider face. Sure, you could free solo R&D with roller skates on, but yeah...

 

Agreed but this may be the media that makes hero’s of excessive dangerous actors?  The question is, do these kinds of video promote regular folk to pursue as well?  Does it encourage skilled climbers to go too far too often?  I kinda don’t think so but I suppose if only 1% were influenced, then we would have thousands of people doing crazy shite.

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4 hours ago, JasonG said:

How do you define "risky activity"?  All in life carries risk.  Do you try and figure odds for driving (what kind of car do I buy??), using crosswalks, etc?  And do those calculations change your behavior?

The risks of driving are definitely real and worth considering. When it comes to what kind of car you buy, it certainly affects my decision making. The drive home from a long day in the mountains can often be especially dangerous if the driver and passengers are tired, so for my last car I got one with the latest automated features for automatic collision prevention, lane departure warning, etc. Statistics show these features can significantly mitigate the risks of certain kinds of incidents. I chose those features over a car that would be more comfortable to sleep in at trailheads. 

I also generally avoid biking on the roads within Seattle more than occasionally as I find biking in Seattle traffic to be above my risk tolerance for something that I would do on a regular basis. I'll do it occasionally but not as a daily commute (that comes back to the number of trials that you do something risky). 

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5 hours ago, ilias said:

I got one with the latest automated features for automatic collision prevention, lane departure warning, etc. ...I find biking in Seattle traffic to be above my risk tolerance

:lmao:   I have a 1991 Civic.  And I bike to work on a rural, two lane, 50mph road.  I suppose climbing/skiing are the least of my worries. 

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@W your post is one of the most powerful and profound pieces of climbing writing I've seen in a long time.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for showing us what it means to live with intention.

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1 hour ago, Rad said:

@W your post is one of the most powerful and profound pieces of climbing writing I've seen in a long time.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for showing us what it means to live with intention.

Ditto.

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This is one of the better threads I've seen on this site, thanks to everyone for their thoughtful words, esp. @W whose whole narrative rings true to myself (no cancer in my case, but a series of minor accident/injuries have recently reminded me of my mortality).

My contribution is that while climbing is undeniably useless for society at large (other than some advertising photos for teamwork or life insurance etc.) it can be a core pillar of psychological support for most of us addicts. I don't know what I would have done without it in my 20s. It gave me my tribe and best friends for life, kept me in shape, and provided a spiritual experience after I lost my Christian faith. I still feel closer to the essence of the universe in nature, but more so during and after a long and intense alpine climb (even one with very low risk). But after 50+ years in the game I look back on those I've lost, and my own close calls, knowing that I've been damn lucky. Like others have said, life is dangerous, none of us get out alive. All of us who participate in challenging sports long enough will get injured, and I'm afraid some will die in the pursuit, but it is so deeply woven into who we are and how we find fulfillment that we can't quit cold turkey.

I didn't know Marc or Ryan personally, but have followed Marc through his early posts here and his awe inspiring recent climbs. I must admit that when I heard about his Cerro Torre solo I grouped it with Alex on El Cap, "Please back off now and let this stand as a testimony to the human spirit and potential, not fuel for those who see such exploits as suicidal insanity." But I know how hard it would be to not keep at it with those skills.

Then the boys die on a standard descent where any regular joe climber could have been. Wrong place wrong time. S@!# happens.

RIP young bucks, and condolences to families and friends left behind.

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I've come to realize that as long as I have a chance of dying of cancer, and that if I could choose the manner of my death between that or climbing, I'll take the mountains.

 

Hmmm. The one time I came microseconds from dying climbing (with the whole life-flashing-before-your-eyes in slomo thing going on) I mainly recall wishing I was sitting on the toilet reading a magazine. To each his own, but neither of those stark choices really appeals to me. I personally will find a by-my-own-hand method to deal with the former and I assiduously strive to avoid the latter.

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But are any of you going to stop alpine climbing because of some back of the envelope calculation? 

