American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Need for a National Mountaineering Safety Program, Report of the Safety Committee of the American Alpine Club, Introduction

  • Editorials And Prefaces
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1948


Report of the Safety Committee of the American Alpine Club


THE startling increase in the number of mountaineering accidents which occurred during the summer of 1947 suggests that the American Alpine Club, as a national mountaineering organization, should initiate a national safety campaign. We believe that the Club can help to promote a better understanding of mountain risks and of the means by which they may be minimized.

Most of the regional mountaineering clubs have undertaken programs of instruction in rock climbing and general mountaineering. These have been effective both in presenting techniques and in inspiring a safe and sound attitude toward the mountains. But these efforts generally have been unrelated, and often they have confined themselves to the special problems of particular areas. They inevitably leave untouched a large number of present and would-be mountaineers. Because there is not always sufficient and consistent stress on the need for safety and on all-round mountaineering training, the support and leadership of the American Alpine Club is needed to strengthen and co-ordinate efforts to further sound mountaineering.

To this end, the Directors on 4 October 1947 voted to form a committee to be called the Safety Committee of the American Alpine Club. Its purpose is to investigate climbing accidents and to formulate a program of prevention for the future. It has been the initial concern of this Committee to gather as many data as possible regarding last summer’s unprecedented number of accidents, with no intent to criticize persons involved, but rather to learn why these accidents occurred and to emphasize the lessons to be learned from them. The fact that mountaineering accidents led to eleven deaths in the five-month period from June through October 1947 is evidence enough that something must be done. Four near-fatal accidents could easily have brought the number to 15—many fewer than the 60-odd deaths reported from the Alps in 1947, but representing a percentage considerably higher than in Europe because the number of climbers on this side of the Atlantic is smaller. Certainly this is sufficient to constitute a harsh warning.

The aim of this report has been to stress only those accidents which were fatal or so nearly fatal as to be worthy of special note. The Committee feels that emphasis on the causes of these accidents will call attention to the full significance of all accidents. If the effort put forth now can save but one life or limb, that effort will, most assuredly, have been well spent.

The Committee here offers reviews of known accidents in 1947, a short analysis of each, general comments, and a survey of lessons learned with pertinent recommendations. A suggested program of action is then set forth.

William P. House, Chairman

M. Beckett Howorth

Maynard M. Miller

David A. Robertson, Jr.

The American Alpine Club

113 East 90th Street

New York 28, New York

1 May 1948

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