Climbing Deaths --- Do most occur on descending, rather than ascending ?

9:18 p.m. on July 12, 2011 (EDT)
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OK ... OK ... OK ....

Spare me the grief.   I know -- another "climbing death" thread.

Was wondering (?)  .... ( curious minds want to know ). ....

Somewhere ... I recall running across several articles in media / climbing magazines / "other" ( heresay? ... lively debate? ... ) ... wherein it was speculated that the larger percentage of climbing deaths occur during the descent phase.

True ?   False ?

Your views will be noted, and appreciated.

___________________________________________________________

                                         `~r2~`

1:17 p.m. on July 13, 2011 (EDT)
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usually after descending,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,rapidly

2:32 p.m. on July 13, 2011 (EDT)
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usually after descending,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,rapidly

 LOL!

I have also heard that we fall most often on the downclimb because we shoot our wad on the way up and save nothing for the downclimb.  I hear this everywhere (books, online, salty old bastards) and it makes sense.

3:19 p.m. on July 13, 2011 (EDT)
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It is true.Not only is a person tired from the climb but the humane body is designed much better for going up rather than down,on the steeps.Dont forget that many accidents also happen on the ascent.Climbing,in general, is a risky hobby but with many payoffs.Well worth the risk in my book.ymmv

7:52 p.m. on July 13, 2011 (EDT)
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Up Vs Down:

  • Having already gone up, going down starts after fatiguing your muscles on all that effort going up, compromising your ability to move in a controlled manner.
  • Descent is done after a full morning of exertion, and the body may be dehydrated as well as suffering from the effects of being at altitude.  Prolonged exertion also will exhaust your stores of muscle glycogen, causing you to bonk and experience acute fatigue.
  • Descent is often done after running overschedule on the ascending, hence is rushed, contributing to the chance of error.
  • Falling up hill on ascent results in your face fall several feet until contacting the slope, provided you fall forward.  Falling forward on descent (assuming you face downhill) you face will not contact the slope until it falls past your feet, hence a longer, more violent fall.
  • When you fall uphill the momentum carrying you down is is minimal when you first contact the slope, thus regaining control is not so difficult; whereas falling down hill you hit the slope already accelerating, making arresting the fall more difficult from the onset.
  • Trekkers often descend via a different, typically steeper, route than used to ascend.
  • Down-climbing is more difficult because you often cannot spot footholds.
  • Descending places more force on foot holds, increasing the likelihood they will give way when fully weighted.
  • On technical routes less protection is generally used descending, and what protection is utilized usually sees more force applied than protection used during the ascent.
  • Rappeling is inherently more prone to accidents than ascending.
  • Climbers minds are often distracted on descent with visions of smooth whiskey and chocolate awaiting them back at camp.

    Ed

 

 

 

 

8:57 p.m. on July 13, 2011 (EDT)
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What Ed & John said.

7:01 a.m. on July 14, 2011 (EDT)
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I'm gonna read these responses to "Smoke" -- my cat (in my avatar photo).  

Dunno (?) how many times I've had to haul-out the 24-ft ladder to fetch him off the roof, or out of a big tree in the yard he seems to enjoy climbing.

I've thought about leaving him up, and letting him figure his own way down ... but there are three bald-eagles that often perch in that big tree ... and, they would relish seeing him stranded up there.

~r2~

6:47 p.m. on July 15, 2011 (EDT)
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I was gonna say leave him to let him figure it out and learn his lesson. That is until you  mentioned the raptors. I had a friend who's cat got nabbed by a red tail, and baldies are a wee bit larger.

9:23 p.m. on July 15, 2011 (EDT)
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Balds EAT red-tailed hawks for lunch.

My wife (now former-'yf') saw one snatch-up a young red fox.   Also, many fish (where she lives).

                                                  ~r2~

11:11 a.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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http://vimeo.com/16439652

Whittaker says it all

3:30 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Ed, Smoke held your answer all along. Cats, and humans alike, are built to go forward - up if you will. Descending a steep slope is much more difficult than the reverse. Squirrels are much more proficient at descending because they have the ability to reverse their rear feet in order to grip the bark of a tree while coming down head first. Us, not so much.

