American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Reported Mountaineering Accidents, Table III

  • Accident Tables
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999



1951–97

1959–97

1998

1998





USA

CAN

USA

CAN



Terrain



Rock

3572

427

102

18



Snow

2081

312

28

1



Ice

190

100

8

4



River

13

3

0

0



Unknown

22

7

0

1



Ascent or Descent



Ascent

3169

458

89

11



Descent

1938

310

49

13



Unknown3

247

4

0

0



Immediate Cause



Fall or slip on rock

2471

231

77

8



Slip on snow or ice

808

165

20

1



Falling rock, ice or object

496

110

10

4



Exceeding abilities

418

27

22

0



Avalanche

256

107

4

2



Exposure

237

13

4

0



Illness1

280

21

7

0



Stranded

267

8

8

3



Rappel Failure/Error2

208

38

13

2



Loss of control/glissade

168

16

1

0



Fall into crevasse/moat

132

41

4

0



Failure to follow route

126

27

5

0



Nut/chock pulled out

101

3

9

0



Piton pulled out

84

12

2

0



Faulty use of crampons

69

5

1

0



Lightning

39

7

0

0



Skiing

48

9

0

0



Ascending too fast

43

0

2

0



Equipment failure

7

2

4

0



Other3

203

24

86

4



Unknown

59

8

1

0



Contributory Causes



Climbing unroped

902

150

10

1



Exceeding abilities

834

175

4

9



Inadequate equipment/clothing

552

71

7

1



Placed no/inadequate protection

492

75

38

4



Weather

378

57

10

0



Climbing alone

325

57

4

0



No hard hat

247

24

13

1



Nut/chock pulled out

181

16

4

0



Darkness

118

19

4

0



Party separated

100

17

3

0



Piton pulled out

84

10

0

0



Contributory Causes (cont.)



Inadequate belay

124

20

11

2



Poor position

118

15

3

0



Failure to test holds

73

18

2

0



Exposure

55

13

0

0



Failed to follow directions

61

5

1

3



Illness1

32

4

0

0



Equipment failure

10

6

0

0



Other3

235

79

3

0



Age of Individuals



Under 15

113

12

4

0



15–20

1158

197

8

0



21–25

1152

225

28

0



26–30

1046

189

29

0



31–35

697

96

21

0



36–50

881

108

23

0



Over 50

140

20

8

0



Unknown

925

577

29

19



Experience Level



None/Little

1513

280

30

0



Moderate (1 to 3 years)

1354

340

15

0



Experienced

1396

359

53

0



Unknown

1512

384

62

19



Month of Year



January

187

15

6

0



February

179

40

3

0



March

246

48

6

4



April

338

29

6

0



May

722

48

17

1



June

856

57

25

2



July

942

220

10

5



August

868

137

19

6



September

1059

49

18

5



October

344

30

9

0



November

156

10

4

0



December

62

17

11

0



Unknown

8

0

4

1



Type of Injury/Illness (Data since 1984)



Fracture

763

146

62

9



Laceration

411

57

36

1



Abrasion

221

39

12

1



Bruise

257

59

17

4



Sprain/strain

189

21

15

0



Concussion

135

14

15

0



Frostbite

86

8

2

0



Hypothermia

105

12

16

0



Type of Injury/Illness (cont.)



Dislocation

71

8

4

1



Puncture

27

5

3

0



Acute Mountain Sickness

21

0

0

0



HAPE

49

0

2

0



HACE

16

0

1

0



Other4

193

31

7

0



None

125

68

9

5



1These illnesses/injuries, which led directly to the incident, included: fatigue (4); HAPE (2); and angina.

2Because there were so many rappel errors—a category which now includes climbers being lowered to the ground, usually from a sling-shot belay—this year, some of the causes are described here: rappelled off the end of the rope (9!); webbing on anchor “failed” (2 - one knot came undone and one weathered webbing parted); came to end of rappel rope and did not know how to ascend; belayer lowering—rope too short so it passed through the belay device (no knot in end of rope) and climber falls to ground (3); lowered too fast, so climber hit ground (2); figure-of-eight knot to harness came undone when being lowered, so climber hit the ground; rappel rope got stuck so undid harness, then fell 20 feet to ground; and finally, a face-first (Australian or “butterfly”) rappeller picked up too much speed and did a face plant (see North Carolina for narrative).

3These included: unable to self-arrest (7); handhold or foothold broke off (6); party above dislodged rock; snow bridge collapsed and failed to warn party below; dislodged rock severed climbing rope; “snagged” crampons (2); distraction (2); failed to turn back (3); started late in day, so benighted (4); blown over by wind; and failure to disclose medical condition to guide (see angina in Illness footnote above).

4These included: pneumothorax (2); punctured lung, punctured leg (ice ax); internal injuries (when climber fell on belayer); rope burn; paralyzed from waste down.

(Editor’s Notes: Data for some categories in this table were published inaccurately, and have been corrected in this cumulative data.

Under the category “other.; ” many of the particular items will have been recorded under a general category. For example, the climber who dislodges a rock that falls on another climber would be coded as Falling Rock/Object, or the climber who has a hand hold come loose and falls would also be coded as Fall On Rock.)

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