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What are some of the common things people do that are avoidable and contribute to accidents and injuries when climbing?

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Combing through the 2015 issue of Accidents in North American Mountaineering, here were the four mistakes that I saw over and over:

  • no helmet
  • not placing any pro, or climbing unroped
  • starting too late in the day
  • rappelling off the end of the rope, no knots in the ends

This is just my subjective, unscientific impression, and I've biased the list toward concrete mistakes. The ANAM also use a lot of more general descriptions, such as "poor position," that aren't such simple, concrete things to avoid. You could also lost various psychological factors, or discuss things like miscommunication.

If I continue with the same flavor of mistakes as the four listed above, some recurring but less common ones were:

  • bad belaying (inattentive, inexperienced, depending on a grigri to catch)
  • placing pro behind loose blocks
  • not testing holds
  • attempting a climb without the technical knowledge needed for that type of climbing (e.g., not knowing how to ascend the rope, not carrying Prusiks on a multipitch climb, glacier travel without crevasse rescue skills or gear)
  • 1
    Latest ANAM stats I could find are from 2007: c535846.r46.cf2.rackcdn.com/anam_2007.pdf. Climbing unroped, exceeding abilities, inadequate protection are the top 3. Basically, being avoidably in the wrong place without the right skills. – nhinkle Aug 12 '15 at 7:59
  • @nhinkle: Good info, thanks. I was structuring my answer around specific and avoidable things, rather than some of the broader categories that ANAM uses for their stats. It might be valuable if you could write an answer summarizing ANAM's stats, though. – Ben Crowell Aug 12 '15 at 12:03
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A generic list:

  1. Not testing the holds, anchors and knots.
  2. Miscommunication, leading to improper positioning may be.
  3. While climbing stepping on the uphill side of the rope leading to upside down falls.
  4. Climbing without Helmets.
  5. More Confidence than Competence/Capability
  6. Not judging the slack rope and the length of the rope needed, reaching the end of the rope without a knot at it.
  7. Dropping an equipment and not knowing what alternate safety measure to take.
  8. Climbing behind another team on a looser route, boils down to helmet thing again.
  9. Shock loading on dodgy anchors.
  10. Standing at a drop zone while belaying a second
  11. Clipping into belay anchors with just a daisy chain leading to #9.
  12. Wearing a backpack in a chimney climb. I have done this and still regret, it was a long night ahead.
  13. While bouldering, not having an experienced spotter
  14. While bouldering, not having a safety mat below
  15. Taking the gamble on a particular piece of equipment. The Fool, "Aren't we short-numbered on a biner?" The Idiot, "yes, we are, but thats okay!". The Fool, "Hey, I don't have a headlamp with me." The Idiot, "Not a problem, we'll be back before its dark"

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