Recommended Reading - Accidents in North American Climbing and AAC Journal

2:46 p.m. on August 31, 2016 (EDT)
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As usual every Fall, my annual copies of the American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Climbing arrived from the American Alpine Club. I highly recommend both publications, whether or not you are a climber or mountaineer, especially the Accidents in North American Climbing (formerly Accidents in North American Mountaineering).

Accidents covers accidents in the mountains for North America, ranging from people wandering off maintained trails to serious climbing and mountaineering accidents. An important feature, started 2 or 3 years ago, is a lead-off article on safe practices in the mountains. This issue is about belaying. The AAC, with the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) and IFMGA (the international version of the AMGA) has developed an instructional program on proper belaying techniques called the Universal Belaying Standard. Whether you only climb in a gym or on a technical rock, glacier, or ice climb, you probably have noticed the wide variety (and lack of attention) of belayers.

The accidents are all in mountain locations, though they include "trail" accidents. Virtually all were the result of carelessness. "It will never happen to me" - but the number which resulted from momentary inattention is eye-opening.

The AAJ is a thick tome with descriptions of notable climbs from around the world. It also contains book reviews and an "In Memoriam" section. In reading through the memoriams, I saw the names of people I had climbed and skied with, including some, like Bela Vadasz and Andy Tyson, had been my mentors and instructors, and others like Dean Potter who were friends. There is a great article about Fred Beckey (born 1923 and still climbing!) and the multitude of climbs and first ascents he put up. Many of those climbs are classics that climbers travel long distances to seek out.

7:15 p.m. on August 31, 2016 (EDT)
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A couple quick, separate thoughts...

The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) releases a similar issue for those of us Trailspacers in Canada. Always good to refresh knowledge and a little reminder that accidents, or sometimes, complete lack of common sense, do happen. It is generally in the fall as well, although I haven't received my issue yet.

On the issue of belaying, I actually saw a pair of glasses in MEC (Canadian equivalent of REI) yesterday that had mirrors so you didn't have to look up and "crane" your neck. They looked like those spy glasses everyone had as kids. How lazy are we now that the effort of climbing up a rock face isn't too much, but looking up is!? I've never seen someone actually wearing them, and wouldn't climb with someone who did, because I found them ridiculous. 

Last thing, slightly unrelated,

has everyone else seen that Kyle Dempster has been missing for almost a week now? He was climbing in Pakistan (I believe) and got trapped by a storm. Its believed that he, and his climbing partner are holed up in a snow cave somewhere. I'm a huge fan of his and hope for a quick rescue, apparently the search and rescue costs are adding up to the point that they are out of money.

11:03 a.m. on September 1, 2016 (EDT)
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Jake, slight correction - the AAJ and Accidents in North American Climbing are joint publications of the American Alpine Club and Alpine Club of Canada, and have been for many decades. The major thing that is separate is the hut systems of the AAC and the ACC. The AAC HQ is in Golden, Colorado, while the ACC is in Canmore, Alberta. For a number of years, the editor of the Accidents volume was in Canada (have to look at the new one to see if he still is).

In my excitement to start reading, I overlooked the flyleaf. The AAJ that I was sent is a hardcover version that was signed by Fred Beckey. Not quite sure why I was one of the special folks to get an autographed copy. I looked closely at the signature,  and it is indeed in ink, not printed.

4:34 p.m. on September 1, 2016 (EDT)
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When I started learning to climb, I ran across copies of AiNAM in the university library and found the volumes extremely helpful in staying out of trouble over the following decades.  I came very close to dying the first time someone said "let's go climbing"  and I am very glad these volumes exist.

April 20, 2019
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