Is Rock Climbing Dangerous? Statistics & How to Climb Safe

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Is climbing dangerous? Yeah, absolutely. Every time you climb you can hurt yourself or even die. But the latter is extremely unlikely and should not stop you from climbing!

So that you can better assess the danger, I will illuminate the five most common causes of death when climbing and explain to you afterward what you must pay attention to for your safety when climbing.

By far the most fatal accidents are due to human error. You overestimate yourself, misuse equipment and so on.

Before you go climbing, you should be sure to know everything about your safety when climbing. Take a course, have an expert instruct you and get to know your equipment.

The Top 5 Reasons for Fatal Climbing Accidents

Free Soloing

With Free Soloing you climb without climbing rope, i.e. without safety. It is not surprising that many and especially fatal accidents occur.

Climbing without a rope is a lot of fun, no question, but you can also do that when bouldering. As a rule of thumb: anything above 10 m (30 feet) height is fatal.

If you find the thought of free soloing interesting, ask yourself first whether you have suicidal tendencies and secondly listen to my advice: Don’t do it!

What I can highly recommend, however, is free soloing over water. You climb an overhang over the water. That way you don’t fall into your death, but into the water.

But not all fatal accidents during climbing without a climbing rope are the result of insane loners. Many accidents happen during unsecured climbing over a small spot on the way to the actual climbing route. You think “Oh, I don’t get all the equipment out for that small distance”, but this can be a big mistake.

Rockfall and no Climbing Helmet

A large number of fatal climbing accidents are caused by falling stones. Sometimes the size is not so decisive – even an unfortunate falling stone, which is only the size of a fist, can have fatal consequences.

As soon as you climb outside, a climbing helmet is mandatory. Stones usually don’t come loose on their own. Climbing can cause rockfall if the climber himself or with his climbing rope moves loose stones. Logically, not only he is in danger, but also his climbing partner on the ground. That’s why the belayer’s eyes always go up!

Besides your attention, a climbing helmet is the best thing against falling rocks. Also, as a climber, you should watch what you touch with your body and equipment. Make sure that your rope does not run over loose stones and that you do not climb under another climber.

Lead Climbing and Traditional Climbing

In lead climbing, you climb from anchor to anchor. The climbing rope goes from the person securing on the ground through the anchors already reached and then directly to the climber – unlike top rope climbing, where the climbing rope leads from the belayer to the very top of the climbing route and then downwards to the climber, who does not have to secure himself in between.

No matter if the anchors are set before the climb or if you have to install them yourself during traditional climbing, any anchor can fail. Before you use an already installed anchor, inspect it for rust, stability and general optical impression. If you plan to place your own anchors, you should inform yourself about the route beforehand. Is the stone solid or rather loose and porous? What’s your route? Did you bring enough equipment?

It is also very important to clip your climbing rope correctly when lead climbing. If you do it wrong, the climbing rope can free itself from the carabiners in a fall.


When climbing, you only need your safety equipment if you fall. When you abseil, you hang in the climbing rope and have to rely on the rope, the anchor, your knot, the climbing harnesses, the belay device and your climbing partner. These are quite many variables that can go wrong and when abseiling you usually let yourself down from great heights.

And this is usually the cause of fatal accidents when abseiling. Usually, the reason for the accident is not due to equipment failure, but to the incorrect use of the equipment. A classic example is a badly placed anchor.

Even experienced climbers are affected by such mistakes, which is why everyone is well advised to check everything twice and never fall into a routine. Even if you have roped down a thousand times, the risk of doing something wrong is still there.


Mother Nature can not only throw stones at us but also rain, lightning and gusts of wind! On a climbing trip in the afternoon, there is little chance that the weather could be dangerous, but a downpour can also be dangerous. The rock’s getting slippery, it’s getting cold. When you cool down, you become more negligent and less concentrated. If you are not prepared for rain, it is better to cancel your climbing trip than to take the risk.

If you are climbing in the mountains and possibly spread over several days, you must be prepared for all weather conditions. You should have rain protection and thick clothes in any case with you. Especially in the mountains, climbers are surprised by sudden changes in the weather. A downpour or a thunderstorm with strong gusts of wind and lightning can be fatal.

