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May 18, 2005 at 12:00 am #3297
CAWA Safety and Training
Accident Statistics 1955 to 2004
Situation Fatal Severe Serious Percentage
Falls – Leading 10 13 49 60.0
Rock Fall 3 2 8 10.8
Falls – Abseiling 1 0 6 5.8
Unroped – Soloing 4 1 1 5.0
Unroped – Scrambling 3 0 2 4.2
Unroped – Near cliff edge 2 0 0 1.7
Second hit by leader 0 1 2 2.5
Seconding 0 0 2 1.7
Belayerfell after anchor failed 0 0 1 0.8
Falls – Top-roping 0 0 1 0.8
Falls – Prusiking 0 0 1 0.8
Lightning strikes climber 0 0 1 0.8
Movement damaged knee 0 0 1 0.8
Tripped setting up anchors 0 0 1 0.8
Belay ledge collapsed 0 0 1 0.8
Unknown 2 0 1 2.7
Total 25 19 76
Severity Summary Description
5 Fatal Died at the scene or within a few weeks
4 Severe Permanently incapacitated in a major way or life at risk or an unusually high level of multiple injuries
3 Serious Seriously injured and required hospitalisation and rescue/assistance in evacuation. This may include threatening incidents.
2 Moderate Injured requiring first aid or medical attention and include lacerations, burns, bruising, torn ligaments doctor may be visited.
1 Minor Superficial injuries that probably are only a minor will most likely go away quickly and require no attention. Small cuts, abrasions, minor bruising and
0 Unknown The injuries or status have not been obtained.
The good news is that what we have always known is true, seconding is very safe. One fall involved a
traverse that the leader failed to protect. The second occurred in 2003 with an experienced party.
Add up all the unroped accidents (15%) and you can see that collectively it’s a problem. The rope
serves a purpose and it should be used whenever there is a risk of falling.
Some years ago I saw ‘Joe Cool’ soloing with his headphones past me on the Organ Pipes near
Diapason and thought how foolish he was. He was dead by the end of the day. Several deaths have
occurred where a pattern of soloing had developed, even on routes the person had previously climbed
easily, e.g., Hermes at Booroomba. I believe also that ‘experts’, and I use the term loosely, who solo
up Conifer Crack, in full view of beginners, to gain access to Red Wall are doing everybody a
Naturally falling whilst leading is the expected and actual primary situation type for fatal, severe and
serious injuries. The actual cause can vary and could be slippery rock, pushing beyond one’s limit,
loose holds and a myriad of other reasons.
1 Includes only abseiling incidents on Rock Climbing trips. Abseiling also appears as a separate entry and also as a category
under Mountaineering and Gym Climbing.
2 Soloing is where the climber is actively ascending a usually roped climb.
3 Scrambling is where a climber is accessing or investigating a climbing area in an exposed situation.
4 Unroped near cliff edge is where a climber would normally be expected to be roped or exercise extre me care because of
the proximity of the cliff edge.
T Climbing Accidents in Australia (1955 – 2004)
© 2004 Iain B. Sedgman Page – 7 –
Quite surprisingly rockfall contributes significantly to accidents. There is the objective hazard and the
instances of other climbers dislodging them. In ACAD there are eighteen Rock Climbing accidents
related to rock fall and in every instance the rock was dislodged by party members. The VCC has a
policy of helmets on, once at the cliff face on club trips. This is sound practice as there are pockets of
‘loose’ rocks building up on some routes and I personally have been whacked at the base of the cliff by
a loose belay block before I could get my helmet on. The helmet would have been simpler than the
Worth noting is that the incidence of leaders landing on seconds has taken a small jump in recent
times. Two of the accidents were in the last couple of years. These both related to leaders falling
before their first good piece was placed. Another issue on the rise is accidents due to poor
communication, there have been several with misheard calls.
#Time as a Factor
Whilst ACAD only has the time of accident recorded for nineteen rock climbing accidents (almost at
random) it is certainly of note that all of these, bar one, occurred after noon. This obviously warrants
further research and is an excellent outcome of the inclusion of the time field from the ASID data
dictionary. I am inclined to the view that the risk is elevated later in the day. For this reason I never let
beginners under instruction lead that ‘last’ climb of the day but choose something a bit harder and lead
them up it myself.
The following percentages will provide the reader with an approximation to some of the key areas of
damage and the prevalence. Keep in mind that most of the accidents cover several areas of damage.
Shock is obviously present in most.
· Ankle & Foot injuries >25%
· Head, Spinal and Trauma > 25%
· Bruising > 11%
· Rope burn > 5%
· Fractured legs > 10%
· Hand injuries > 6%
· Dislocations > 3%
· Other = c. 15%