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Publisher
The American Alpine Club
710 Tenth Street, Suite 100
Golden, Colorado 80401
www.americanalpineclub.org

Distributor
The Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201
Seattle, Washington 98134
www.mountaineersbooks.org

 
Is high-altitude mountaineering Russian roulette?

By Edward K. Cheng

Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, Vol 9, No 1, 2013

Abstract

Whether the nature of the risks associated with climbing high-altitude (8000 m) peaks is in some sense “controllable” is a longstanding debate in the mountaineering community. Well-known mountaineers David Roberts and Ed Viesturs explore this issue in their recent memoirs. Roberts views the primary risks as “objective” or uncontrollable, whereas Viesturs maintains that experience and attention to safety can make a significant difference. This study sheds light on the Roberts-Viesturs debate using a comprehensive dataset of climbing on Nepalese Himalayan peaks. To test whether the data is consistent with a constant failure rate model (Roberts) or a decreasing failure rate model (Viesturs), it draws on Total Time on Test (TTT) plots from the reliability engineering literature and applies graphical inference techniques to them.

The study may be accessed for charge at Edward Cheng, Is high-altitude mountaineering Russian roulette?, Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, 2013