Accidents in North American Mountaineering (ANAM) 2010

As I say every year, I read ANAM every year, though with less and less interest as the years pass. Eventually you feel like you’ve seen them all, although this year featured the most bizarre accident ever (a leader strangled by her gear sling when the trigger bar for a cam got caught on a horn–tragically implausible).

The theme this year was bad belaying. There were more “lowered off the end of the rope” accidents than usual and a couple of uncommon “belayer didn’t catch the fall” accidents. I’d almost gotten complacent enough to believe those didn’t happen.

Being in the process of teaching a beginner to climb, I’m rethinking some of my techniques. Monkey see, monkey do. And when you see the monkey do what you have (apparently) been doing all these years, it leaves a different impression. All excuses (I’m more experienced) and rationalizations (I haven’t dropped anyone yet) aside, I don’t ever want to reproach myself with having been less than the safest belayer possible if I’m ever involved in an accident. So I’m reviewing my own belay technique with an eye towards setting an example worthy of emulating. No more one-hand slide when taking in slack. From now on, I grab and go.

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