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Mike_Gauthier

A very sad week

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quote:

Originally posted by ryland moore:

It bodes the question, Are there too many climbers in the mountains

Here is a question that both begs and defies qualification.

Too many climbers for who? Too many climbers for the health and maintenance of the alpine environment? For sure! Everest is the highest dump in the world. Muir reeks of human excrement. Excessive regulations are in place in all US mtn ranges in a futile attempt to allow alpine places to recover from excessive human impact while all that really happens is another layer of bureaucracy is added and true alpine experience is destroyed for all that stay between the legal lines.

 

Too many climbers for the climbing industry? Hardly. It's all about money. More climbers = more money; for manufacturers, for retailers, for tourism (guide/travel services), for climbing press, for climbing gyms, for bureaucracy (the more they spend the more they get).

quote:

with too little experience

People have a right to be stupid and to die in the mountains (or else where.) What experienced climber has not witlessly stepped over the line and been graciously allowed by fate to step back? We just do not have the right to take others down with us. Rescue is not (or should not be) an entitlement (just because we can carry a cell phone.) We all began without experience, and this is good. This kind or risk taking is at the very heart of adventure.

quote:

or is it just as Sleeveless states, that it is just a numbers game?

It's simple math. More people = more accidents. If there is one party on a mountain and a rock falls from the summit, maybe they get hit but probably not. If there is a party in every gully, someone is buying the farm. No one can deny this. But is not that simple.

 

The real culprit is popularization and familiarity. It is splashed all over the media. The EXTREME craze. Climbing is now trendy and cool. Right up there with skateboarding and mtn biking. But that is just not the way it is. Climbing is nuts. It is dangerous. Every time you do it you could fuck up and die. Equipment could fail. Any number of unforseeable things could happen. Spontaneous rockfall. Gumbies flossing a mountain face with their climbing rope. You cannot control the risk. and if you think you can, you have either been doing a damned fine job of blowing smoke up your own ass, or you are just another lemming that popularization of the sport has been breeding. Gym Climbing, Sport Climbing, GriGris, Cell Phones, Guided Everest. It is still not tennis, and should not be. But popularization and familiarity are flavoring it that way.

quote:

...just your average weekend warrior who has invested a great deal of time and effort into improving all of my climbing skills, safety and technical.

The best we can do is to influence the odds.

quote:

...most of us are constantly aware of the dangers that are around us. Thoughts? Am I totally off here?

Yes, you are close to totally of here. The best we can do is to increase our awareness and tune our perceptions to the dangers. The very best of alpinists will develop a sixth sense for danger.

 

Please don't take anything I have said too seriously. This is just my thoughts.

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The part of all this I find frustrating is that the breathless media coverage of climbing deaths seem to spur interest in novices joining the ranks. After the Everest disasters of '96, record numbers of people were inquiring about guided climbs on Everest.

I bet the phones at RMI have been ringing off the hook this week.

Personally, I find it distasteful to refer to climbing deaths as "darwinism at work" particulary in reference to the Hood accident last week, where one slip (apparently) knocked down a bunch of other (presumably) careful climbers. Maybe the darwinist response is, don't climb Hood, or don't use the hogsback?

 

I agree, though, the coverage is more likely to increase public acceptance of charging climbers for rescues. Mr. Gauthier's statistics of how much the park service spends on rescues of climbers vs. non-climbers don't mean much; most folks aren't climbers, and are perfectly happy with charging others for costs they don't have to bear.

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Chuck, I am not saying there is obvious proof that the number of deaths in the Cascades is directly related to the number of inexperienced climbersd in the Cascades. I am saying that I have noticed, over the last five years, an increased number of climbers in the easily accessible mountains and by playing the numbers game, that we may be seeing a trend and not just some fluke incident. Last year, there were very few deaths, if any. Two years ago, there were some freak accidents, but many of these accidents could have easily been prevented. Easy to say in hindsight, but think about your personal experiences. Are you seeing higher numbers and observing folks who seem to be a little out of their league or am I alone on this one? Maybe I have just seen odd things more often than others and it is causing me to feel this way? That is why I am asking. I am all for people getting into climbing as long as they are taking the time to learn properly from folks like you instead of going out and trying to do it on their own after seeing some IMAX film or watching Vertical Limit. Thanks for your posts.

