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Rock Climbing Rescues: Causes, Injuries, and Trends in Boulder County, Colorado

Climbing accidents causes bar graph

28 March-2013: 1 hour video presentation based on the published paper.

2 July-2012: Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Journal, tells the story by the numbers of Boulder County climbing rescues from 1998 - 2011. Rock Climbing Rescues: Causes, Injuries and Trends in Boulder County, Colorado (PDF, 8 pages, 400 KB) makes the best of the bad situations for almost 430 climbers involved in accidents from over 14 years. If the dryness of the scientific journal is too much, we have also self web published the companion addendum Rock Climbing Rescues in Boulder County, Colorado and Eldorado Canyon State Park, Colorado, 1998 - 2011 that compares accidents within Eldorado Canyon, to all of Boulder County.

Take aways for climbers:

  • Anchors rarely fail (2.5% of total), and when they do it is because of inexperience in setup.
  • 20% of all accidents could have been prevented by better belay practices such as tying a knot in the end of the rope, or wearing belay gloves.
  • Rock fall causes a small number of accidents (4.5% of total), and may be correlated to the freeze thaw cycles of spring and climber use patterns. In early spring climbing checking the rock you're about to climb on for security is a prudent preventative measure.
  • Prior knowledge of climb rappel anchors and walk offs, and taking a headlamp, will prevent a lot of rescues (up to 45% of total).
  • The common injuries sustained are to the legs/ankles (30%) and to the head and spine (30%). Knowledge of how to improvise splinting and how to assess spinal injuries might be a great addition to a climbers toolkit.
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Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Inc.
3720 Walnut St, Boulder, CO 80301, USA

Telephone (Voice Mail) 303-449-4141
Copyright 2009, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Inc.