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genepires

"stop telling ourselves lies about the risk"

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I related to and appreciated very much Will's thoughts on the self deception trap, but more to the self analysis part and really taking a look at why it is that he feels the need to continue activities like climbing and paragliding etc... His "list" is mind boggling. I have thought a lot about the question of why I climb over the years. When I started climbing seriously in the late '70's I had a young family. I climbed with others but also solo'd a lot. The risks were hard to justify but I really felt it was something I had to do then. When I started out I couldn't articulate why, but after a few years of it, I knew very well why.

 

In my late 50's now and my reasons for continuing in mountaineering have evolved back to more of a feeling, than something I can articulate. I am no longer compelled to do it. I'm just not ready to walk away yet from something I really love doing. But I think a lot about when the right time to walk away will be.

 

I'm thankful that I think about why I do what I do, and consider the wisdom of continuing. I think the point, Will's point, is that we should just be honest with ourselves, is an important one.

 

d

Edited by dougd

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I think the point, Will's point, is that we should just be honest with ourselves.

 

If it's not, it should be.

 

I think this is one of those topics that's very good to think about, pointless to debate with others about. We'll all have our own perspective on risk assessment, and most of us probably won't wholeheartedly agree with the next guy. But, as Doug said, the point is to accept that climbing IS a dangerous activity, and I'd add that constantly being critical of our own decision-making process is necessary for relative safety in the 'tains. Otherwise, it's complacency, and THAT's dangerous.

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I think the point, Will's point, is that we should just be honest with ourselves.

 

If it's not, it should be.

 

I think this is one of those topics that's very good to think about, pointless to debate with others about. We'll all have our own perspective on risk assessment, and most of us probably won't wholeheartedly agree with the next guy. But, as Doug said, the point is to accept that climbing IS a dangerous activity, and I'd add that constantly being critical of our own decision-making process is necessary for relative safety in the 'tains. Otherwise, it's complacency, and THAT's dangerous.

:tup:

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I've also found that the risk is what draws me in. The challenge of over coming the real fear the real risk(s) give me is very enticing. It allows one to "find and go being perceived personal limits", as well as a humbling reminder of how quickly things can change in an instant. I see it as the Yin & Yang of life kind of thing... You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run bail...

 

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Dave, we should remind each other not to climb shit when its wet. AND CHOSSY

I'd have to move to another state.

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Having taken an awful lot of statistics classes I always called bullshit when folks say "The drive to the crag is the most dangerous part of climbing." The risk in mountain sports is real.

Risk, statistics, chance, and probability are all tricky things. As they say "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics!" :noway: .

 

Here's a relevant scene from Dumb and Dumber:

[video:youtube]qULSszbA-Ek

 

Here's another popular joke about chance.

 

Q: You're going to fly. How would you decrease the chance that there's a bomb in the plane?

 

A: You carry a bomb yourselves! Because the chance of two bombs in a same plane is much much smaller than the chance of one bomb! :lmao:

 

 

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I think that stat depends on the individual climbers. Some people climb on the edge. In that case, they are much more apt to kill themselves in the mountains. On the other hand, climbing has a great deal of objective danger than cannot really be mitigated on certain climbs. In that sense it is similar to getting killed in a car accident.

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Argue what you want about the real risk, compared risk and value of reward but the point is that everyone should not delude themselves as the risk that we take. I used to delude myself but a long time ago, my friend (thanks D) made some logical comments about the risk we take and it has stuck with me since. Just be honest with yourself and if you are strong enough, be honest with your loved ones.

 

ANother note. It is interesting to note that there is common perception that the people who are doing the "extreme" stuff are at more risk. While I don't have hard numbers, my perception from being around the game, reading accident accounts and so forth is that the "hardcore" ones are actually safer and it is the "average" guy who bites it. (the extreme ones make the headlines and gossip but this is trivial in number to the total) I don't think this is just a larger sample size but actual chance of accident. FWIW.

 

stay safe. think.

come home.

have fun.

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It's probably a 'U' curve with experience level on the x axis and death rate on the Y: beginners bite it in greater numbers due to inexperience, experts bite it greater numbers due to greater risks taken more often.

 

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"The drive to the crag is the most dangerous part of climbing."
This is wrong. Its the drive home that is the most dangerous part. Hot, sweaty day of climbing, a few post climb beers....

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"The drive to the crag is the most dangerous part of climbing."
This is wrong. Its the drive home that is the most dangerous part. Hot, sweaty day of climbing, a few post climb beers....
:tup:

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Good post by Will Gadd.

 

I have a list. It contains 26 names. These are all people I've known who died in recreational accidents. None of them died in a car crash. My criteria for including somebody on my list was that I had met them in person.

 

Following the death of one of my friends while paragliding, I wrote the following essay about the classic grief process and how it applies to our unwillingness to acknowledge the risks we take:

 

http://alpenglow.org/paragliding/writing/grief.html

 

Those who think that this is an absurd topic are probably in the denial phase.