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So violent crime is statistically decreasing in North America every year these days... but public perception is that crime is increasing and the public feels less safe...

 

Maybe same thing here? Less stupid climbers per capita, but with more people out there, more overall stupid climbers in absolute numbers, so everyone sees them? I dunno. Im not saying all climbers who have accidents are stupid either. Far from it. But you must separate perception from whats actually happening. ANAM numbers of accidents reported per year, and some estimate of the total number of climbers, might be a good place to start. If your article gets published my cut of your payment for contributing this valuable suggestion is 1.07%

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Erik says:

 

"you see someone making a big mistake call them on it...i expect people to call me on it too....like you said you will probably never see them again....."

 

I agree with erik, but this is always a hard call...when do you say something? What is a "big" mistake? Small mistakes can have big consequences in the mountains. Good point erik, but a hard call. I think we are saying pretty much the same thing.

 

I have shyed away from saying something in all but the most obvious situations. Not saying I am right, I will not be seen as one of those "mounties" that preach the right way. maybe I am selfish.

[big Drink]

 

PS I agree 100% with DRU's postion on the increase in accidents. I seriously think there is something to it.

 

[ 06-07-2002, 11:37 AM: Message edited by: Rodchester ]

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Good Points erik and Rodchester, and yes, in the unlikely event my op gets published I will be sure to take you out for a beer [big Drink] or act as your ropegun for a day. Some things are obvious like pointing out to someone that is trying to put a crampon on backwards or an entire rope team standing on a snowbridge while taking a break (saw that one two years ago), b/c what they are doing is obviously dangerous and I think anyone would feel compelled to yell, hey, you are standing on a snow bridge! But what about smaller things that as you all point out may not seem major but could later have larger consequences?

On a side note, you all have sucked me in and I am not getting shit done for work.

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Erik doesn't drink but he has been looking for someone to get a rope up Libra Crack for him for a while now! I don't know about Rodchester.

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I made thew offer to them all, including Dru, who I may owe 1.07% of the money. You get money for being published? And it could go the other way, that I act as a belay bitch for a day. I probably couldn't act as ropegun for too many people anyways. I had an 11 year old kid in my climbing class flash a hard 5.11 that I had been working on and could not figure out for a week!Made me feel a little silly.

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Libra Crack - that's on Index right? I need to get up there. Does that place get crowded on the weekends? Crowded means something different to everyone. When I say crowded, I refer to Smith Rock or Mt. Hood south side on a beautiful spring weekend kind of crowded.

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I thought that part of being old school was being honest. I do not necessarily associate something being old school with the date it was first rated. I think an old school route could go up tomorrow if given the proper grade and done from the ground up and done as an onsight instead of from the top down and have the moves worked out over a period of time.

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More than climbing ability, climbing is about respect for the mtns & other climbers, fellowship, judgment, and leadership. For example,

if you want to show off to your friends, you'll probably be doing things you shouldn't be doing. Mountaineering is all about mature thinking and educated risk taking.

Now reply to Ryland- a very common problem with many inexperienced climbers is that they want the shortcut "how soon can I be climbing rainier?". And there's no shortage of somewhat experienced climbers willing to take them up while downplaying the danger "it's no big deal, anybody can climb rainier, there's even a trial to the top!".

We were all beginner at one time, I took a year-long climbing course and only go out with people with some type of training. Unfortunately in this "microwave/DSL" culture people just want the shortcut. There's definitly danger in climbing, but from what I know about the most recent three accidents they can all be avoided if they just used their heads!

