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Wilderness Environ Med. 2012 Sep;23(3):223-30. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2012.04.002. Epub 2012 Jun 22.

Rock climbing rescues: causes, injuries, and trends in Boulder County, Colorado.

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Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Boulder, Colorado 80306, USA.



To describe rates and patterns of rock climbing rescue incidents, morbidity and mortality in Boulder County, CO.


Rocky Mountain Rescue Group incident reports from 1998 to 2011 were reviewed to provide a 14-year statistical account of rock climbing incidents.


Rock climbing rescues in Boulder accounted for 428 of a total of 2198 (19.5%) mountain and wilderness rescue victims. Most rock climbing victims were male (78%), and 46% of victims were between the ages of 20 and 29 years; most rock climbing incidents occurred on weekend days (median time of 3:30 pm) during the spring, summer, and autumn. Technical roped climbers accounted for 58% of climbing victims, whereas unroped climbers accounted for 34%. Belay incidents accounted for 12% of climbing victims, whereas rock fall incidents accounted for 4.5% of victims. Most victims were uninjured (43% stranded or lost), whereas lower extremity injuries were the most common injury (29.5% of injured victims). A total of 5.5% of climbing victims were fatally injured (23 victims: 5 from lead falls and 9 from unroped falls).


The occurrence of rock climbing-related rescue victims comprised one fifth of all rescue victims in Boulder County. A large fraction of incidents and fatalities resulted from unroped climbing. Incidents of lost or uninjured stranded climbers and belay incidents account for more than half of victims, which can likely be prevented by gaining appropriate experience, seeking local information, and applying some simple safety measures for control of rope belays.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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