Climbing

How Dangerous is Rock Climbing? [Tips for Safer Climbing]

Do you enjoy a good adrenaline rush coursing through your veins every once in a while? If you do, then rock climbing can be one of the best options available.

It’s such a thrilling experience using one’s physical and mental skills to scale a wall and the unequivocal gratification when you finally reach your goal.

Nonetheless, many people are afraid to engage in rock climbing because it’s portrayed as dangerous. Is it really that life-threatening as it seems? Let’s find out how dangerous rock climbing is and show some tips for safer climbing.

guy horizontal climbing

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a sport that involves participants scaling up, down, or across manufactured rock walls or wild rock faces, like mountains and plateaus. The final objective is to reach the endpoint of a predetermined course or the top of a rock formation.

While some people may consider rock climbing to be too challenging both physically and mentally, others view it as a test to assess one’s survival skills, such as stamina, agility, fortitude, and mental prowess.

Nowadays, it’s becoming a popular physical activity since you can perform it indoor, under safer conditions, or outdoor, where the adrenaline rush is much stronger.

How Dangerous is Rock Climbing?

Many people consider rock-climbing to have higher injury rates than other sports due to the mortality that comes with falling. However, the word “dangerous” is too broad to employed just in sports activities.

Everything you do comes with a risk factor, whether it’s tooth extraction, walking to work, or eating a piece of chicken at a restaurant. Although it may be safe, there is still a slight possibility of a complication or accident, and nothing is exempt from that.

According to a study made in 2012, rock climbing has lower liability than other sports, like sailing or basketball. The research was based on the amounts of injuries produced in a thousand-hour time period, while also analyzing the presence or absence of deaths.

The final results revealed that rugby has the highest injury rate, with approximately 300 injuries per 1000 hours, while indoor climbing took the spot as the lowest injury-related sport.

Certain rock climbing styles, such as alpine and ice climbing, did have higher injury percentages, but less than 20 injuries. Additionally, certain popular sports, like soccer, boxing, basketball, and hockey, have higher rates than rock climbing.

From another perspective, climbing also scored the lowest in all outdoor activities. A study exposed that snowboarding is the most hazardous outdoor physical activity, producing about 26% of all injuries, followed by sledding and hiking.

On the other hand, climbing only represented 4.9% of total injuries, and this included both mountain and rock climbing.

scaling rock face

Is Rock Climbing Safe?

Generally speaking, rock climbing is a relatively safe physical activity due to the number of safety regulations applied. Most rock climbers use rope belay systems and protective gear to protect from harm and falls.

Even more, all systems have two or more backup plans in case a bolt unlatches or a rope is torn. Staff personnel also monitor all the participants’ movements with extreme precaution and ensure that all courses are deemed safe.

Most climbing courses are reviewed every time someone attempts to scale it beforehand, and maintenance is done on a regular basis.

The human factor also places rock climbing as a safe sport. Most people begin in small courses and gain experience as they continue to develop their climbing skills.

It’s quite rare for someone to engage in free soloing as his first attempt in rock climbing. Instead, they advance the difficulty levels at their own pace without worrying about other participants.

This differentiates it from other sports, like soccer or hockey, where people can display rough playing or exhibit better sports skills than others.

Additionally, human nature can result in someone getting hurt due to accidental or malicious intents.

Safe Rock Climbing Tips

Strong Mindset

Although experience is necessary to ensure safe rock climbing, it serves no purpose if your mind or focus is somewhere else. Your senses must be on overdrive from the start of your climb at the bottom of the course, to the endpoint of it.

If not, it’s best to withdraw momentarily from any activity to reduce any unwanted injury. This is because it can lead to certain situations on the climb, such as:

  • A badly tied knot that can give away at any moment
  • An anchor was installed incorrectly
  • A rope is cut or placed on a sharp edge (Usually climbing ropes are sturdy and only break because of defective gear or sharp friction)
  • You or your partner don’t notice a fall beforehand to prevent it.

Appropriate Gear

If you decide to perform traditional climbing, you must have the following equipment with you:

  1. Passive Pros (gear that is wedged in cracks)
  2. Active Pros (active tools that are placed into a crack and then opens for a secure grip)
  3. Carabiners ( employed in belaying and rappelling)
  4. Harness (to balance your weight and provide comfort)
  5. Gear slings (allow you to bring extra equipment if needed)
  6. Runners and Cordelettes (acquire a better grip if the use of a pro is not possible)
  7. Quickdraws (to faster your pros to a rope)
  8. Climbing Methods (anchors and/or tying knots)

The amount of gear and equipment depends on the length of the course and your climbing skills. However, it’s recommended to bring extra equipment always to avoid any accidents.