Another question that comes to mind is:  Is it more dangerous to fly or ride the bus? The answer? Flying, buses can't fall UP!

4:12 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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gonzan said:

I was gonna say leave him to let him figure it out and learn his lesson. That is until you  mentioned the raptors. I had a friend who's cat got nabbed by a red tail, and baldies are a wee bit larger.

 Off topic, but I have to interject as birds of prey (BOP) is something I know a lot about.

Commonly, a raptor can "nab" a prey item approximately 1/3 to a maximum of 1/2 it's own body weight.  According to "The Sibley Field Guide To North American Birds" the average weight of a Red Tail is 2.4 pounds, so I have to ask, how small was you friends cat?

Additionally, cats, as we know them, are far more fierce predators than birds, with WAY more weaponry. Claws on all fours, and TEETH. Most BOP, unless in the final stages of starvation and desperate as hell, would never even consider such an animal as a cat as a meal.

Now, a Bald Eagle averages around 10 pounds - that would make a 5 pound cat an a la carte option!

5:17 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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A-Ha !

OK, Klock ... you're just the guy that might finally answer a somewhat rhetorical question, regarding Balds.

We have 'big 'uns' here near the Chesapeake.   Quite a few, also.

Was chatting with one of our DNR (Dept Nat'l Resources ... "police") guys ....

Seems as though he had a fisherman turn in to him, a long-dead Bald he found along one of the inland waterways.

The Bald had what was left (mostly just a skeleton) of a fairly large fish (probably "rockfish", what you know as striped-bass) still clutched in the Bald's talons.

His 'theory' was that when a raptor grasps prey like a fish, it is a "death grip", and the bird can't release easily.   Therefore, he thinks the Bald dove down and snatched the rockfish out of the water ... and, the rock was too big and heavy ... preventing the bird from achieving altitude, and ultimately falling back into the water with the fish still clutched in the talons ... subsequently drowning.

Possible?

                                                      ~r2~

8:33 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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f_klock said:

..Another question that comes to mind is:  Is it more dangerous to fly or ride the bus? The answer? Flying, buses can't fall UP!

 I'll ride the bus any day - I have yet to see a bus capable of flying! ;)

Ed

9:56 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Ed looking at what you posted made me look back at an incident I was all to familure with and I believe you and From SAgeto Snow hit it on the nose. I am sure both of you are quit aware of 2006 Mt Hood Incident. Since thats your part of the country and you both have that experiance in the area. Describes closely to what Ed said. Anything can happen comeing down.

12:00 a.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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f_klock said:

Commonly, a raptor can "nab" a prey item approximately 1/3 to a maximum of 1/2 it's own body weight.  According to "The Sibley Field Guide To North American Birds" the average weight of a Red Tail is 2.4 pounds, so I have to ask, how small was you friends cat?

 It was leeeetle, a runt of the litter less than a six months old- not a tiny kitten anymore, but definitely not full grown. I didn't see it happen though, just what they told me. Maybe it was actually a Chupacabra ;)

11:47 a.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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I think the biggest factors that come into play during descent accidents include:

 

1. Mental fatigue - it is harder to concentrate when you are tired, let alone when the objective is complete and you are looking forward to R&R

 

2. Physical fatigue - as muscles fatigue it is harder to control them, making you more clumsy and more likely to make a mistake. Just try holding your arm over your head for 20 minutes, and then after, at face level, try doing a task that requires fine motor skills...

 

3. Higher skill level - descent is harder then going up when climbing on technical terrain.

1:19 p.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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As one poster mentioned, descents are usually made after a climber has spent the bulk of his energy on the ascent. As well, they are often made late in the day, sometimes in darkness and in a hurry. So too, especially if the ascent was not successful, the descent can occur in deteriorating weather. Lastly, if the descent involves rappeling , roping down, abseiling, or whatever else it is called, there is the fundamental loss of redundancy in the system. The AAJ is a good source of statistics and stories.

