Swimming more dangerous than climbing?


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lost, far away from Poland
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 7, 2014 - 11:44am PT
A young man drowned in Hume Lake, CA on July 4th.

I was swimming when people starting shouting that somebody was missing from their party. Immediately about 10 of us lined up and started diving looking for the missing swimmer. It is not very deep over there, maybe 15 feet, but there is a lot of weed and the visibility is poor. We kept searching for about 20 min, than another group took over. We didn't find him.

The search continued on July 5th and 6th with the assistance of scuba divers.

Don't know whether they found the body yet.

A few years ago I witness a man drowned in the same lake.

Another person drowned in Shaver Lake this weekend.

Is swimming more dangerous than climbing? The guy was young and strong. He drowned 10-20 feet from a group of other swimmers.


Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jul 7, 2014 - 11:50am PT
That's a rough way to have your 4th of July weekend go. Rough for you I'm sure, tragic for some poor family and friends. Seems like just as in climbing these incidents can happen so quickly. Several things might have happened. Perhaps he dove down and got tangled in something.. who knows. Sounds like you did what you could and can at least know you tried.

My general opinion is that climbing is more dangerous but I have no numbers to back it up. Deaths/hours of activity. I know there are far more people swimming than climbing.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jul 7, 2014 - 11:55am PT
Here in PDX it's generally swift river currents at popular parks. Not swimming per se, but rather awareness of dangers, overestimating abilities, or alcohol.
John Duffield

Mountain climber
New York
Jul 7, 2014 - 11:57am PT

SCUBA certainly is.

Fall, and you might live, stay underwater a few minutes and you are certainly dead.



Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Jul 7, 2014 - 11:59am PT
Drowning & submersion fatalities have long been the number one cause of accidental death in the US.

That water shite is dangerous! I don't consider it 'safe' unless I can stick sharp, pointy tools into it, or carve it with a nice, long metal edge.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jul 7, 2014 - 12:03pm PT
That water shite is dangerous!

True Dat!

I think I was reading somewhere that among the various fatalities in Yosemite, Water was a contributing factor in one way or another more than any other factor. Water was even a contributing factor in a fair number of climber fatalities. Interesting to consider.

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 7, 2014 - 12:06pm PT
Up here in he PNW the big rivers and unpredictable surf claim many lives each year. Alcohol added to the mix does it's share to increase the numbers.

Masha and I witnessed a drowning and the frantic rescue attempts a few years ago at a beach on the Olympic Peninsula. It was sad and sobering. I will never forget the look on the family member's faces when they realized they had lost one of their own.

Please be careful out their, no matter what you are doing.

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Jul 7, 2014 - 12:13pm PT
Some 'fun' (sad) drowning statistics:


*Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male.

*Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2009, among children 1 to 4 years old who died from an unintentional injury, more than 30% died from drowning.

*Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation, almost a quarter of ED visits for drowning, and about one in five reported boating deaths.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Jul 7, 2014 - 12:23pm PT
falling? climbing is more dangerous.
trying to breathe? swimming is more dangerous.
playing the odds? driving to crag or beach trumps all.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Jul 7, 2014 - 12:25pm PT

Your info is not correct about the leading cause of unintentional or accidental death in the USA, according to the CDC.

Choking, Fires, falls and poisoning outrank swimming and submersion.


Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Jul 7, 2014 - 12:28pm PT

*"Drowning is the third leading cause of death from unintentional injury worldwide..."

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Jul 7, 2014 - 02:08pm PT
Really sad post Moosedrool. My kids go to Hume Lake Camp and we have family friends on staff up there.

Yeah Apogee, lots of ways to unintentionally get the chop. I always fear tree trimming. I'm always way up there thinking "I would die if something broke right now."

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Jul 7, 2014 - 02:14pm PT
There's some very good advice in the post from Slate:

The new captain jumped from the deck, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the couple swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine; what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not 10 feet away, their 9-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know—from 50 feet away—what the father couldn’t recognize from just 10? Drowning is not the violent, splashing call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew know what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for is rarely seen in real life.

