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Re: [TowerTalk] Roswell Tower Accident

To: Ethan <>
Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Roswell Tower Accident
From: Jim Lux <>
Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2007 10:07:37 -0700
List-post: <>
Ethan wrote:
Doug Renwick wrote:
IMO if you can't free climb a tower then maybe you shouldn't be climbing

Forgive me for being so direct but I think it's necessary.

That is the stupidest response I've ever heard! You would be better off getting rid of all your climbing gear and hiring someone with sense in

Hey guys and gals(there must be lurking women on the list).. it's all a matter of risk acceptance.. Everyone gets a chance to decide how safe they want to be, based on their own personal ideas.

People do free climbing up El Capitan without any protection. Others won't even do bouldering on a 30 degree slab without being tied on.

People jump onto angry bulls and try to hang on for 8 seconds. Others won't even come close to a dead cow that's been sliced into little pieces in the supermarket.

For the last 25 years or so, I've ridden horses and jumped them jumps. When I was single in my late 20s, the jumps were huge, falls were spectacular, and I periodically got hurt. Now, I'm married, have kids, have an older creakier body, so I don't jump as big, nor do I fall off (as often), nor do I get hurt. My risk acceptance posture has changed. Some might say that I was stupid to do the big jumps. Nope.. I knew it was dangerous, but I also consciously decided that the thrill of jumping 6 foot oxers in a timed contest was worth the *certainty* of occasionally getting hurt, and that if worst came to worst, nobody was going to suffer for it (except me). Heck, the occasional falls just make it more exciting.. when you get around without crashing and burning, it's "I cheated the devil one more time".

The same is true for big-wave surfers, free climbers, and anyone else participating in a "thrill sport". It's also true for folks who travel to exciting, but dangerous, locations. {Mind you, sometimes I'm not that keen on my kids taking up these same dangerous activities: But Dad, you did it...}

So where does this fit in with TowerTalk... This list is a great resource for the informed part of "informed consent". What we can do here is talk about the various options and the pros and cons. In particular, we can talk about increased knowledge that's come about in terms of the biomechanics and the new technology that's available (e.g. those nifty cable brake things along the tower).

When I started rock climbing in the early 70s, the new safety hot-ticket was the swami belt: wrapping a 20ft length of 1" tubular webbing around your waist, and tying the rope to that, instead of just tying the rope around you. Today, nobody would do that; you use a regular body harness. Likewise the use of belay brakes vs wrapping the rope around your hips and the "dynamic belay", which itself was an attempt to overcome the issue of high shock loads on the falling climber who just had the rope around their waist.

But even so, falling and getting hurt is rare. So you have a lot of anecdotes of folks doing what are, in reality, hideously dangerous things, but surviving. That leads to complacency, hey, I've done it 30 times before, so it must be safe, when in reality, you've just been lucky on the 1 in 100 chance of killing yourself. (And even NASA gets bit by this.. viz ice hitting Shuttle thermal protective system)

Or, worse, someone setting out with total ignorance of the actual risks. Dave sees that Bob's been climbing his 200 foot tower barefoot, carrying the tools in his teeth, and he's done it every day for years, and now Dave assumes that it must be safe. But really, Bob is fully aware of it being dangerous, but has decided to do that way for the spine tingling frisson of fear and the adrenaline rush, because just getting country number 370 on 160m isn't exciting enough.

So, on this list, we can help distinguish between the anecdotally safe (the just plain lucky) and the objectively safe.

We can also describe what people who do it for a living consider appropriate, because there, at some level, someone has made a dollars and cents analysis of the risks (i.e. setting insurance rates and whatever rules you are required to follow to keep that insurance in force). However, what is acceptable risk for an occupational exposure might be higher OR lower than what any individual ham might consider acceptable. The same goes for engineering analysis on tower construction.. There's a big difference in the consequences of a tower failure in the middle of a cow pasture and in a tiny suburban lot, even if the objective risk of failure is the same.

In summary... be informed, make up your own mind, and don't do something that will get someone else hurt.

(and, darn, I wish my kids had taken up surfing, instead of riding horses. They're both somewhat dangerous, but one's a lot cheaper than the other.)

Jim, W6RMK


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