At GMG we are established on the foundations of providing exceptional instruction to climbers that are just learning the craft. From there it blossoms into how we can best serve the local community even more by promoting wonderful areas for all to experience on our guided trips. It is our first priority to provide exceptional instruction in a positive, risk-managed environment. While we also prioritize serving the local community and encouraging climbers to minimize their impact, which we will dive into deeper in our discussion of intentional mentorship.
Resources to Learn from Climbing Accidents
A recent article tells the story of an accident that occurred in 2014. A new climber took a trip to Colorado with a group. She had recently learned how to clean sport anchors in a gym setting, one of the guys she had met the day before offered her one of his alpine draws to girth hitch to her harness and use as a personal anchor system to clean the anchor off the route. Likely due to her unfamiliarity with the process of cleaning as well as someone else’s piece of gear something happened at the top of the route that caused her to fall 60-feet to the ground. You can read more details on the “climbing pass” subscription on Outside, but we want to take some time to analyze even the vague details of this accident.
It does not say if the climber who fell from the route and learned about cleaning routes in a gym setting was taught that in a class or by a friend/climbing partner. But we do know that when the climber cleaned this route they were with friends. It is important for all climbers to recognize the limitations, and biases, of their knowledge. This scenario could have been prevented if the climber had invested a little more time in an educational setting that is fully supervised. While accidents can still happen in a supervised setting, they are much less likely to occur.
In Episode 57 of The Sharp End Podcast, Brian retells a story from his early climbing days about an accident that occurred due to a "flawed knot". In his return to climbing with his sons, years later he made a point to hire a guide to make sure that him and his son were properly educated and supervised before diving back into climbing after years away from the sport.
How to Keep Climbing Safe in the Midst of it's Rising Popularity
Climbing is getting more and more popular. We have seen countless individuals teach their friends how to lead climb and clean anchors in an outdoor crag setting simply by pointing to things and explaining the process. This is a recipe for an outcome like the one summarized above. Not to mention, we are in the day and age of technology. It is so easy to look up “how to clean a sport anchor” on YouTube and get a lot of results - which can also be daunting! Even if you watch a video created by a credible source such as the AMGA there is still a chance of not comprehending, not getting enough practice, not having proper supervision, etc. that can lead to life threatening accidents.
The growing numbers of climbers is not going to stop, and it is impossible to prevent every accident from happening, but we strongly believe that if all climbers, especially those new to the craft were to seek qualified instruction, there would be less accidents in the community. Additionally, climbers should strive to always be students. Always willing to learn. Which flexes our brains and creates an important gap between competence and complacency. Complacency kills.
Seek. Qualified. Instruction.