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Risk by Dan Gardner

Simon Perry casually posing on a steep cliff

We are all wired to be a stone-age human!
So we react to the risk as wired as our ancestors who run on the savannah in Africa, fleeing away from predator beasts, avoiding poisonous or harmful things like particular plants and something polluted to maximise the chance of survival.

It might be all good as long as one lives such a life alone, relying thoroughly on their instinct, or so called Gut. But we don't. Modern lives are far more complicated.

In this post I summarise, from a climber's perspective, some interesting facts taken from the brilliant book: Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear by Dan Gardner (2009).

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Required strength of belay anchors

A rigging example by Nick Bullock [©Will Sim (2014)]

There was a fatal accident in Yosemite — the circumstantial evidence implies the party placed 4 pieces of gear for the belay, then the leader took a factor-2 fall on the belay, all the gear of which ripped, and as a result the entire party was perished. In that particular case, clearly the belay was not strong enough despite 4 pieces of gear…

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Type-3 fun, or 5 per cent terror

Tue, 2014-08-12 11:49 - The weather cleared up and it has become a nice sunny day.

Kyle saw an orange light tumbling down the steep slope on the glacier and passing him.
He realised, I have got to do something, right now!
Throwing himself at the slope to thrust the pick of iceaxe into snow as deeply as possible.
Unfortunately, that was not enough.
The rope between him and falling Masa became taught.
He was dragged down and he too started to fall…

Force and gravity

Ruler.  (Cropped from the original image by Ejay in http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Steel_ruler_closeup.jpg . License: CC Share Alike 3.0)

In this world, the unit is often the source of confusion. Climbing is no exception. As an example, here is an extract from Andy Kirkpatrick's solo attempt in Troll Wall, where he had a hard time as vividly described in his own words:

[After hand-drilling a hole to place a bolt:]

I slid the bolt onto the hanger, then pushed it into the hole, but found it was a little too big to fit easily, so tapped it in with my hammer. I felt it trying to resist, but eventually felt it begin to give way. Then, after only a centimetre, it started to bend.

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New routing at The Brand - Part 1

"What's the next move?!" I asked myself.
I have practiced the move so many times, yet for some reason in this final leading attempt, I can't recall…

The last and only meaningful gear was 4 metres below — as many as 4 pieces — loads in terms of quantity, but the quality is questionable: a small pecker, micro-cam in a shallow seam, micro-nut placed side-way, and slider-nut placed vertically…

Go down, very fast, up, up, to alpine glory

Viewing south from Aig. Chardonnet

Summitting — it is one of the primary goals in mountaineering.

Logically speaking, it does not make much sense. Mountaineerers often deliberately and willingly choose hard ways rather than just trodding up to a summit. If you just want to summit, then why don't you take the easiest way? Alternatively if you want an excitement of the challenge, then as soon as you finish the difficult part of the route, you should be ready to descend to a safety, rather than stretching to the summit via comparatively easy path, braving a potential of associated risks.

However it seems climbers are not such a logical creature…

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