Risk Assessment, Death, and Bees

Corey ‘C-Dog’ Carver here. I hate bees. I hate them more than tailgaters, corn, and a pen with ink that does not write all combined together. Let us be clear that “bees” includes all manner of stinging, flying insects. Bees have forced me to bail off climbs and cry like a three old year whose bed underneath is occupied by The Fangman. I find routes that climb near bees to be risky business, and risk assessment is one of the main priorities for rock climbers.

I was primed for a fantastic summer: Clear Creek Canyon, Ten Sleep Canyon, Devil’s Tower, and possibly bouldering in RMNP. I was climbing well, hard, and smartly. Then I crushed my ankle. “I’ve done this climb before, I’ll just boulder up and preclip the first draw for you, bro.” Not only did I miss the draw on the first attempt, my right foot blew and after a 10’ drop to uneven rock, I had a grade 2 sprained ankle and some “crunched” bones (according to the doc). I made a poor assessment of the risk. As a consequence, I took almost four weeks off and three more to return to form.

We do a dangerous sport. Hiking through forests that may contain bees, traversing a ridgeline with a thousand foot drop to one, or both sides. Skipping clips to find that perfect jug to get a rest on. Thinking two pads will be enough for a 20’ ground fall. Or, God forbid, trusting a ridiculously small hook on an even more ridiculous edge (aid climbing). Even putting on a harness or lacing up your shoes is an exercise in whether you trust your life and health to your gear, partners, or yourself.

As a coach, I work with my team helping them realize their goals and understanding the danger inherent to the sport of rock climbing. They all understand the risk, but do not understand they can get hurt and hurt for good. It is as if only other people get hurt. This attitude is why I got hurt. Having never been seriously hurt, the danger was very distant to me and I became complacent. It is human nature to become complacent when we live, eat, and breathe climbing. Then I realized something:

Rock climbing in itself is not inherently dangerous. Human nature is.

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