I continued writing about deaths in 2011 and 2012 and each time I've done so, it has been harder and harder. I receive a lot of PMs here and emails ... both positive and negative. While some people find my actions to be downright horrible, others find it useful and informative (and surely some people just like to rubber-neck).
It is no secret that there are a large number of people on this forum who find my writing and behavior to be horrible/inappropriate/etc. And I understand why... sometimes I think they are right. I do. And I would be lying if I said I did not care. I think I'm an OK guy, and I've been told by many very smart and passionate people to not let it get to me... but here I am.
The purpose of this post is three-fold:
1. To explain myself
2. To have an open discussion about the subject and how we should/could handle it on this forum
3. To talk about where I want to go from here
So here goes...
1. A lot of people assume that I write about death because I'm just curious and want to know what happened, to satiate a curiosity so to speak. Honestly, I can see why people would think that, and to some degree, I am a very curious person. When I read about WyomingBob's death on Jagged last week, it freaked-me-out. Bad. I felt horrible. I had read many of his trip reports and felt like I knew the guy. I wanted to be able to take away that loss. I hate reading about people dying doing an activity I do. Maybe because it sends a message to my primitive brain that I should not be climbing mountains. You see, I'm climbing Jagged this year and reading of his death made me immediately question my trip plans to climb it. I wanted to know everything I possibly could so I could make preparations to avoid death. I write to understand what happened so I can prevent others and myself from dying. Stupid, I know.
When I was in college, I did a research paper on the effects of death comics (like the Far Side) on death anxiety. I've always been fascinated with understanding how death effects us.
I also think there are people out there that get value from reading about accidents. It helps them, like me, prepare for the activity. Of course this will never prevent all deaths, in fact, we all know that a good portion of deaths on mountains are just plain freak accidents that could only be prevented if climbing was avoided altogether, and I don't suppose many of us like that option... which is why we want to understand. We want to do anything and everything to avoid death. It is what has made us such a viable species.
Lastly, I have the odd duty at work of analyzing all accidents for workers comp injuries... I've found this activity to be very useful in preventing future accidents and I think it has tremendous value in mountaineering as well. Perhaps with names omitted?
2. It seems like every single time someone has an accident or death, the discussion splits off into two segments - people who have questions and want to learn... and people who want to give condolences. Both are perfectly acceptable in my book, but not in the same thread. Maybe another reason why I started writing...
Would we not benefit on this forum for a separate forum to discuss accidents respectively - that can be avoided by those that find it distasteful? I agree, there's a time and a place for understanding... right now we have neither. People that have genuine questions get flamed... I've seen it a million times. And a lot of times we deserve to get flamed, because it is just disrespectful. I get that. What do you all think about having a separate forum?
3. In wanting to get the "facts" I often try to contact those that were there... otherwise, it is just speculation and conjecture, which has little value when it comes to analysis. When I was naive and stupid (some would rightfully argue I'm still both of those things) in 2010, I would ask right away what happened and people found it to be horrible. I totally get that. So my lesson was to wait. I waited a year to ask and was still blasted. I get that too. I feel the genuine pain and anguish in the responses that people send me. I hate it. I don't want to be the causer of pain. I want to help people, not hurt people.
With that being said, my project to document all of the mountaineering deaths each year is coming to an end. I will simply keep track and provide basic data for statistical purposes. I'll leave the analysis to you guys, if you'd like. I thought I could handle the lashback... I just can't now. I feel the pain, and it makes me hate myself for writing about people's death, even if it may have been helpful to others.
For anyone I caused pain to - I genuinely apologize, it was never my intention. Death is a sensitive subject and perhaps best left to those that want to discuss it openly and not because someone wrote an article on the internet...
I'll leave you with a quote from Steve Gladbach's thread on this topic that he wrote...
Do not ask for details (beyond those that a newspaper would report) so that you can "Learn" from my mistakes.
I have seen about 5% (That 5% often does more harm than the 95% does good) of every accident thread deteriorate into a useless guessing game designed to "analyze' the accident. In reality, it only serves to stir up feelings of guilt and loss amongst those left behind. The "lessons" learned never serve to prevent future incidents, because the armchair critics assimilate the info by convincing themselves that , "Since I take precaution "X", that will not happen to me." BS.
In every thread (and in at least one book where the author told me he didn't necessarily consider it important to interview the primary survivor), the critics boil the details down to some trite conclusion which can be filed under a particular chapter of stuff "not to do". Every time, you hear how there are no such things as "accidents"; the person performing the analysis can always explain how they would have prevented the accident. If only they could be there every time we climb!
edited for grammar