 

[ 06-07-2002, 02:16 PM: Message edited by: jc_climber ]

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What is this "respect for the mountain"? You are gonna be safer if you siege and bolt your way to the top a la Caesare Maestri than if you respect the mountain and try it alpine style.

 

Frankly I dont think the mountains care what your attitude is. If they did more bumblers would get the chop and more experienced alpinists like Mugs and Alex would still be alive. Go figure.

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It isn't hard to see how someone could think that "it is easy", and "there is a trail to the top". The media hype is also responsible in a way for glamorizing the mountain sports in the last decade or two. Look at the Winter X-Games, with speed ice-climbing!

 

Think of the corn-fed young guy in the midwest who sees out-of-shape executives buying their way to the top of Everest, the blind guy who summits peaks, the paraplegic jumaring El Cap. He thinks to himself, if they can do it, why can't I, and it must be easy if they could drag their way up.

 

I'm not belittling the drive and courage it takes for people with physical limitations to climb mountains, but in a way it gives off a false illusion that these mountains may not be that difficult.

 

It isn't Disney World out there! In the mountains, there is no "stop" button and no safety net. The safety net has to be the climber's sound judgment, and honest assessment of his/her abilities.

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quote:

Originally posted by jc_climber:

Unfortunately in this "microwave/DSL" culture people just want the shortcut.

This has probably been true for ever and ever when public glamorization of something happens, as with climbing. The trouble is, it's easy to be misled into a false sense of security by building up "knowledge" about climbing through reading Freedom of the Hills, reading this board, studying guidebooks, etc. Book-learnin'. I have suffered from this tendency -- I'm the kind of guy who reads everything he can about something before doing it, because I want to be prepared.

 

But studying does not equal being prepared. It's a shortcut, too. Guides, for their seeming purpose of being mentors, are nowhere close, either.

 

The most satisfying, safe experiences I've had while climbing have been with more-experienced, patient, thoughtful partners. Having a mentor is by far the best way to avoid being a gumby and to learn to be safe through experience. But finding a mentor can be hard for someone who does not get into climbing *because* of the mentor (say your Dad took you climbing since you were a kid), but whose interest in climbing is piqued by all the hype, or by living around lots of other climbers.

 

So, not surprisingly, people try to take the shortcut and get cut short.

 

To me, "respecting the mountain" means being humble before the danger and uncertainty of the mountain. It has nothing to do with bolting or not, or alpine- versus siege-style. Those are separate issues.

 

I guess I'm in a philosophical mood after taking a 20-foot fall today and getting my leg caught in the rope, ending up upside down and with some nasty rope burn. I'm going to go take some advil and build a shrine to my Ecrin Roc now...

 

[ 06-07-2002, 06:36 PM: Message edited by: slothrop ]

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quote:

Originally posted by ryland moore:

...But I still think that we will be forced to deal with this situation in the near future if we haven't already had to do so. For example, when I first started climbing eleven years ago, I was with an experienced guy climbing in the Tetons. As we passed by a small group, not wearing helmets, belaying improperly and using a rope that looked more like a static line or those tree climbing ropes you see foresters using, my partner turned to me and said, we better stay away from those yahoos or they may get us into trouble or force us to have to rescue them. Maybe they were old-school or hard-core, but I have heard many climbers say this when they see someone doing something they shouldn't in the mountains. Is it my job to point out their errors? Or do we continue to "stay away" so that we won't have to deal with a rescue or them causing us harm? What if someone had emntioned in passing to the guys on Hood, "Maybe it is not such a good idea to stay roped up above the 'schrund, or do you think you guys might be a little too close to the party above ya? Or to the guy on the snowboard attempting the descent of Cooper - Are you sure you wanna board down a route you didn't climb first? I have always taken the avoidance, out of sight, out of mind approach, but am reconsidering my actions. So what if the guy tells me to fuck off - I don't know what the hell I am talking about. I will probably never see the guy in my life again. But, what if I say it to a less experienced climber and it makes him pause for a moment to think that maybe he/she is over their heads and is reconsidering their actions. It could prevent an injury. Thoughts?

