Lessons learned from near-miss accidents

A climber nearly rappels off the end of his rope. A crew performing a mountain rescue experiences a mainline failure, but the backup holds. A cascade of ice and rock hurtles down a couloir, just missing a group of climbers. The analysis of near-miss accidents like these is essential to improve safety. That's why the Alpine Near Miss Survey (ANMS) was created, which is now supported by the Petzl Foundation.


Alpine Near-Miss Survey © Cory Jackson

Unlike accidents resulting in injuries near-misses like these are not always reported, so the lessons we can learn from them are often lost. The ANMS study focused on these incidents that go unreported, but nevertheless share the same causes and circumstances of incidents that cause injury. Studies show that near-misses outnumber accidents by 10 to 1, which provides a much larger pool of incidents to study. Cory Jackson, lawyer, guide and mountain rescuer technician, set up a website to collect accounts of near-miss incidents.

Alpine Near-Miss Survey
Alpine Near-Miss Survey © Scott Borger / ANMS

The ANMS allows climbers, guides, and search and rescue professionals to report potentially serious incidents. Industries and services including aviation and firefighting use near-miss reporting already, with valuable results and improved safety systems and procedures. The ANMS seeks to bring this type of reporting to the climbing world.

The survey collects near-miss reports through an online survey platform, as well as through a mobile reporting app. Users can download the ANMS iPhone app, allowing them to report any near-misses direct from the field using photos, text entry or voice recording.

In 2013, a campaign was launched to raise awareness of the Alpine Near-Miss Survey and to collect reports. Within the first few months of launching the survey, over a hundred reports were filed. Data from them was used in a presentation that was given at the International Technical Rescue Symposium in November 2013. The presentation was awarded “Best New Research” by symposium attendees.

The Petzl Foundation is assisting the Alpine Near Miss Survey with a grant to help finance this project, and is also helping to spread the message within the climbing community.

image Alpine Near-Miss Survey-screen
The application and the form online.

Roody Rasmussen, Project Director of the Petzl Foundation in North and South America, says:

Roody Rasmussen

"The Petzl Foundation is pleased to supporting the Alpine Near-Miss Survey. We share a fundamental belief that a comprehensive knowledge of the frequency of accidents, their circumstances and risk factors is the basis for effective accident prevention. The more we know about accidents, the better we can target training and information that will help prevent them.

The Petzl Foundation encourages climbers, mountaineers, and search and rescue professionals to participate in this project by utilizing the reporting tools developed by the Alpine Near Miss Survey. They are easy to use, allow real-time reporting, and create an incredible learning tool, whereby we can all learn from each other. Please share your stories and make our mountains a safer place to work and play in!" 

Cory Jackson, at the heart of the project, says:

"I'm excited to see this project get off the ground. Near-miss reporting has proven beneficial to industries that already embrace it, like aviation and firefighting. My brother Chris and I have focused on making it as easy as possible for the climbing, guiding, and rescue communities to adopt."

About the Alpine Near-Miss Survey

The Alpine Near-Miss Survey is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit project headquartered in Ouray, Colorado. The Survey collects, analyzes, shares and distributes anonymous information about accidents and near-misses that occur in the alpine environment. These near-misses happen during recreational climbing and professional and volunteer rescue missions, and provide valuable insight into the causes of harmful accidents. The Survey is free and open to the public and researchers to inform and improve our enjoyment of the mountains!

For more information :

Updated in september 2014



Since 2012, the Petzl Foundation has funded research into mountain sport accidents. Our long-term aim is to improve prevention. (...)

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