 

A lot of rock climbers I know, including a couple of the top climbers, made very conscious decisions not to do alpine specifically because of the upended ratio of its subjective-to-objective risk (i.e. chess vs roulette). Many of those same climbers have done a lot of free soloing over the years as well, but that's because it's a case of taking on high levels of subjective risk totally under one's control as opposed to gambling with the objective risks often encountered in alpine which are completely out of one's control.

And to be honest, before moving to the PNW I'd met precious few 'mountain climbers' and once here met and [rock] climbed with a lot of them. In general, as a class, as rock climbers, I found them to be somewhat binary being either a) hypercompetent or b) surprisingly bold while at the same time exhibiting cavalier attitudes and less-than-stellar judgment/skills around protection. And over the years I've met considerably more of the latter than the former with few in between and I've always assumed their cavalier attitudes towards rock climbing was simply a side-effect of the fact that in alpine it must often be a situation of 'good enough and go'. I could be wrong in that, but it's been a fairly consistent pattern seen over decades and I really don't have any other explanation for it.

Also, because I mainly know rock climbers I personally have lost only a couple of friends and acquaintances over all the years I've been climbing whereas a good friend who, over decades has regularly consorted with many of the top alpine climbers in the world, can recite a dreadfully long and emotionally wearying list of lost friends and acquaintances.

Edited by JosephH

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1 hour ago, JosephH said:

 cavalier attitudes towards rock climbing was simply a side-effect of the fact that in alpine it must often be a situation of 'good enough and go'. I could be wrong in that, but it's been a fairly consistent pattern seen over decades and I really don't have any other explanation for it.

I believe this often starts from "That's all there is, so go". I've been in on those quite a few times. When what there is (or isn't) is all there is, accepting the situation and making a thoughtful choice is all there is to do.

And, I've seen that morph into "good enough" when there was more to be had. IMO, a good climbing partner will call that out on me and be thankful when I did the same for them. Complacency kills.

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On 3/16/2018 at 6:46 AM, TrogdortheBurninator said:

Not to beat a dead horse, but 0.1 %  failure rate rappelling is no where near acceptable. That would give you a 65 % chance of failure over a relatively modest 1000 rappels. That seems like a typical 1-5 years for an avid climber.  Maybe less for some folks. 

 

Since the math has been bandied about regarding "cumulative risk," can you elaborate on how you're calculating this figure? I have not messed with complex probabilities and binomial series since high school, so I'm a bit rusty, but after some googling, I came across the formula for a Bernoulli trial, which appears to calculate this kind of thing:

 

P(k) = (n!/(k!*(n-k)!) * p^k * q^(n-k)

where n is the number of trials, k is the number of "positive" events, p is the probability of the event happening, and q is the probability of the event not happening. The probability of having k events in n trials is kind of a special/easy case when k = 1, since the binomial constant is just n (the other terms cancelling out), so it appears to effectively pro-rate the number of trials by the proportion of them that are positive vs negative, yielding the cumulative positive proportion for all the trials.

 

When I run the math on this, if the p of rappel failure is 0.1% (.001) and we use = 1000, P(k) = 36.8%. (This appears to be the inverse of the number you got...) I interpret this as meaning that if the rate of rappel failure is 1/1000 (I think it is really much lower than this, at least for non-alpine climbing), then ~ 1/3 climbers would die in rappel accidents if most climbers average around 1000 rappels. Regardless, this does seem to indicate that 1/1000 is not an acceptable failure rate for an event that will happen more than a few times.

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On 3/16/2018 at 12:35 PM, Off_White said:

I dunno Gene, all that hop-and-stop jive doesn't look like fun. Sure, you've come down something steep and narrow with slippery things on your feet, but I'd much rather just plunge step it or rip big curves down some wider face. Sure, you could free solo R&D with roller skates on, but yeah...

 

it may not be fun but is this the media that promotes risky behavior?  I blame it all on Red Bull and their 10,000 hours of bad ass videos I have wasted time on.

