How dangerous is climbing Mount Rainier?

Last spring I climbed Mount Rainier. Being an adventurous, outdoorsy, Pacific-Northwest born kid, it’s something I’d always dreamed about. While I enjoy physically grueling events, I’m a naturally risk averse person. I needed some friends to finally convince me to do it.

When my family and (other) friends started questioning my decision to climb, I did what I do best, I turned to the data. I know that we have an irrationally high fear of dying of something like a mass shooting or bridge collapse or mountaineering incident when it’s many times more likely we’ll die of heart disease or cancer.

I figured climbing Rainier was probably more dangerous than sitting on the couch all weekend, but I joked that “I was more likely to die in a car accident on my way to the mountain than on the mountain itself.” I never found out if that’s true, but I did learn that...

 

●        In the last 65 years, over 400,000 people have attempted to summit, less than 100 have died. That comes out to about 1/50th of 1%.

●        That’s about the same as the rate of people that die in a car crash in Oklahoma each year.

●        About half those deaths might have been avoidable. Better training, better decision making about when to climb and choosing safer routes could have helped.

 

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You can see and interact with the full Tableau dashboards here.

You’ll notice that I didn’t just stop with reporting on some historical facts. I provided recommendations as well. At OneNumber, we believe that data which doesn’t help you improve is just noise. If you or anyone you know is planning to climb, encourage them to follow the recommendations provided.

You might wonder, did my efforts convince my family and friends that it was a good decision? No. My dad still thinks I’m an idiot. Did it help me feel better about my decision? Absolutely. It confirmed for me that we overestimate how likely we are to die in headline-worthy ways and that my decision wasn’t as dangerous as people made it out to be.