 

Coming to terms with this topic requires balancing the likelihood of an accident, the reward you get from risky activities, the rewards you get from other parts of your life, and what you stand to lose. Many people find that dialing back the risk is a good balance, especially as your life becomes more full of other rewards, like family. And having lost friends, they begin to understand what it would mean to their own friends and family if they were lost.

 

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Risk perception is a funny deal when you really get down to it and it's not something humans are necessarily always good at just because we are captive to an relatively odd mixed bag of our instincts, physical perceptions, novelty, habits, confidence, aversions, fears, experience, and rote behaviors.

 

We have the strange ability to prioritize risks that result in making the physical realities and potential consequences of traveling down a highway at 75mph disappear into an unconscious background while focusing not on the road, but rather on finding just the right tune for the moment or checking our email. We seek out novelty and stimulation while simultaneously attempting to avoid risk and establish stability. We are walking conflicts fully capable of working against our best interests with nary a worry or clue (DAW - Darwin At Work).

 

Against that backdrop it's easy to see how some of us, in the course of mastering novelty, end up reducing certain aspects of experience to an un- or little-considered background hum when in reality they represent high risks states that should instead be constantly monitored. It's under those conditions that cavalier attitudes, over-confidence, denial, and willful obfuscation of the obvious can set in putting us at risk. And, hell, that's without even factoring in hubris, addiction, compulsion and obsession.

 

Our ability to drive experience from novelty to normalcy is definitely a double-edged sword when it comes to mastery in highly-technical, performance-based, life-and-death activities. It is a well-study phenom in some occupations such as commercial aviation where, despite a driving 'sameness' which develops over years, pilots must learn what aspects of their experience have to stay on a constantly vigilant front burner of their awareness.

 

In short, it's easy to let the realities and potential consequences of the easy free solo or quick dash up Hood get lost in any number of ways without even getting to lying to ourselves. I think we get into an active lying stage when our choices more obviously conflict with self-image and / or external responsibilities, e.g. "I've still got it! (you don't, but want to find out one way or the other anyway)" or you do have it, but have infants in cribs waiting at home.

 

I come from a family of test and commercial pilots with a father who started in biplanes and retired from 747s. All this business is why he used to say if a person actually needs to get to a destination, then they shouldn't be the one flying the plane - it twists priorities, clouds judgment, and leads the person into series of 'small denials' that can have catastrophic results.

 

It's certainly not a black and white issue by any means nor one that a single individual can execute perfectly on even if they want to (that's why the plane has two pilots). And the "old and bold" colloquialisms aside, it's a worthy topic and a challenging aspect of climbing if you intended to do it decade after decade. I know I've had to survive myself again and again over the years - but I will say, rock is a pretty unforgiving mirror that tends to dispel delusion and self-grandeur pretty quickly in all but the most hardcore. I pretty much know whether I've 'got it' or not just walking up to the rock or at the first touch at the latest. I think it's probably a bigger issue in alpine, where you're gambling with objective hazards and you are definitely trying to "get somewhere" in spite of them.

 

 

 

207137_31148_L.jpg

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(DAW - Darwin At Work).

 

I come from a family of test and commercial pilots with a father who started in biplanes and retired from 747s. All this business is why he used to say if a person actually needs to get to a destination, then they shouldn't be the one flying the plane - it twists priorities, clouds judgment, and leads the person into series of 'small denials' that can have catastrophic results.

 

I think it's probably a bigger issue in alpine, where you're gambling with objective hazards and you are definitely trying to "get somewhere" in spite of them.

 

207137_31148_L.jpg

 

Nice writing Joe.

the above could be used as a justification for hiring a guide to be ones "pilot"

 

I really like the sign image too. Would be cool to have that on a sticker, or a t shirt or just posted at the TH to climbing areas.

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This is something that Will Gadd wrote for Explorer magazine a couple months back. Thought you all might find it helpful and informative. Can be found at his facebook page and at

http://explore-mag.com/2831/adventure/the-grand-delusion

 

And I am increasingly certain that if anyone spends enough time in the mountains, he or she will die there.

Ok that's what I thought. Just checkin'.

Camper, backpacker, gym climber, crag climber, and then there was always that next logical step that I can't, after having learned "the ropes" 10 yrs ago, seem to get myself out there and actually do it.

 

I always thought it was cuz I lacked the knowlege: avy rescue, glacier travel, etc that all seem like pre-req's for what you guys do. I don't have any of that. But evidently, it doesn't really change that much; it probably wouldn't mitigate objective risks enough for me to get "up there". It would probably be like everything else I learn about the game. It just makes me more scared.

 

Damn is it only real risk that yields the real payoff? Can't perceived risk yield real payoff? WHy can't we be happy gettin' our rocks off gardening or something?

 

The first time I backpaced solo I slipped crossing a sream and banged up my knee pretty good. It was my first day. I was only 2 miles in, 3-4 miles from help in the relatively benign Northern PA backcountry. I'd been backpacking forever. I'd taken my WFA course and grew up the son of a Forest Ranger in the finger lakes of upstate NY. I'd learned how to camp and "survive" from the best of 'em. And I was suddenly absolutely, for a quick second, scared out of my freaking mind. I could die out there from a mild case of pizza knee. "So THIS is what they were talking about during my solo class!", I said to myself.