 

I wonder if looking at heuristic traps as a way to evaluate whether we are taking risk for the wrong reasons?  Usually for avalanche decision but it may apply to climbing in general with a little tweeking.  For those not familiar, the way to remember is FACETS

F   familiarity,  we may take on more risk in familiar locations

A acceptance, impress others in group. 

C  consistency,  being stubborn and not changing plans when new info arises

E  expert halo,  assuming that someone else with more experience will make the right choices. 

T  first tracks, more about scarsity of routes or terrain.   Maybe when all the well protected trad lines are full, one may jump on a x rated route

 S social acceptance

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4 hours ago, Bosterson said:

 

Since the math has been bandied about regarding "cumulative risk," can you elaborate on how you're calculating this figure? I have not messed with complex probabilities and binomial series since high school, so I'm a bit rusty, but after some googling, I came across the formula for a Bernoulli trial, which appears to calculate this kind of thing:

 

P(k) = (n!/(k!*(n-k)!) * p^k * q^(n-k)

where n is the number of trials, k is the number of "positive" events, p is the probability of the event happening, and q is the probability of the event not happening. The probability of having k events in n trials is kind of a special/easy case when k = 1, since the binomial constant is just n (the other terms cancelling out), so it appears to effectively pro-rate the number of trials by the proportion of them that are positive vs negative, yielding the cumulative positive proportion for all the trials.

 

When I run the math on this, if the p of rappel failure is 0.1% (.001) and we use = 1000, P(k) = 36.8%. (This appears to be the inverse of the number you got...) I interpret this as meaning that if the rate of rappel failure is 1/1000 (I think it is really much lower than this, at least for non-alpine climbing), then ~ 1/3 climbers would die in rappel accidents if most climbers average around 1000 rappels. Regardless, this does seem to indicate that 1/1000 is not an acceptable failure rate for an event that will happen more than a few times.

there are 2 (at least) problems with using binomial dist

1- that the probability for all trials must stay the same.  You see it in the p^k part.  If the event is for death, then obviously the prob of death can not stay the same after a preceeding death.  it goes to 100%

2- the overall probablility is the sum of every possible event combination.  That is seen in the (n!/(k!*(n-k)!) part.   so for k=1 in 10 trials, there is only 10 ways to arrange 1 out of 10.  but for k=2, there are 45 ways to get pairs out of 10 trials.  once again, how to you get 2 deaths?  Well, the natural question is just pick k=1 right?   there is a problem with that too.

getting to basic part of binomial dist is that

P(0) + P(1) + P(2) + P(3) + ........ P(n-1) + P(n) = 1   there is no getting around this

when you figure out P(1) for small amount of trials it looks good but when n gets large, the prob levels out and actually decreases slightly.  what is happening is that the other P(other than 1) starts to accumulate and amount to a significant amount.  It becomes unlikely to have just 1 event and more likely to get 2 or more.  Once again, how to you die 4 times?

well the next logical step is to say just look at P(0) and subtract that from 1.   Same problem as above.  we are applying the binomial distribution method to something that is not binomial.  it requires a distribution that is not binomial and I have no idea how to do that.   My meager BS math degree didn't go that far in probability.  :)  But I know enough to know I don't know enough.

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5 hours ago, Bosterson said:

 

Since the math has been bandied about regarding "cumulative risk," can you elaborate on how you're calculating this figure? I have not messed with complex probabilities and binomial series since high school, so I'm a bit rusty, but after some googling, I came across the formula for a Bernoulli trial, which appears to calculate this kind of thing:

 

P(k) = (n!/(k!*(n-k)!) * p^k * q^(n-k)

where n is the number of trials, k is the number of "positive" events, p is the probability of the event happening, and q is the probability of the event not happening. The probability of having k events in n trials is kind of a special/easy case when k = 1, since the binomial constant is just n (the other terms cancelling out), so it appears to effectively pro-rate the number of trials by the proportion of them that are positive vs negative, yielding the cumulative positive proportion for all the trials.