Ryland, your 11 years experience should be telling you those guys in the Tetons were NOT hard core or old school, obviously. When climbing accidents happen, it reflects on all of us who are climbers. Your guide buddy should have said something, as you should be too, without having to mull it over. You called your friend "experienced." How experienced? I would like to believe most of us who have come across gumbies or gumby situations have done the honorable and responsible and have said what needed to be said. As previously mentioned by others on this board, there are ways to tactfully approach other climbers when cluing them in to their misdeeds and potential fuck-ups. Even if they respond negatively--and a lot do--at least you have nothing to regret.

 

Tonight I was getting in some after-work bouldering and saw some high-school age climbers top-roping on static line run through a single non-locking biner connected to a single sling and bolt (many of us have seen worse). The obvious, responsible climber in the group was glad to hear suggestions on what made a safe, bombproof anchor, and we both walked away the better for it, without thinking ill of each other.

 

You shouldn't have to think twice about it: Next time don't think about running away, run TOWARD them and clue them in.

 

--pindude

 

[ 06-08-2002, 12:41 PM: Message edited by: pindude ]

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chuck,

 

i thought you were gonna gun that one for me!!!! and yes beer is bad, thats why i am soo fat and weak now!!!! bad beer baaaaddd!!!! [big Drink][big Drink][big Drink][big Drink]

 

ryland,

 

index is never like smith or s side....though you better be raedy to have your ass handed to you!!! it happens to me everytime!!!!!! [Eek!][Eek!] remember no tape!!! or chaulk!!!!!!

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Old school! It is what keeps us all humble! When I was first starting out I would get pissed that I couldn't climb an old-school 5.6 saying to myself who the hell rated this climb? Fucking sandbagger. Now it is the exact opposite. Maybe if we had stayed with the that type of rating, we might not have to listen to those arguing over whether or not a climb goes at 5.14d A4 M7 or 5.15a A3 M6+ in the latest "Hot Flashes"

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INDEX AINT OLD SKOOL EITHER.....IT IS JUST HONEST.....AND DONT WE ALL WANNA BE KEPT HONEST???

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Maybe it all boils down to demographics. There are more apprentices now than there are experienced mentors, so they're self-learning through cram courses, guides, videos, etc. Instead of undergoing an apprenticeship in which they are gradually introduced to the "sharp end" and instilled with some of the basics of judgement/psycholgy needed to bail themselves out of the inevitable prediciments (adventures) that we get ourselves into up there, they are left to their own limited experience to sort things out. Or not. Dennis

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I am somewhat put-out by all of the accident critique I have been reading lately. In the three recent cases on Hood and Rainier, I can't seem to find ANY evidence of overt inexperience or huge, dumbass mistakes. Sure, the party on Liberty Ridge pushed the weather. What true climber has never pushed the weather?! And yes, someone fell on Mt. Hood. Terrible place to fall, but what climber can honestly claim to NEVER have fallen, to NEVER have caught their crampon on their gaiter, to NEVER have had snow slide from under their foot? Sometimes these things happen in safe territory, or we can react quickly enough. Sometimes they happen in really, really unfortunate situations, and lives are lost. THAT is the risk that we ALL take, everytime we go out. Who the hell am I to judge those who the mountains have claimed? I wasn't there. I just feel a deep, deep pain in my heart that there are some of us who won't get to return next weekend...

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quote:

Originally posted by sterlingclimber:

Define an experienced climber.

Experienced climber's resume:

 

2002: Mt. Si summit (bad Wx, dirt embedded in palm)

2000: Mt. Tabor summit (bad Wx, thwarted attack by transient w/ Olde English 40)

1999: Mt. Si summit (bad Wx, cougar attack)

1999: Pilot Butte summit (the infamous brown spider)

1999: Mt Tabor summit (harassed by urchins on skateboards)

1998: freesolo: the mount hood brewpub wall (chased off by management) [Roll Eyes]

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