I really wonder why people do this climbing thing


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Feb 6, 2013 - 03:50am PT

I have been a construction supervisor for the last 10 years

Honest question. In those ten years how many carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers, or masons have you seen get hurt? I'd imagine that it happens quite often on larger projects. Now ask yourself, am I to blame for those injuries? Did I do everything in my power to stop that from happening? Did you? Then realize you'll never stop me from being a carpenter. I have been in the trade for over 15 years and have only once had a lost time injury. Pulled a nail off with a sawz-all. It's a long story. So does me being a carpenter mean I'm prone to injury? Yes. Can you do anything to prevent it? Yes. Do injuries still happen? Yes. Same holds true for climbing. You take the risk knowing that their is a penalty. In a few cases that penalty is paid. To me though the rewards still outway the risk. And I'm the one who gets to decide.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Feb 6, 2013 - 03:55am PT
> I really wonder why people do this climbing thing

Maybe because they live someplace with good climbing?
If I lived someplace with no good climbing, like Hawaii (like you do), or Florida, I would probably stop climbing, too.... :-)

Given that you have over 2000 posts to this forum, there must be something about climbing that still interests you?

I agree, bad things can happen, people can die young doing it (including good friends). It's a personal decision why people choose to climb or keep climbing. There won't be any simple answer that works the same for everyone, except "it seems to be worth it to me".
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Feb 6, 2013 - 08:46am PT
Yes I have had a close friend die. I've known others more distantly, who have passed through the veil darkly, as well. I know how it feels, yes.

Consider these activities, activities that occur on a minute by minute basis in Hawaii and elsewhere:

Football (soccer)
horse riding
American football
table tennis (!)

Know what they all have in common? They are all more dangerous than rock climbing, swimming is far more dangerous (4x), for example.

Do you curtail those activities too, out of fear of death? Do you stop all outdoor activities?

Maybe it comes down to 2 or 3 things we all do in life; wittingly or otherwise:

1. Love of an activity and the people/peers who do it (however induced, peer pressure, organically, etc.)

2. Ability to actually do the activity (opportunity, fitness levels are of course a part of opportunity, for many of these sports)

3. Risk management (skill).

We 'umans all do this, all the time, in virtually every activity down to the smallest of things - crossing a city street at a busy intersection.

The sport label means these activities are recreational. Of course guys who operate in the high mountains for a living are going to be exposed to far greater occupational risks than the average weekend enthusiast. I don't have access to the professionals' death rates but I'd guess the climbing guilds and their liability insurers do... I would expect those numbers to be different than the general climbing population, but frankly, I dunno.

I'm not saying, in my case, that careful risk analysis leads me to conclude its ok to climb. I'm not that digital, and I don't analyze things like that. For me risk management is an analog process that takes in conditions, fitness, hazards, skill, and ultimately, FEELINGS, emotions - all in real time, to produce a continuous stream of 'go/no-go' decisions from the littlest move (will this hold work) to the biggest climb (do I have the balls and skill to even attempt it) to, well

I was going to say to the ever present question - 'do I keep climbing at all?'

But I must admit - after many serious injuries and a near fatal 'drive home' from a climb? The only time I ever thought I might fade away into inactivity was when I let myself get fat. And even then.... I did not ever seriously consider stopping.

Lifer from the start, I'm afraid. 40 years of climbing, still taking measured risks, still loving the game and the people with whom I play.





Sportbikeville & Yucca brevifolia
Feb 6, 2013 - 09:00am PT
Don't let fear guide your path, it makes for a dim light.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Feb 6, 2013 - 09:10am PT
My motive was simply to keep pace with my friend Jeff, the Rev. And then I found there were relatively few limitations and practitioners. I was markedly different in that when I was up there and they were down here, I felt somehow superior.

Simple. It's good to feel superior to someone, even though you'll never be the king.

That was in the beginning.

As for today, the next few weeks, if I get to visit/climb with Dwain in Vegas, I'll worry about motive then. Just getting together with CC will be engaging and any climbing we do will be gravy.

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Feb 6, 2013 - 11:45am PT



Lake Tahoe
Feb 6, 2013 - 11:50am PT
To prevent a preventable death is to stifle creativity. No one basks in the glory of safety and boredom.

So what if someone dies climbing a mountain. It is no more or less noble than being killed in a car crash or being killed by a staph infection at a hospital where you volunteer to help burned kids.

It's just death. It happens and it sucks for those that don't want to see you go. Then they get over it and they die.

In fact, everyone who was alive 120 years ago is dead. Everyone. The entire world of people are gone.

People climb for the same reason others watch TV. It's something to do.


Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Feb 6, 2013 - 11:53am PT

I do this sh#t TO live

I don't have a death wish, I have a life wish
-Dan Osman

Seneca area
Feb 6, 2013 - 11:56am PT
"Death is not the greatest loss in life.
The greatest loss is what dies
inside us while we live."

--Norman Cousins

...or....changed a bit....