The Instinctive Drowning Response—so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children, ages 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents)—of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In some of those drownings, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening.* Drowning does not look like drowning—Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene magazine, described the Instinctive Drowning Response like this:

1.“Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
2.Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
3.Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
4.Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
5.From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble—they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the Instinctive Drowning Response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long—but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

•Head low in the water, mouth at water level
•Head tilted back with mouth open
•Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
•Eyes closed
•Hair over forehead or eyes
•Not using legs—vertical
•Hyperventilating or gasping
•Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
•Trying to roll over on the back
•Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK—don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all—they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents—children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.

(See a video of the Instinctive Drowning Response.)

This article is reprinted from Mario Vittone’s blog. Join him on Facebook.
Ricky D

Trad climber
Sierra Westside
Jul 7, 2014 - 02:24pm PT
Nasty business drowning is.

Your story made me flash back to my days working at Summer Camps for the Scouts. Anytime some little sh#t forgot to check out of the swimming lake - the siren would blow and we would scramble to the lake and start the search drill.

Like Hume, our lake was maybe 25 feet at the deepest but carpeted with 3-4 foot tall weeds. Still have nightmares about sweeping my arms through that jungle hoping like hell I wouldn't find some blued out 10 year old wrapped up in the weeds.

Over 40 times we played out this drill in the three summers I worked there - only once was it "real". I didn't find the kid, but one of my cabin-mates did - freaked him out for years afterwards.

To be honest - I still avoid water when I can - figured there was a reason my ancestors crawled out of that stuff- who am I to go back in.

lost, far away from Poland
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 7, 2014 - 02:29pm PT
Great post, Fritz.

I always talk to my friends and family members when we swim together. When they talk back with ease, I know they are OK. Can't be too careful.

Micronut, there were people from the camp you mentioned helping with the search.


Jul 7, 2014 - 02:41pm PT
That is a great post Fritz, so much crap presented on television.

Westminster Colorado
Jul 7, 2014 - 03:06pm PT
The water is still raging here in Colorado.
The water is still raging here in Colorado.
Credit: Dickbob

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Jul 7, 2014 - 03:08pm PT
Water you talking about? Stay away from liquid, frozen, steam, vapor, and precipitating water, it's dangerous stuff. Don't drink it unless treated.

lost, far away from Poland
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 7, 2014 - 03:38pm PT
I used to do abalone diving near Fort Ross, CA. 7mm wetsuit, hood, gloves, boots, and weights. Free diving in this outfit down 20 feet is challenging enough, but when you add thick kelp, swell, and surge, it's really dangerous. After 30 min of repeated diving you get very tired. Ever year several people die doing it.

Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Jul 7, 2014 - 04:35pm PT
Just when you thought water was dangerous!!! I hadn't heard of this until a few weeks ago when a friend was at a kids swim party and one of the little ones was having trouble breathing out of the pool! They rushed him to the hospital and saved the little bugger....

Dry drowning occurs when a person's lungs become unable to extract oxygen from the air, due primarily to:
Muscular paralysis
Puncture wound to the torso (affecting ability of diaphragm to create respiratory movement)
Changes to the oxygen-absorbing tissues
Persistence of laryngospasm when immersed in fluid
Prolonged exposure to a gas that displaces oxygen from the lungs (e.g. methane)
Overdose of solute free water which leads to hyponatremia and swelling in the brain
Holding one's breath (Apnea)

The person may effectively drown without any sort of liquid. In cases of dry drowning in which the victim was immersed, very little fluid is aspirated into the lungs. The laryngospasm reflex essentially causes asphyxiation and neurogenic pulmonary edema[1] (œdema).

Dry drowning can occur clinically, or due to illness or accident. It is also one of the effects of waterboarding.
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