There is a lot of discussion on the topic, and as you mention, ultimately it is a personal choice. Matching your risk tolerance to your partner/group is very important.
The trouble comes when some people (or worse, the leader) are ignorant of the risks.
Leading someone into avalanche terrain and not knowing it, that type of thing.
Thanks. Actually, I have not read much about climbing risk. I believe we all know it is possible we could get hurt, but I think it will happen to someone else - not me.
I think the stat you reference in your footnote 4 might be unreliable. It's extrapolated from a UK calculation of 1 fatality in 320,000 climbing outings. I couldn't really trace it all the way back, but it seems to come from experience with school activities (including climbing walls), which is a highly controlled environment.
Another interesting British stat is 26 fatalities per year in Scotland, against 6.5 million "mountaineering outings," which would equate to about 1:250,000. But the overwhelming majority of the 6.5 million outings are "hill walking," which the Brits said has a much lower risk level than scrambling or climbing. Interestingly, the Brits apparently found scrambling to be the riskiest activity, by a considerable margin, but they couldn't quantify it.
A long time ago, I recall seeing what seemed like a reliable NPS calculation that the risk of "serious" injury for off-trail scramblers and climbers in the Tetons was, overall, about 1 in 10,000 climber days.
Oh, and I've been under rockfall at Seneca where it sounded like bullets ripping through the trees. Whatever the actual risk, it sure was terrifying.
Thanks for the heads up on the HSE stats and the referral to the Scottish data. I just spent a few hours in some casual research, but could not really find much data on risk. What injuries are defined as serious?? How are they reported and is all data considered? And more difficult - how much do people really climb? And then how to compare that risk against other sporting activities?
In the few years I have climbed I have noticed a real serious attitude toward safety.
The few injuries I am personally aware of are almost always attributable to climber error and mostly on rappel. One notable sad case last year at Moore's Wall in NC, where a young climber made a set-up error, possibly only clipped his friction device into one rope on the rappel. That was the first death there in many years.
I recently climbed with one fellow who, years before I met him, missed clipping to a bolt on a sport climb, realized too late to down climb and ended up falling to the ground on a long run-out, because he was too high above his last piece of pro. It was a new route for him. Also, he was climbing with a totally new belay partner. His helmet saved his life, but he was still seriously injured.
You might take a look at the American Alpine Club publication 'Accidents in North American Mountaineering' which is issued to all AAC members with the AAJ. They are available online with a membership. Nice work.
Thanks Andrew. Glad your climbing goes well in Croatia - still insanely jealous. Thx for the PM. I will check out the details in AAJ when I get access and someone else messaged me to check out the Yosemite rescue stats and the National Park Service stats. Also I want to circle back to the source material from the HSE that Chugach Mountain Man pointed out. Once I get a chance to do all that, I will try and update the article then.
Ok. The article is updated with your comments.
Article updated with your comments. Thanks.