Rock climbing – the word itself holds an adventure within. Who doesn’t like an adventure? Of course, we all love it. Rock climbing is a sport full of thrill and excitement, but it’s also a bit dangerous.
In this article, we’ll look at why rock climbing is dangerous, and see ways in which you can avoid such dangers and enjoy rock climbing safely.
We’ll check out some of the equipment used during rock climbing and discuss ways you can increase your understanding of using them carefully. Apart from that, we’ll also talk about the real possibilities of injury (and even fatality) while rock climbing, and the common mistakes most climbers make.
What is Rock Climbing?
Rock climbing is a sport in which the participant climbs up, down, and really all around the face of a rock. It’s fun to rock climb because it tests your agility, strength, and stamina. You need strong muscles and limb control for successful climbs, along with a focused concentration to prevent yourself from making mistakes.
The equipment most climbers use to climb include ropes, helmets, climbing shoes, harnesses, nuts, and more.
How Dangerous are the Different Types of Rock Climbing?
There are generally 5 different types of rock climbing. These include:
- Free soloing
- Free climbing
- Aid climbing
- Deepwater soloing
Free solo climbing is arguably the least complex one among the five different types of rock climbing. You don’t need to use any kind of ropes or other equipment while free solo climbing. You only depend on your skill and willpower.
Yet, while being one of the simplest climbing types, it is also the most dangerous. Falls during free solo climbing result in serious injury or death. Though free solo climbing fills participants with tons of fun and excitement, climbers must be extremely cautious, lest they risk facing serious complications.
Before performing a free solo climb, the climber must have a solid idea of the cliff he or she is about to scale, as there is no safety equipment along with the climber to help out. All the climber has is their skill, focus, and muscle power. There’s no coming back down once you begin to ascend.
Generally, climbers comfortable enough to free solo reach the peak at a higher rate than most other climbers, but the risk of falling is huge nonetheless. Hence, this is the most dangerous type of rock climbing.
Free climbing is similar to free soloing. The only difference is in regard to the equipment being carried along. While a free solo climber does not carry any kind of equipment, nor implement any measures to protect themselves in case of a fall, a free climber does carry safety equipment. For example, ropes and axes may be carried along.
The climbing process is the same here as in free soloing, where a free climber generally climbs without the use of any assistance or support. Safety equipment is only used when absolutely necessary. While still a bit dangerous, the safety equipment drastically reduces a climber’s chances of falling.
Aid climbing is a different type of rock climbing than both types of climbing mentioned above. This type of climbing utilizes a full range of equipment, such as daisy chains and aiders, to be carried along during the entire climb.
Daisy chains are used on two different sides, such as the left and the right, which makes climbing easier by providing leg space to the climber. Also, small hooks are used during aid climbing which prevents any falls and provides immediate safety to the climber. The main kind of equipment used for aid climbing is an aider.
Aid climbing is one of the oldest types of climbing which is also known as technical climbing. The risk of falling during such a climb is quite rare, as the climber is fully protected with all kinds of equipment.
Bouldering is a type of climbing that is usually performed on smaller rocks (boulders) without the use of ropes or harnesses. This kind of climbing is pretty much free soloing rocks no higher than 20 feet. But obviously the level of danger is not so high due to the low height of the rocks being climbed.
Many boulders climb on artificial rocks indoors built for this specific type of climbing. It’s considered one of the most social forms of climbing as well as the easiest (least stressful on the mind). Climbing boulders is the best way to practice for aid climbing.
Deep Water Soloing
Deepwater soloing, also known as psicobloc, is a type of climbing where the climber climbs with the safety of water below him or her. This water should be deep enough to prevent injuries in case of a fall. It is pretty much free soloing with a giant “safety net,” as there is no equipment being used.
The 5 Reasons Why Rock Climbing is Dangerous
Now comes some more specifics on why rock climbing is dangerous. Rock climbing is fun for sure, but it becomes dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. Equipment must always be tested and checked before climbing. Climbers should also be well-versed in the techniques necessary for making a successful climb.
Even with such precautions and knowledge of the sport, rock climbing can still be a dangerous affair. That’s why some climbers with even the best experience and skill can still end up making mistakes and getting seriously hurt while climbing.
Here we’ll see the different ways and general mistakes that can lead to the misfortunes of a climber who makes them, and discuss how to prevent these mistakes from occurring. Here are the 5 most common rock climbing issues that may lead to an accident:
1) Leader Falls
Lead climbing is an honor for the leader. But it is also full of responsibilities as the lead climber is the first to encounter each issue with the team behind. He or she must be prepared to face all trouble first.
The injuries caused during a leader fall are often worse such as neck breaks and damage to internal organs. Hence, a lead climber must know their limits and capabilities while climbing, especially while leading a team of climbers.
2) Loose Rocks and Rock Falls
Loose rocks are present on many cliff sides and corners of rocks. Climbers must be aware of the gullies where he or she is about to place a leg, as a loose rock may lead to them losing balance and possibly falling. A lead climber must proactively take care of any loose rocks. If they do not, this may lead to the fall of other climbers.
This is the most common cause of falls we see in rock climbing. So climbers should take special care around corners and gullies to prevent this from happening.
3) Climbing Un-roped
Climbing un-roped is, of course, a major adrenaline rush, but also dangerous too. Once you climb a rock higher than 30 feet, this is considered the start of the death zone for falls. This is free solo climbing, and hence, is the most dangerous of all.
Climbers who are not extremely experienced and still want to free solo are strongly encouraged to participate in deepwater soloing instead.
Rappelling is one of the most dangerous rock climbing techniques, as it causes many accidents every year.
This is done by utilizing ropes and anchors to make one’s way down a rock. The climber should always check the anchors before rappelling, especially into unknown valleys. The failure of an anchor due to lack of previous safety checks may lead to an accident causing a climber to fall.
5) Weather and Hypothermia
The last but most important factor to be kept in mind while rock climbing is the temperature and weather during the climb. Weather changes such as lightning or heavy rainfall may cause a wide variety of issues for the climber.
Climbers must always check the weather before beginning an ascent, as sudden rainfall may lead to a slippery cliff that makes it so much more difficult and dangerous to climb.
Also, one must be wary of contracting hypothermia during a rainfall. Wet clothes lower the body temperature quite a bit, which can cause a climber to feel ill, also leading to a fall.
So finally you’re aware of why rock climbing is dangerous. But these are dangers every rock climber must face and are easily avoided more than 99% of the time with some proper care. Plus, we’ve given you the tips to prevent common these mistakes that cause climbers to fall.
Rock climbing only becomes dangerous if the climber is eager, negligent, and does not take the proper safety precautions. Rock climbing is truly great fun and a wonderfully adventurous experience. Everyone must try it at least once in their lifetime.