Death is not the greatest loss in life.
The greatest loss is what dies
inside us when we don't truly live.


Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Feb 6, 2013 - 12:00pm PT
AGREE, Naitch!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Feb 6, 2013 - 12:06pm PT
There are many ways to die and climbing doesn't look like the worst way to go compared to these. Having said so, I personally believe that climbers with significant others should not take unnecessary risks.

Great post Jan.

I do have children and a beautiful wife. My climbing took on a significantly more conservative approach after about 1990. I still love it and have a blast. Some people have a harder time turning away from the truly risky???

Feb 6, 2013 - 12:08pm PT
There is only one word required to answer the question.

Desire ......

Trad climber
Feb 6, 2013 - 12:11pm PT
Personally I have gone through stages of my life where I was much more risk tolerant and also much more risk adverse. When young, I was most definitely filled with bravado that steered me to more dangerous alpine adventures. I almost/ should have died when I had very young children at home. I suddenly became more risk adverse and decided it was time to dial it down a bit. As I grow older and have seen friends die of cancer and from other unfair causes, my tolerance for risk is increasing. Risk seems to be a highly personal topic.

Big Wall climber
san jose, ca
Feb 6, 2013 - 12:12pm PT
10b4me that gave me chills.

Alright I quit!!! I'm gunna take up bowling.

Knott! :)

Reno, NV
Feb 6, 2013 - 12:18pm PT
I am a very risk averse climber. I am not bold. I do not like bold. It does not impress me. Not as it applies to putting your butt on the line anyway.

What impresses me is skill and control and decisions to BOLDLY back off, slow down when there is reasonable doubt and the myriad types of pressures to keep going or hurry.

I like systems and backups. I like identifying every point of deadly failure and putting in place simple practices, skills and awareness that negate their ability to bite you.

These are my favorite challenges in climbing. How do I get up what I want in the way I want, have fun and absolutely not die.

I had this approach from day one.

Yet I still can think of a few cases where I am alive due to too much luck. Where I screwed up and it did not bite me in the ass.

It's one hell of an unforgiving place to f*#k up.

But I still climb. Because cumulatively it's by far the most valuable, rewarding joyful and beutiful set of experiences in my life. I could throw away lots of things out of my life.. but the climbing would be one of the very last I'd choose.

Exactly, except I, for one, am impressed with bold. Badasses like Steve House, Johnny Copp and Micah Dash know that what they're doing is the real deal, and that is part of the draw for them. But climbing does not have to be about managing huge risks. It can be done in a fairly quotidian way and still be a meaningful activity. One should not assume that everyone who climbs does it for the adrenaline.


Feb 6, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
my worst injuries have occurred while:

 polishing a wine glass (four tendons, nerve, artery)

 riding in a car (dislocated pelvis, shattered wrist)

 making bagel dough (comminuted fracture to finger)

 opening the front door (deep laceration, nerve damage)

for the record, i was sober during every accident. (although recent studies have shown that i may, in fact, be a moron). rockclimbing for 18 years, including a bunch of ropeless shenanigans and never had a bad injury. worst injuries are from bouldering, oddly enough. tennis elbow from crimping too much and back problems from jumping off highballs.

oh and i suffered irreversible damage to my ego for a case of snail-eye that i came down with yesterday. the shame will haunt me to my dying day.

i guess my point is that anything can kill you and carelessness is the culprit.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Feb 6, 2013 - 12:31pm PT
Wait a minute DMT...Table tennis?

Can you prove that more people have died playing ping pong than climbing?

Not calling you a l___r, just really curious that it's even possible....

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Feb 6, 2013 - 12:43pm PT
I don't believe it. The table shows 7 deaths for table tennis between 97 and 06, yet offers zero for rock climbing in the same period, which we know is utter BS.

It also says ZERO about these alleged table tennis deaths. Sorry, but I call bullshit to ping pong being more dangerous than climbing.....

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 6, 2013 - 12:50pm PT
3/2011 , 3 weeks after last chemo, Trash Can Rock, JT weekend of Fland...
3/2011 , 3 weeks after last chemo, Trash Can Rock, JT weekend of Flander's Fest.
Credit: SCseagoat

Three weeks after chemo, bald. Couldn't wait to get back on the rock. There are worse ways to die than climbing.

gonzo chemist

Fort Collins, CO
Feb 6, 2013 - 12:53pm PT
Mr. Hansen (and others who would pose this query),

with all due respect, do you ask the very same question of people who pursue a sedentary lifestyle? Or more to the point, do you question people who gorge themselves on cholesterol-containing animal-based food products?

Heart disease is the #1 killer in the USA (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm);.

I suppose it IS a fair question to ask why we would choose to engage in 'risky' climbing behaviors. However I'd wager that for MOST people climbing has brought them innumerable friends, an appreciation for the outdoors, a sense of community, an active lifestyle, a sense of accomplishment, and a litany of character-building experiences.

In the end, we're all just passing time until our biological matter can return from whence it came.
We all pass that time according to our own internal compass.

Nosce te ipsum.
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