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Table II Accident Rate and Mortality Rate for Mountaineers in United States and Alaska

Table II

Accident Rate and Mortality Rate for Mountaineers in United States and Alaska

AgeGroup

Av. reported man mountain days/yr.

Av. No. reported mountaineerint accidents/yr.

Accident rate per 1000 1 reported man mountain days

Av. No.

recorded deaths due to mountaineering per year

Mortality rate/1000 reported man mountain days



yrs.

1953-1954

1947-1955



1947-1955





under



15

262

0.38

1.45

0.12

0.46



15-20

4030

8.38

2.08

5.75

1.42



21-25

4800

6.00

1.25

2.00

0.42



26-30

3250

1.38

0.42

1.12

0.34



31-35

2140

1.00

0.47

0.38

0.18



over



35

4240

1.25

0.30

0.38

0.09



crude



rates

18722

18.39

0.98

9.75

0.52



The Safety Committee of the Seattle Mountaineers has tried to obtain similar figures from its members by means of a questionnaire sent to a number of its members selected at random. From the data they could calculate a crude accident rate. This value is 2.04 accidents per 1000 man mountain days; this is for ascent and descent on both rock and snow. Again this figure is of the same general order of magnitude as the crude rate reported here. Further studies in this direction should permit us to obtain a more valid estimate of the risk of climbing.

Another investigation carried out by William Putnam of this committee involved an evaluation of the classification of climbing routes. From the questionnaires returned by the various organizations it became apparent that classification of routes per se was of only limited value; of much more importance was the need to instill in the climbers during their training an ability to recognize their own limitation and capabilities. Routes can change greatly depending upon the weather; wet, icy rock is very different from warm, dry rock. In addition one’s ability may vary from day to day and a recognition of this is essential.

At the annual meeting in Philadelphia the suggestion was made that standards be established for equipment. This matter is being investigated by the committee. In respect to equipment we would like to emphasize that the equipment is only as good as the knowledge of the person using it. Excellent equipment improperly used has little value.

Certain items readily lend themselves to standardization. Others are much more difficult to standardize and personal idiosyncrasy will play an important part in their selection. For those items such as pitons, carabiners, rope, ice axes and other items used for safeguarding a climber, Gerry Cunningham has proposed the following:

Selection of samples — honest random selection from regular stock actually offered for sale.

Number of samples—minimum of five per item—as many as possible is desirable but when the whole bill for testing at a commercial laboratory has to be paid by the dealer or manufacturer there is definitely a limit.

Method of testing—since a manufacturer or dealer has no control over the conditions under which his hardware will be used, no attempt should be made to include the holding power of pitons in rock cracks, etc., in this code. Such information is extremely interesting and valuable, but only when presented in detail in a paper treating the subject at some length. A manufacturer can only vouch for the inherent strength of the item itself, so tests should be made until failure of some part of the item which is likely to fail in service. To attain this, the loads should be so applied as to simulate actual use, i.e., in testing pitons, the load should be approximately at right angles to the blade and the eye should be in the correct position and supported as it would be in actual use. Impact testing would generally show a greater strength, so slow load would be conservative and is more generally available.

Statement of data—the number of samples tested and the highest and lowest failure strengths should be given. In this way, since even one weak sample would be dangerous, this fact would be obvious. In a simple average, it could be covered up by increasing the number of samples tested. A small variation between high and low strengths would denote consistent manufacturing methods and, if of sufficient strength, reliability. A large variation could be considered safe only if the lowest figure was well above the required safe strength. When space permits, a statement describing the testing methods would be helpful, or if a uniform code is adopted, a simple statement that the tests were made according to the A.A.C. code for testing hardware would be sufficient.

Geographical Distribution of Accidents:

1947-1953

1954



Atlantic States—North

11

3



South

1

0



Colorado

29

3



Utah 

4

0



Wyoming

16

3



Montana & Idaho

3

3



Arizona & New Mexico

4

1



California

18

5



Oregon

4

3



Wasington

14

6



Alaska

1

3



Practice Cliffs All Areas

4

2



Terrain







Rock

83

16



Snow

36

14



River

1

0



Unknown

6

0





1947-1953

1954



Ascent or Descent (River crossing not included here)







Ascent

43

7



Descent

52

22



Unknown

30

1



Immediate Cause







Fall or Slip on Rock

46

9



Loose Rock (handhold pulled out)

10

1



Falling Rock

11

3



Failure of Rappel

8

3



Slip on Snow or Ice

21

7



Fall into Crevasse

5

1



Loss of Control in Voluntary Glissade

5

3



Avalanche

3

2



Lightning

2

0



Failure to Follow Route

1

0



Stuck Rope 

1

0



Skiing 

1

0



Fall in River

1

0



Unsafe Campsite 

0

1



Unknown 

10

0



Contributory Causes







Climbing Unroped 

41

2



Climbing Alone 

13

2



Attempt to Exceed Abilities

14

4



Darkness

4

3



Inadequate Equipment 

1

0



Old Rope

5

0



Size of Party







One 

13

3



Two 

32

10



Three

32

9



Four

10

4



Five 

5

0



Six or More

23

1



Unknown 

21

3



Ages of Individuals







Under

1

2



15-20 years 

43

8



“Young or College Age”

32

1



21-25 

22

7



26-30 

8

3



31-35 

6

2



Over 35 

6

5



Unknown 

9

2



Affiliated with Climbing Group







Unaffiliated 

43

5



Not Stated

36

16



Member of Mountaineering Club

42

9



Estimate of Experience







None or Little

58

15



Moderate 

14

9



Experienced 

22

5



Unknown 

26

1



Month of Year

1952-1953

1954



January

1

1



February 

1

1



March

0

0



April 

4

4



May 

5

2



Jun

0

4



July 

17

3



August

18

9



September

7

5



October

5

2



November

2

0



December

0

0



ANALYSIS OF ACCIDENTS

A breakdown of the accidents that occurred during 1954 and the cumulative totals are presented as in the past years. No marked change is noted. The descent still seems to be more hazardous than the ascent. The proper use of rappels and glissading techniques must be taught to the climbers. If they have not been through a training period in these techniques they should not be allowed to use them on the club climbs, except during controlled training periods. The dangers of falling rock are more evident this year than before. Will Siri states that they have been using a strong plastic- impregnated helmet without a side brim. He further states that it has proved to be extremely comfortable and on several occasions wearers have been protected against falling rocks and have avoided head injuries in minor falls.

Failure of nylon shroud lines accounted for one accident this year. Mrs. Unsoeld pointed out that in the 1954 report insufficient emphasis had been placed on the ease with which nylon rope can be abraded. This is extremely important when nylon is used as a rappel sling.

Benjamin G. Ferris, Jr.

Weston, Mass., Chairman



William L. Putnam

Springfield, Mass.



Hans Kraus

New York, N. Y.



Hassler Whitney

Princeton, N. J.



Arnold Wexler

Washington, D. C.



John F. Fralick

Detroit, Mich.



John de LaMontagne

Boulder, Colo.



Edward R. LaChapelle

Alta, Utah



Ome Daiber

Seattle, Wash.



Russell Mcjury

Portland, Ore.



William Siri

Berkeley, Calif.



James Bonner

Pasadena, Calif.



Maynard M. Miller

Cambridge, England