CALCULATED RISK

Rock and Ice|June/July 2020

CALCULATED RISK
HOW UNDERSTANDING DANGER COULD KEEP YOU OUT OF HARM’S WAY
PETE WHITTAKER
The first dangerous route I ever climbed was a free solo of Edge Lane (5.11X), a beautiful arete at Millstone Edge, a popular U.K. gritstone crag. I’d never climbed without a rope before, so didn’t know how it would feel.

I remember getting to the final move, which happens to be the crux. My friend Ben and my bouldering pad both looked disappointingly far away, like a Lego man and a postage stamp. Ben had stepped back. Spotting was pointless. It all felt quite unnerving. From my stance I looked up, then down … then up again. I pondered the drop and anticipated the move.

I stepped up, executed the move, and though I was scared, it felt easy. I topped out. This was the first real risk in climbing that I’d taken.

If we were to assume no risk at all, we’d never get out of bed. We choose to take risk to get things done. In climbing, especially so. The important thing is weighing the level of risk against the danger involved: a proper analysis takes time and experience. Climbers need to be their own judges to know what is and what isn’t acceptable risk and potential for harm. Some people are willing to take greater risk and will happily forge into the red zone, whereas others are cautious and stay in green. Most people have dabbled inside the orange zones.

Whether pros or novices, all climbers need to continuously monitor both factors to the best of their ability to stay safe.

THE TERMS OF THE DEAL

Let’s begin by defining some terms.

A danger is cause of harm. That could either be a situation you are in, the rock, the weather, etc. In climbing, dangers come in all shapes and sizes. It’s possible to have both very dangerous and safe situations, and you can flick between these within a matter of seconds.

A risk is exposure to the danger. If someone is being exposed, to what level?

Harm is a physical injury. It is the outcome when both risk and danger are combined, and a mistake is made.

COMBINATION OF THE FACTORS

articleRead

You can read up to 3 premium stories before you subscribe to Magzter GOLD

Log in, if you are already a subscriber

GoldLogo

Get unlimited access to thousands of curated premium stories and 5,000+ magazines

READ THE ENTIRE ISSUE

June/July 2020