 

When I run the math on this, if the p of rappel failure is 0.1% (.001) and we use = 1000, P(k) = 36.8%. (This appears to be the inverse of the number you got...) I interpret this as meaning that if the rate of rappel failure is 1/1000 (I think it is really much lower than this, at least for non-alpine climbing), then ~ 1/3 climbers would die in rappel accidents if most climbers average around 1000 rappels. Regardless, this does seem to indicate that 1/1000 is not an acceptable failure rate for an event that will happen more than a few times.

my goal was never to come up with a actual number to frighten people but to simply make us aware of how something a small as 1% (which most people would call "safe") as being dangerous over time and to encourage a more conservative methodology to rappels.  (which I did become a victim of once)  I guess the same idea can apply to alpine climbs too.

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I'm happy to accept that Rad's calculator was oversimplified for fatal events. Do you know if it is even suitable for ball park estimates? I tried to dig deeper, but couldn't really come up with a good formula/method.

For comparison, I did a bit of googling on base jumping. Apparently, base jumping has a death rate on the order of 1 death / 2000 jumps (contrast with the 1 death / 100,000 ski tours targeted by R=1 in the link from above: http://arc.lib.montana.edu/snow-science/objects/issw-2012-501-505.pdf). This provides a bit more context for the unacceptability of a 0.1 % failure rate in fatal-outcome activities. I would not climb/rappel if I thought rappelling was twice as deadly as base jumping on a per rappel basis. I tried to find complete statistics for rappel deaths/failures, but came up a bit short. On Steph's website (http://www.stephabegg.com/home/projects/accidentstats) she says that rappelling accounts for ~3 % of mountaineering accidents, but doesnt differentiate injuries/deaths.

Another point of contrast, mountaineering on denali has a fatality rate of 0.063/1000 hrs of performance - how many hours are in 2000 base jumps?

I bring up risk assessment because I feel that it is poorly understood at the true upper levels of mountain sport (e.g. throw out guided parties on 8000m peaks etc). The further we get from typical/average behavior, the less accurate our understanding of risk becomes. I think it is extremely difficult to compare the risk exposure of Honnold versus Marc, versus ColinH, versus Loren. Its a combination of frequency of exposure and specific hazards of each objective. If somebody came to you and said that your particular approach gives you a mean predicted life span of a couple years, would you change behavior? Taking it a step further, is there a level of risk where instead of applauding, we should just stay quiet? Is there a level where friends/family should intervene?

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So much discussion of risk is only "just-so stories". I survived because my risk decision making process and resultant acceptance of the risk of my activities was accurate, and somebody else died because they made a mistake.

Except that that's horseshit.

I got lucky many times.

I fell off the north Apron 3rd class walk off ledge on a wet patch and caught myself on a tree at the lip of Voodoo Amour with my legs over the edge.

I put a crampon through my gaiter on the approach ice to Cascade and slid for 100 m before self-arresting with a desperate overhand in the only patch of snow and turf on an otherwise entirely icy slab.

I stopped for lunch or a snack twice only to have cornice collapses come down right where I would have been if I kept on going while climbing alpine routes.

Any of those could have killed me.

I wager everyone that's climbed has stories of close calls like that. Lucky isn't a learned behaviour. And it's nothing to moralize about.

 

Edited by G-spotter
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I think it is extremely difficult to compare the risk exposure of Honnold versus Marc...

Compare differences once choices are made? Sure, but that's the difference between the assumption of subjective vs objective risk. The former is basically known and static and the latter dynamic and unknown. That's a big difference from my perspective. Navigating the assumption of high levels of subjective risk is a matter of judgment and skill whereas the assumption of high levels of objective risk unavoidably being a matter of gambling and luck. We had some of this discussion on ST and I put it this way:

Quote

Anyone surfing a huge day at Nazaré => luck
Anyone going for the summit solo on K2 in the winter => luck
Alex Honnold free soloing Freerider => not luck

 

Assuming subjective risk beyond your limits is hopefully something done incrementally with small increments. Objective risks are just that and really aren't about you and your limits but rather a matter of how much you are willing to gamble and at what odds...

