Rock climbing is perceived to be a dangerous sport. But when you weigh up the odds, is it really the case?
An average member of the public out for a Sunday stroll in the Peak District may see climbers clinging to the side of rock faces and naturally assume it unsafe. Jagged rocks jut from the landscape, a hard, pebble strewn floor lays beneath, sheer faces of coarse grit stone all around, and people are willfully pulling themselves upwards, higher and higher, away from the apparent protection and safety of the ground.
But the natural fear of falling from height and hurting ourselves forces climbers to protect themselves, in order to minimise the chances of serious injury.
How many of us employ this same level of scrutiny – weighing all the odds, planning for every eventuality and assuming the worst – when undertaking the simple task of driving home in an evening?
Sometimes, however, all the preparation in the world cannot prevent a car crash – metaphorically speaking, when the rock breaks and the gear fails, or literally speaking, when someone collides into you in a vehicle.
Professional climber Tom Greenall experienced the latter after completing one of his “best grit stone ascents”.
Earlier this month Tom paid a visit to Bank Quarry, near Matlock, to climb a legendary route called The Power of the Dark Side – a climb he’d wanted to complete since having a brief play one evening last year.
“Fast-forward a year and some training later and I was in much better shape,” said Tom. “I had pretty much forgotten about the line, but after watching a video of it being climbed I got all juiced up for a return visit.
“Not big into unnecessary risk, I padded the landing out well, wore my helmet and even took a rope to clip some gear for the final top section. Still, better safe than sorry, and I felt a lot more comfortable just knowing, if the worst came to the worst, at least for the crux I would be relatively OK.”
Tom was, of course, OK and made short work of the route. Upon topping out and walking back down to the bottom, he recalled: “Looking at all my equipment, I thought ‘you know what, even though I didn’t need all that, it’s still good to have it there just in case’.”
But on the drive home, after completing the ‘dangerous’ climb, a car pulled out in front of Tom’s van and there was a 45mph head on collision. Tom’s sleeve was set alight by the air bag and he was left with back, neck and head pain from the impact, but both he and his passenger managed to get out of the vehicle.
“I was put on a spinal board and taken to Chesterfield General for a precautionary x-ray,” said Tom. Luckily all was fine and I was released sometime in the early morning.
“However, during the five hours my head was immobilized, I got to thinking about the route and what happened after.
“I had just done something that many would see as massively dangerous, especially when compared to the routine act of driving your car home. Yet there I was, being treated seriously for an accident that happened in a totally normal situation.
“We loath having to plan for the un-expected. What is the point of investing in something we will hopefully never need? That extra pad you think about taking out or that extra bit of gear or helmet might seem like a chore but, even if you think you are safe, could you do a bit more? Because if the unexpected does happen and you do need it, you will wish you had it.”
To read more visit Tom’s blog on http://tomgreenallclimbing.wordpress.com/about-me/.