Mountain Accident Statistics
Mountain sports risk as low as ever – with one exception
So low was the risk never before, to kill deadly in mountain sports. A total of 71 mountain DAV members died in 2016 and 2017, a decrease of 28% compared to the previous reporting period. Against this background, accident events in mountain hiking seem contradictory at first sight: the rescue missions to rescue undamaged hikers – so-called “blockages” – have increased significantly. Finally, a third finding from the current mountain accident statistics is remarkable: the connection between climate change and mountain sports accidents is becoming increasingly visible.
Mortality rate at a low
Throughout the reporting period, 1878 emergencies involving a total of 2,433 people were reported. This corresponds to an increase in both emergencies and those affected compared to the two years of the previous reporting period. In both years, however, the number of members has risen sharply. This means that the risk of an emergency is calculated to be an effective 2.7% reduction. In the case of fatal accidents (61 accidents involving 71 dead members), the rate is even reduced by 28%. The fatal accident rate for the current reporting period is the lowest since the compilation of the DAV mountain accident statistics in the 1950s.
Risk of getting into an emergency during mountain sports, compared to many years. The relative number of accidents and emergencies and their affected members is much lower today than it was at the beginning of the 1950s and has settled at a relatively low level. The slight increase in the number of emergencies since 2000 is due to the increasing number of blockages, which can be explained by the now widespread use of mobile phones. Today, an emergency phone can be found in almost every baggage, with more than 80% of all emergency calls being made by mobile phone. In times of emergency, help can now simply be obtained before it comes to a serious accident with injury or death when trying to escape from the plight.
Significantly more emergencies when hiking
In the current reporting period, there were 558 accidents and emergencies in the hiking area with 751 participating Alpine Club members. The main cause with a share of 47% was tripping, kinking or falling. So far, so expectable. Noteworthy is the proportion of blockages, which now accounts for 33% of all rescue missions during hiking. This share has increased by half since the last reporting period. Why? Blockages are situations from which those affected can not liberate themselves, even though they are unhurt. About half of the blocked wanderers had lost their orientation, in most other cases exhaustion played a major role. One may assume, then, that overconfidence and wrong tour selection are important factors leading to a significant increase in blocking when hiking – along with the fact that the alerting of the emergency services takes place earlier than just a few years ago.
Development of blockages in the various mountain sports disciplines. In the reporting period, blockages due to getting lost / falling in the hiking area increased significantly.
So the climate change affects mountain sports accidents
The effects of climate change on the Alps and mountain sports conditions have manifested for years and decades: thawing permafrost, accumulation of thunderstorms and precipitation-rich extreme weather conditions, which in turn lead to landslides and mudflows. These changed conditions have so far had no direct influence on the accident figures of DAV members. Only the increased blockages of fatigue and dehydration are in line with the record summer 2003 and 2015.
In one area, however, the indirect impact of climate change on the number of accidents is visible. At full throttle, the glacier and firn shrinkage leads to tricky terrain: Apere, snow-free glaciers are harder to conquer and pose a greater accident risk. The increased number of fatal mite accidents in the current reporting period is an example of this development. Miter accidents happen especially on steep and apereal glacier passages, when mountain climbers are connected with a rope and in a fall, the other entrain. In a particularly tragic accident in the Zillertal Alps, six members of the Alpine Club lost their lives in August 2017, as one member fell and all the others on the rope tore to their deaths.
Looking at the hot summer of 2018, the change in conditions for uphill skiing becomes clear: the decline in permafrost, apere glaciers, glacial meltdowns, mudslides, rockfalls and landslides are changing the high mountains and putting new risks at risk for mountaineers and requiring new strategies from them. Mountain guides used to be on the Biancograt (Piz Bernina) with up to three guests – today, as a rule, only one guest is taken. Whether the new strategies are already taking effect and how the hot summer will affect the accident figures will be shown by the next mountain accident statistics.
The Mountain Accident Statistics of the German Alpine Association
The German Alpine Association has published mountain accident statistics since the 1950s. Since it appears every two years, the current reporting period extends from November 1, 2015 to October 31, 2017, and includes two complete summer and winter seasons in the mountains. Data basis are exclusively accidents of DAV members. Thus, in combination with the results of the member surveys, important conclusions can be drawn. With the help of the time spent by members in practicing the various disciplines, the risk of accidents can be accurately calculated for each mountain sport discipline. This results in the comparison of the individual disciplines that mountain hiking is the safest discipline. While walking, most fatal accidents happen; it is about half of those affected. However, hiking is by far the most accomplished activity of DAV members. This means that the risk of fatal accident while hiking is still very low. The most risky mountain sports disciplines are alpine climbing and high touring.