Bouldering vs. Climbing

The risk of injury is higher when bouldering than when climbing. Bouldering is more intense and stresses the joints, muscles and tendons more than relaxed climbing. Interestingly, however, most bouldering injuries come from the jump from the end of the route to the ground. This mainly affects the legs. If you are not absolutely sure if you land safely, try to climb down slowly.

When climbing, the risk of injury to the individual parts of the body is approximately the same. The ankles, knees and wrists are slightly in front, as these parts of the body protect you in the event of an impact.

5 Tips for Safe Climbing

Concentration and Mindfulness

If you are not mindful and concentrated, no knowledge and no experience will help you. Think if you’ve paid attention to everything.

From the moment the climber leaves the ground until he has safely returned to the ground, full concentration must be maintained. Sure, you can hook directly at the anchor in between and take a break, but except in such moments, you should be concentrated at what you are doing.

Popular mistakes that can happen due to lack of attention are the following:

  • The knot is not correct and could give way under load.
  • The climbing rope is clipped in incorrectly. See how to clip correctly in this article.
  • The rope leads over a sharp edge on the rock. Climbing ropes hardly ever break. And if it is, it is 99% because it is cut by broken equipment or sharp rocks.
  • The anchor is unsafe. Either a permanently installed anchor is crumbling or a self-set anchor is not strong enough to withstand a fall.
  • The person belaying on the ground is inattentive and notices the fall of the climber too late or not at all. As a belayer, your attention should always be on the climber. Avoid anything that could disturb your attention (dogs, children, smartphone, etc.).

Bring enough Equipment

For example, before you only barely secure your anchors during traditional climbing, you should know exactly what equipment you will need on your route. Also, you should be prepared for a weather change and have a plan of what you will use as. –> Equipment needed for trad climbing

If you count the number of anchors from the ground before a sport climbing route, or you can take the number from a guide, bring a few more Quickdraws just to be sure. Of course, your climbing rope should be long enough to get to the top. A stopper knot at the end of the rope is also very important so that it cannot run out of the safety device when the end of the climbing rope is reached.

Besides the climbing equipment also enough food and especially water is very important. The hotter, the more water and minerals you need.

Always Wear a Climbing Helmet

Unfortunately, this is not always self-explanatory. I see enough climbers without helmets. And climbing helmets are really not expensive and can save your life. If your head hits the rock, your life can change or end!

Besides protecting you from falling, it also protects you from falling objects.

Although there is a lot to consider when choosing a climbing helmet, there are many very good models for beginners*.

Check your Equipment

Every time you go climbing, you should check your equipment thoroughly.

  • Climbing harness: Just before you get ready to climb, check that your harness is correctly positioned. The leg loops must fit tightly and the harness should not slide back and forth.
  • Knots: All knots must be firmly and correctly knotted. It is best if you look at all the knots together with your climbing partner. Four eyes see more than two.
  • Climbing rope and belay device: Especially with automatic safety devices, correct threading is very important. The rope must not run beside the track, which can damage it. Before you even set off on a climbing tour, you should check your climbing rope for possible damage. In addition, the belay device should be fastened to the climbing harness with a lockable carabiner.
  • Carabiners and other metallic objects: Also regularly check your metallic equipment. If sharp edges or burrs form there, you must replace it before the climbing rope is damaged.

Use only Safe Anchors

As already mentioned, unsafe anchors are a frequent cause of fatal climbing accidents. Before you secure yourself to an anchor, check it for rust, whether it wobbles or otherwise makes a bad or insecure impression.

Even if you set your own anchor, in the end, you have to be sure that it can withstand the impact of a fall. The old rule “double is better” also applies here. And with important anchors, a lockable carabiner gives you additional safety.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, whether you arrive safely on the ground or not, depends on how much attention you pay to your personal safety when climbing. Check your equipment, don’t take any risks and know what you’re doing.

Most climbing accidents are due to human error. I hope that this article has contributed to your safety when climbing. But don’t forget that climbing isn’t just about not dying, it’s about having fun!

Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.

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