Paul McClellan's thoughts on Climber Safety -- Email March 29, 2002
Chemeketan climbers,

We have begun a thread related to climber safety, and I would like to emphasize a few points from my perspective. Other climb leaders and assistants will disagree with me, and they are welcome to rebut my points.
  1. The Chemeketans is an outdoor recreation club, not a mountain guide service.
  2. Chemeketan climb leaders and assistants are climb facilitators, helping to organize and lead climbs, not climbing guides with appropriate certifications and professional liability insurance.
  3. Climb participants should reserve their judgment and climb in an alert and questioning manner, not blindly place their faith in the judgment of the leader and assistants. They should ask questions when they do not understand what is going on, if they want to rope up, or if the climb is too dangerous for them to want to continue.
  4. If winter climbs are perceived as being particularly dangerous by the Chemeketan Council, the Council may decide not to allow winter climbs as official club activities -- why should the general membership accept the financial responsibility and costs associated with higher danger and expensive, specialized gear? Some Council members have questioned allowing club climbing activities at all for these reasons.
Each of us should accept responsibility for our own activities. If the club does not have the training you want, consider getting it on your own, and sharing what you learn with the club. If you see some safety equipment that you think is important, approach the club about purchasing and maintaining it, but if the club does not purchase it or maintain it in a manner you think appropriate, then purchase and use your own. I have purchased and maintained my own ropes for years for this reason, and have recently purchased a probe and transceiver.

Certainly, transceivers, probes, and shovels can be useful for locating buried people, and it is prudent for climbers and skiers to carry them. But there are financial and other costs associated with using them, including the weight and bulkiness of transceivers with all the other gear hanging on you, that blanket rules do not address. We cannot remove all risk from our climbing activities. We should perform a risk/benefit analysis of our choices and live with the consequences. I don't want to accept this complete responsibility for everyone on my climbs -- I want them to accept some or all of this themselves. Certainly new climbers must rely to some extent on the climb leadership, but please do not encourage the expectation that climb leaders must accept all responsibility, or no prudent person would ever lead Chemeketan climbs.

I have enjoyed tremendously climbing with the Chemeketans over the years. We have a fun and friendly network of climbers who take responsibility for their actions and are eager to share their experiences and what they have learned with the others. Lets try to maintain this character as we introduce more people to the sport of climbing.

Paul McClellan