Climbing and Risk

In my first post I detailed about why I climb. Every climber has a different answer to that question but I suspect a thirst for adventure and curiosity toward the unknown are key parts of anyone’s answer. But for those who haven’t climbed there is always the question of risk  which I will address here. In my next post I plan to detail the various forms of climbing.

I’ve been climbing at some level for most of my life. I’ve been injured three times – first playing baseball, second playing soccer and the third while skiing. And I played baseball and soccer for a grand total of 4 – 5 years as a kid and I’ve been pretty consistently climbing and mountaineering for over 30 years with no injuries.  Statistical data from the safety professionals indicate that the riskiest activity a climber does is drive to the cliff and pretty much everyone accepts the risk / benefit ratio of driving to be acceptable. They also tell us that climbing sports result in far fewer hospital visits than traditional athletics per participant hour.  And any activity that gets people out and moving is usually going to result in a healthier lifestyle with less healthcare costs over a lifetime.

Climbing is about learning to manage risk – a skill that transfer well into daily life. When managed well, most risk associated with climbing can be mitigatetop roped. Yes there are forms of climbing that are more hazardous than others. Pushing the limits on new ascents in the mountains is one example and lead climbing carries greater risk than top roping. And then there is always the question of solo climbing without a rope. This requires absolute mind control and understanding of your ability with a full appreciation of consequence. However the majority of rock climbers who go out and challenge themselves while protected by a rope above them (see photo) or who lead reasonably protected climbs can look forward to a lifetime of vertical exploration. Try it. You just might like it!

Jon Tierney

About Jon Tierney

Internationally licensed IFMGA Mountain Guide, owner of Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School and Alpenglow Adventure Sports Flight Paramedic, Lifeflight of Maine