Accident Analysis Archive - September, 1997
ANAM Review - Falls on Snow; Inadequate Protection/Anchors
The 1997 issue of "Accidents in North American Mountaineering" is
now out. (This along with the American Alpine Journal and rescue insurance
are included in American
Alpine Club membership. "Accidents" and the Journal are also
both available in stores.)
Two general types of accidents stand out in my mind as prevalent.
Most in either category are preventable.
The first set is the "Falls on Snow" category. Given this years snow
conditions this will surely be a large category in next years issue
as well. Too many people are not practicing self-arrest adequately,
or in some cases not learning it. The key to avoiding these problems
is education and, at least as important, practice. Some of the victims
of these accidents were out with friends who invited them along, and
had no experience or instruction. Some were on easy routes often considered
"hiking" or "scrambling" routes. If you're on snow slopes you need to
know how to self-arrest. And have an axe.
The second set is the "Inadequate Anchors/Protection" category. This
was also prevalent last year, to the extent that the editor inserted
a number of comments about it. Many, perhaps most, people introduced
to rock climbing today are learning in the highly controlled environment
of a gym or a sport-climbing area. While this allows today's new climbers
to progress very rapidly in terms of movement, balance, and general
climbing ability it does not offer much preparation for lead climbing
and/or multi-pitch climbing. Some of the anchor arrangements which are
failing are absurd, and cases of leader protection pulling in a fall
is increasingly common. Again the key is education, practice, and testing.
(In a safe environment, of course.)