4:01 p.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Erich said:

As one poster mentioned, descents are.. ..sometimes in darkness

Actually most ambitious mountaineering traveling is started in darkness, in order to avoid the hazards associated with heat softened snow late in the day. Thus most descents are done in daylight.  Granted, darkness certainly complicates any descent done in such conditions.

Ed

9:45 a.m. on July 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Robert Rowe said:

A-Ha !

OK, Klock ... you're just the guy that might finally answer a somewhat rhetorical question, regarding Balds.

We have 'big 'uns' here near the Chesapeake.   Quite a few, also.

Was chatting with one of our DNR (Dept Nat'l Resources ... "police") guys ....

Seems as though he had a fisherman turn in to him, a long-dead Bald he found along one of the inland waterways.

The Bald had what was left (mostly just a skeleton) of a fairly large fish (probably "rockfish", what you know as striped-bass) still clutched in the Bald's talons.

His 'theory' was that when a raptor grasps prey like a fish, it is a "death grip", and the bird can't release easily.   Therefore, he thinks the Bald dove down and snatched the rockfish out of the water ... and, the rock was too big and heavy ... preventing the bird from achieving altitude, and ultimately falling back into the water with the fish still clutched in the talons ... subsequently drowning.

Possible?

                                                      ~r2~

 Absolutely possible!  Eagles, unlike Osprey are MUCH less capable of taking off from the water once they are submerged. Osprey can dive many feet below the surface to catch fish in specialized reversed talons, then return to the surface, and air.  Eagles depend on fish being close to the surface of the water so they never really "dunk" themselves.  Some eagles can, if not soaked to the skin, get back up, but usually they just try to "row" themselves back to shore using their wings. If they are to intent on retrieving large prey, or are too far from shore, it is common for eagles to drown.  That's prob. why many eagles just wait for Osprey to catch a fish, then steal it from them!

Also: In birds, death with clenched feet/talons is common as well. the ratchet-like locking mechanism is an involuntary action. Songbirds are often found hanging dead, upside down, from wires of branches. 

If I were a Mythbuster, I would definitely stamp this as "Plausible." - as a wildlife rehabilitator - "CONFIRMED!"

Now, let us get back to the original topic: Climbing Deaths --- Do most occur on descending, rather than ascending ?

12:39 p.m. on July 30, 2011 (EDT)
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As a further aside, while paddling in Wells Gray Park last week, I watched as a mature bald harassed two osprey, one of which had a fish. The osprey with the fish finally dropped it and the bald eagle dove in to retrieve it. The eagle still had it when it finally became airborne ten minutes later and 50 yards closer to shore. During that time, the ospreys were harassing the bald eagle. Strangely, the eagle did make decent headway, though not entirely with its wings, when swimming. 

Ed is correct that many long alpine climbs are begun in darkness to avoid soft snow, or the more usual case of loose rock from thawing ice. However, more than we like to know are completed in darkness or near darkness, especially those with injuries, as evidenced by perusing the archives of the AAJ.

8:04 p.m. on August 1, 2011 (EDT)
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my highly unscientific conclusion from this weekend's sprained ankle is that it's more dangerous to descend, and that i would have been better off wearing real boots instead of trail runners.  looks worse than it feels.


IMG-20110801-00009.jpg

2:38 a.m. on August 2, 2011 (EDT)
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 * ouchy *

                                             ~r2~                    

9:32 a.m. on August 2, 2011 (EDT)
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Another death while descending, yesterday.

A 26-yr old female 'hiker' ( not necessarily, a 'climber' ) fell 600 feet to her death, while descending Yosemite's "Half Dome";  a 'cabled' descent.

Rain, slippery surfaces, probably improper soled-boots/shoes likely contributed to her fall. 

I'm wondering if she had gloves (?) ... and, the proper kind, at that.   Even I am not certain what type of glove works best on a wet metal cable.

                                                  ~r2~

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