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Thoughtful Thursday#3: Rock Rescue

Posted Thursday, October 3, 2019

Thoughtful TH#3: What do climbing and backcountry skiing have in common?

Both take place in potentially hazardous environments that present rescue risks.

How are these two activities different?

Only in one of them has a universally recognized minimum standard of training that you'd expect your partner to have before stepping into those environments.

In the sliding sports, the Level 1 Avi training is the common currency you expect in a partner before the deal goes down. But climbers will partner up with a FB group contact or friend of a friend and launch into multi-pitch climbing without any knowledge of—or even inquiry into—their partner's ability to deal with rescue. In fact, I'd bet that most multi-pitchers themselves have little idea how to solve even the most basic rescue problems.

The snow sports world has done a laudable job of promoting the importance of self-responsibility in avalanche awareness and rescue. Why hasn't the climbing world stepped up? Why don't individual climbers demand these basic skills of their partners and of themselves? It would be wonderful to see organizations like the AAC, Mountaineers, and Sierra Club take the lead on this.

Yes, there are legitimate critiques of the limits of what an Avi 1 training provides: It certainly only provides a baseline of skills and in some cases graduates may mistakenly feel they can take bigger risks, but ask yourself, “If I were buried in an avalanche would I rather have a graduate of the Avi Rescue or not?” I know my answer. And I know my answer in climbing environments.

We're soon deep in powder, but still deep in the pump of rock season. Make the time to educate yourself—and ask your partners to do the same.


TTH is meant as a counterweight (but not a criticism of) the oh-so-popular climbing Tech Tuesday posts. See my Sept 5th post for background.