 

Like the time I first dropped acid at a Dead show and suddenly noticed Jerry's guitar waifing around my brain and swirling around JFK, I thought to myself, "No wonder! I get it! I get It!"

 

I've been wanting to get my ass out there and tie into the sharp end for some moderate alpine rock and ice FOREVER. But the looming fear and intimidation I feel when I get out there is huge. Not to mention I've got no business leading anything at all... is what I often feel.

 

I've led 2 short pitches of WI4- over the last few years. The elation felt when clipping the anchors was shrouded by incessant guilt over the fact I, both times, ran it out well above groundfall territory and I put my totally inexperienced belayers, on both occasions, in potentially a really bad spot. I couldn't decide if I should feel proud or terribly petty and selfish.

 

And whether it be geology or weather or just reading stuff, the more I know and do the more I'm scared. Like me bumping my knee, bad stuff most often seems to happen from slips & falls. Ya read about folks dying in the mtns. Their partners are asked, "... what part of the climb were you on?", and dude says, "He wasn't climbing, he was just walking. It was the freakiest thing. He just slipped. Next thing I knew he was cartwheeling down the fall line".

 

I think a lot of you guys who start early, grow up in the steeps and know how to tie a figure-8 before you know how to ride a bike definitely have a maligned ability to distinguish between what risk is perceived and what is real. I think when you grow up back east, are a late bloomer and mature and spend months healing from an injury at some time, and then you start out, it's a lot different. Ignorance is bliss I guess. That or some of you folks just have an insane 'optimum level of arousal'. Gardening just ain't gonna cut it. But is it actually the real risk that is required?

 

I'm still trying to figure it out.

 

I always thought I was just lazy or a whimp; not that I'm not both, but as much validation I feel when I read stuff like the Gadd article, it's also a bit disheartening. I don't know if I'll ever apply my skill set to the peaks, but when I fantasize about it from my couch, it will have lost something.

 

So I was right. You guys are a bunch of crazy sob's. Or maybe I'm just overconcerned with my own longevity.

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Part of the problem is the commercial message of "if you have the right gear, you can go anywhere", that we seem to be constantly bombarded with, every where we look.

 

A good example is another article on that same website (http://explore-mag.com), talking about essential gear for surviving an avalanche. Yeah, it's great that you've got a brand new $400 transceiver with instant Twitter feeds. But how about THE most important avalanche safety element - simply staying away from the dangerous slope in the first place? Glossy magazines and websites aren't going to give you this advice - they want to sell the probe/shovel/beacon/avalung/dog booties/whatever.

 

Cool gear & the latest technology will not make up for common sense and experience.

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This metastudy may or may not have any bearing on reality:

 

Risk of dying by sport

 

Bottom line (according to the above):

 

You're gonna die of a heart attack...unless you're a base jumper.

 

Plus

 

Stop swimming and running...that shit'll kill ya.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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What's more dangerous, skiing or climbing?

That depends on whether you have the new ABS Sky Tour pack. It can automatically be programmed to lift you out of the danger zone and deposit you in the nearest hot tub.

avepack2.jpg

avepack.jpg

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This is one of the better threads in a while. Some great writing about this dangerous sport we love...to death in some cases.

 

About 4 years ago I was at the base of Sunnyside Jam crack, 5.9 in Yosemite with my wife. We had just rapped down and I saw a guy walk up to do the climb who looked familiar. Then I noticed the hair, and the blue jeans and realized it was one of my heroes: Ron Kauk. I asked him if his last name was Kauk, he said yes, and we began to talk.

 

I'd read that his son was climbing too, so I told him I also had a son, and wondered how he dealt with the stress of sending a son up a cliff.

 

I'm paraphrasing, but this is what I said: you spend their whole life holding their hand at cross walks, keeping them safe from danger. Then they grow up and want to take up the family sport...and decide they are ready to lead something that is under protected...with a ledge fall potential.

 

Ron pondered this for a while, and replied that while climbing is dangerous, at least our sons were headed toward something potentially positive, and healthy, as opposed to drugs, or many other directions teenagers can go.

 

I've gotten to the acceptance stage. I accept that climbing may kill, or gravely injure me...but the benefits out weigh the risks. I do what I can to make it as safe as possible using all the usual common sense tricks...and then I just climb. Don't overthink it, go climbing, nobody gets out alive anyway.

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Here's another fun fact:

 

The chance of surviving a fall of 12 feet or more is 50%.

 

The chance of surviving an avalanche that completely buries the victim is 50% if a beacon is worn, and less than 10% if you don't. Extreme trauma, hypothermia, and asphyxiation, and some level of exhaustion are a tough combination.

 

I'd say the hazards of climbing roughly equal those of skiing. Rockfall/icefall versus avalanche/treewells

 

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