How many people die climbing

Death climbs with it

An eight-year-old girl - crashed while hiking with her family near Berchtesgaden. A 48-year-old from Munich - fell a hundred and fifty meters to his death while hiking in Vorarlberg. And only last weekend a climber from Belgium lost his balance on the Jubiläumsgrat in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and fell 200 meters deep into the Höllental.

It is reports like this that rule summer in the mountains. Almost every weekend it claims dead and injured. Autumn, the classic time for mountain hikes, is still ahead. Weather permitting, September and October lure the masses up to the Alps. And then the mountain rescuers are particularly challenged again.

It is not clear how many people paid for their carelessness with their lives this year. Exact numbers are not yet available for Bavaria. They are not reported to the head office on a daily basis by the readiness staff. Comprehensive statistics on mountain accidents are also not kept in Germany.

However, there are some indications: Since 1952, the German Alpine Association (DAV) has been recording mountain accidents at least among its members. On the basis of this it can be clearly stated: Although the number of members has increased almost tenfold in the past 60 years, the number of club members who have crashed has fallen significantly. In the past year 28 members died in the mountains - as few as never since the beginning of the DAV statistics. The strong decrease compared to 46 dead mountaineers in 2011 is explained by the DAV with unfavorable touring conditions - a short ski touring season and rather bad weather last autumn. The DAV accident statistics list an average of 40 dead climbers per year.

The actual number of accidents is far higher than the accidents recorded by the DAV. The Austrian Board of Trustees for Alpine Safety can read from its statistics that 23 Germans have had fatal accidents in the Austrian mountains since May alone. Since the beginning of the year, 63 German mountaineers have died in Austria alone. That is already more than in the whole of 2012. At that time there were a total of 60. However, this does not indicate a trend. "The number of fatal mountain sports accidents in Austria has been hovering around an average of 300 for many years. We have not seen any upward or downward trend," says the Austrian Board of Trustees for Alpine Safety.

The mountain rescue service records around 12,000 missions per year in Bavaria. “A mountain is just a mountain. It doesn't take much and you trip or slip, ”says the mountain rescue service. Around 700 missions are due to Garmisch-Partenkirchen's readiness alone. There are days when the voluntary mountain rescuers at the foot of the Zugspitze are on their way from one aid to the next.

One of the mountain rescuers' hotspots: the Jubiläumsgrat. If the weather is good on the weekend in summer, the mountain rescue men and women are almost guaranteed to work on the ridge path. The Garmisch mountain rescuers fly an average of 40 times a year by helicopter up to the Jubiläumsgrat, which stretches from the Zugspitze over to the Alpspitze. There are also numerous other salvages on days when a helicopter cannot be used due to the weather.

The Jubiläumsgrat has developed into a real mountaineer magnet in recent years, not least due to the almost inflationary reporting in various outdoor magazines. The Jubiläumsgrat is anything but suitable for the masses: unsecured it goes for many kilometers, sometimes with climbing in the second degree of difficulty up and down the edge of the ridge.

“High alpine route, not continuously insured. Climbing equipment recommended ”can be read on a sign at the beginning of the climb near the Zugspitz summit. Nevertheless, more and more mountaineers are trying their hand at the demanding tour. And more and more of the mountain rescue teams in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Grainau have to be rescued from the ridge. Injured people as well as dead climbers. Mostly they are exhausted athletes, because of which they have to fly to the ridge or climb on foot, explains Andreas Dahlmeier from the mountain rescue service Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Because cell phones are standard mountaineering equipment, calling for help is much easier these days. This has advantages: the rescue can be initiated immediately. When it comes to human life, it saves important minutes. But the cell phones also have disadvantages. True to the motto, if something happens to us, we call the helicopter, mountaineers become reckless or they pick up their cell phones, even though the situation does not urgently require it. "The body could usually go on for a very long time, even if the person thinks he is exhausted," says Andreas Dahlmeier. As far as the Jubiläumsgrat is concerned, people in Garmisch-Partenkirchen have been quietly talking about a shuttle service provided by the mountain rescue service.

A mission in Austria this June proves that there are such cases where mountaineers want to save themselves the descent into the valley and call for rescue: Two Dutch mountaineers climbed the Kleine Göll. In the afternoon they made an emergency call. Apparently they didn't dare to descend from the summit because of the wet and slippery terrain. A police helicopter brought them down into the valley. But they had left a suspicious entry in the summit book. "H. and M. from Holland were on the summit. We 'go' back by helicopter. ”The Dutch are now paying 2300 euros for the flight into the valley.

The causes of emergency situations are very different: For example, a climber had to be flown off the Jubiläumsgrat last weekend because the sole of his shoe had come loose. "The mountaineers' equipment is mostly good," says the mountain rescue service. However, nature has become more and more unpredictable in recent years. Extreme weather conditions and climate change lead to rockfalls and landslides. Last weekend, a 25-year-old woman from Oberallgäu died on the Verpeiljoch on the Kaunergrat because a rock erupted to which she had held on.

And then the mountain rescue service and the Alpine Club keep citing the mountaineers' selfishness and overestimation of themselves as causes of mountain difficulties. Quite a few mountaineers either dare to do too much or underestimate the length and technical requirements of their tours. That is the result of the 2012 DAV mountain accident statistics. Via ferratas in particular prove to be a treacherous trap for many mountaineers. The paths on the natural rock, secured with iron ladders, steps and steel ropes, are becoming increasingly popular. The result: In the past ten years, the number of emergency reports recorded by the Alpine Club has tripled. “Via ferrata climbers are often not up to the overall requirements of the desired via ferrata. Against this background, it is worrying that difficult and long via ferratas are becoming more and more fashionable. An honest self-assessment and the appropriate selection of the tour destinations are therefore particularly important, ”says the DAV.