Edited by JosephH

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29 minutes ago, JosephH said:

Compare differences once choices are made? Sure, but that's the difference between the assumption of subjective vs objective risk. The former is basically known and static and the latter dynamic and unknown. That's a big difference from my perspective. Navigating the assumption of high levels of subjective risk is a matter of judgment and skill whereas the assumption of high levels of objective risk unavoidably being a matter of gambling and luck. We had some of this discussion on ST and I put it this way:

Assuming subjective risk beyond your limits is hopefully something done incrementally with small increments. Objective risks are just that and really aren't about you and your limits but rather a matter of how much you are willing to gamble and at what odds...

I'm not sure it's quite that black and white. Luck is a benefit for both the subjective risks and the objective risks. In the case of something like freerider, you still have risks like rock fall and  broken holds. The likelihood of those is perhaps less than encountered in alpine envions, but the consequence is pretty absolute. Also, dont forget that Honnold has practiced his craft in patagonia and other alpine environs. 

A quick look at the fate of a number of pure-rock soloists still reveals that it is a risky endeavor. Were Bachar or Hersey unlucky on the days they passed away? 

 

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rock fall and  broken holds

That pretty much sums up the objective hazards Alex was facing; pretty bounded and constrained comparatively.

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Were Bachar or Hersey unlucky on the days they passed away?

I personally don't believe so and think Bachar probably overestimated where he was at post-accident and Hersey probably had some inkling it could rain and went for it anyway. I consider those lapses in judgment - one around subjective risk, the other objective.

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I do think attempts to quantify risk are valuable, even if they are flawed, because a better understanding of the risk/reward ratio might change a few people's minds, change their behavior, and perhaps spare them from a life-changing/ending accident. Or it could help them enjoy hundreds of days of climbing, skiing, or other reportedly risky activity without a serious incident. 

Unfortunately, many of us don't do a good job of evaluating statistics because we draw conclusions based on stories from people we know or read about and ignore or misrepresent statistical data on the subject in question. If someone says they have same risk of dying in a rappelling accident as being hit by a bus in a crosswalk should you believe them? What if your wife asks you to quit alpine climbing because it is too dangerous and take up paragliding instead? How do the dangers of these compare with texting and driving? What if someone could show you data that the chances of a rappelling accident go up 10x if you don't tie knots in the ends of your ropes? There will always be unknowns in climbing, but attempts to quantify risk can make us both wiser and safer. Here are two illustrations from other parts of life:

If your doctor tells you that you late stage Pancreatic cancer, have a 98% chance of being killed by it within 2 years, and have a 10% chance of responding to a new drug that could allow you to live 10 years but will definitely make your next year miserable and drain your savings, would you get the therapy?  Do you think you will "beat the odds'"? Will you go for the experimental drug? Do homeopathy instead and focus on getting the best out of the time you have?  Understanding the statistics can lead to better decisions and better quality of life. 

The act of building a mathematical model for your personal finances, even if it is too simple and even if it is wrong, is valuable because it forces you to write down and quantify the assumptions that go into the model. Then once you understand the model you can change the assumptions, variables, and inputs and see what happens in different scenarios. Should you retire at 60 or 65? Get disability insurance? Can you afford to take a year to travel? Should you pay down loans, take that expensive vacation, max out retirement investment, or fix that plumbing leak? Everything has costs and near-term and long-term consequences. Quantifying these can be informative and lead to more informed decisions and a better life.

Building a simple model of risk in climbing, even if it is imperfect and incomplete, could lead to better climbing decisions, better conversations between climbing partners about risk, and perhaps fewer injuries and deaths for climbers. That said, if you read ANAM and can learn to avoid making the top three types of human errors you will be much safer for it.

Bring on the math!

 

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My old climbing partner did his master thesis on the risk perception and concluded most people suck at it but that it's closely tied to our physical senses and what we can and cannot acclimatize to mentally and emotionally. 

Edited by JosephH

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