The danger of experience

It’s usually true that greater rock climbing experience results in increased rock climbing competence.  However, I worry that there are a small minority of climbers for whom greater rock climbing experience leads to increased risk-taking and occasional bad practice.   What this demonstrates to me is a need to keep an open, questioning mind about my own climbing practice.

Climbing at Holyhead Mountain.

The taking of calculated risks is intrinsic to rock climbing.  As a rock climber does more climbs, they build up experience of calculating risks and making decisions in a variety of potentially dangerous situations.  They also learn from the experience of mistakes, near misses and climbing with people more skilled than them.  In the vast majority of people, this makes them a more skilled and safer climber.

However, I have seen experienced climbers taking unnecessary risks and engaging in poor, and possibly unsafe practices.  I’m thinking of such things as leaving long distances between runners, relying on one anchor for a belay or using dubiously placed protection when the situation doesn’t justify it. Read more