Gear is designed to ensure your safety as you climb up and down the wall while enhancing your climbing experience. Wearing the appropriate rock climbing clothes is also important.

Use of a Climbing Helmet

Just like any sports, a helmet is required to protect your head due to a fall or trauma. In rock climbing, a helmet can truly be a difference between a small scratch to the head or life-threatening injuries. It can also prevent harm from falling debris or rocks.

Verify your Equipment

Once you are ready to perform a climb, you should always check your gear beforehand. Verify that the knots are secured tightly, ropes are fastened in safe locations, replace any pros or runners that get damaged on the way, and placing your climbing harness in the best position so you can have a wide range of motions and comfort.

Most of all, guarantee that your anchors are in perfect condition because effective or damaged anchors are a frequent cause of falls.

Once you come home from climbing, you can clean your rope, and store it properly for next time.

Assess your Experience

Always partake in climbing courses that are equal to your climbing skills. It’s recommended to perform a climbing route a considerable amount of times before advancing to the difficulty level.

Additionally, strive for perfection in any ascent and evaluate any mistakes that have occurred, so they don’t happen again. Confidence is critical when performing any activity, for it reduces any risk factor.

guy rock climing

Types of Rock Climbing

There is a wide range of techniques and climbing equipment that can be utilized when partaking in such an extreme sport, like rock climbing.

Therefore, you can participate in various forms of rock climbing, depending on the gear, course’s difficulty level, and climbing experience. Some of these styles include:

Aid Climbing

It’s the most favored approach among beginners and safety-oriented rock climbers, where players use preexistent layouts and equipment to ascend a rock wall or mountain course.

This type of rock climbing offers greater safety measures and allows newcomers to grow accustomed to the strength and endurance necessary to climb a wall.

Free Climbing

Free climbing is a technique more suitable for experienced rock climbers because you use your own physical prowess to perform the ascent. Rope belay systems, anchors, and protective gear are still present to ensure safety, but they don’t help you to scale the wall.

In aid climbing, the equipment boosts your climbing capabilities, whereas it only prioritizes safety during free climbing.

Bouldering

Bouldering provides a more thrilling climbing experience as no rope or harnesses are employed to scale the rock wall. Instead, sturdy bouldering mats and pads are placed on the floor to prevent injuries if participants move incorrectly and fall.

Additionally, experienced staff, known as spotters, watch over the climber’s movements and can verbally guide him or her through the course. Due to higher falling chances, bouldering courses are generally less than twenty feet tall, but can still be performed both indoors and outdoors.

Traditional Climbing

Traditional climbing is one of the riskier forms of rock climbing attempted by experienced rock climbers and those who want to evaluate their climbing skills after years of practice.

It involves climbing a wall or rock face without the use of ropes or harnesses to guarantee their safety. Climbers carry anchors, ropes, and chocks to create their own lifelines against falls as they ascend the course.

Some routes have pre-placed bolts where climbers can latch on as they progress through it. However, some players prefer not to use these types of courses because they receive some aid along the way. Even more, experienced climbers view traditional climbing as the prelude to the ultimate test, free soloing.

Free Soloing

Free soloing truly embodies the meaning of an extreme sport. In simple terms, a person climbs a mountain or wall without the use of protective gear, ropes, anchors, or any sort of equipment.

It’s solely based on the climbing abilities and strength of a particular individual as he or she tries to reach the summit or endpoint of a course. Free soloing has the highest probability of critical injuries and fatal accidents.

Fatal Climbing Accidents

As said previously, accidents can occur in any given situation, and rock climbing can result in life-threatening situations and deaths. The most common causes of fatal climbing accidents are:

  • Lead Climbing: A group of people partakes in rock climbing attached to one another, and one leads the rest. It’s more common for bolts and ropes to break due to weight and route difficulties.
  • Rockfall and Loosened Debris: Rocks can fall at any moment of the course and cause a climber to detach from a wall or suffer a head injury.
  • Free Soloing: There is no safety measure available for you in case you make a mistake or fall. If an accident happens, it’s practically lethal.
  • Rappelling: It’s a style of scaling down mountains through ropes. Therefore, a misplaced anchor or a broken rope can produce fatal accidents depending on the height of the fall.
  • Harsh Weather Conditions: Heavy rain can cause rocks to be slippery and pros or runners to work inadequately.

Rock climbing is a wonderful adventure as long as you take the proper safety precautions and evaluate your abilities every time you wish to climb a wall. You are capable of doing anything, but never underestimate the importance of life.

Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!
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