I was training on an ice-wall in Dokriani Bamak glacier, when suddenly debris started falling from above. Apparently the ropes dislodged a few frozen rocks from the ice. I heard instructors shouting “Watch out” that did draw my attention towards them but I could not see the rocks against the sun. A rock banged on my helmet and another one hit my wrist. Injuring my wrist was not a big issue but had I not been wearing a helmet, the rock would have crushed my skull. These things happen so suddenly that you don’t have enough time to move away from the fall line.
- Aditya Kulkarni during Gipfel survey on helmets
Helmets aren’t necessary… are they?
Climbing is not just about body strength but rather techniques. It is also about taking calculated risks and making informed decisions. Any climber, who risks his own or anyone else’s life by not wearing a helmet, is often considered irresponsible. Such situations are not uncommon to come by, in which we see a climber climbing without a helmet but the spotter/belayer wearing one. So eventually the decision to whether or not wear a helmet varies from person to person.
According to surveys conducted by the British Mountaineering Council, most injuries to climbers happen on the lower leg but most of the fatalities are at least partly due to head injuries. Carefully weigh up your risks and then make decisions. All it takes is one bad day to indelibly scar you for life. A hybrid helmet in India does not cost much but can save your life.
That can’t happen to me….could it?
Two most common scenarios for head injuries during climbing are given below.
- Falling objects
Probability of occurrence:
First thing that comes to mind is being hit by debris in the form of rock, ice or grit. But it could be worse. It can even be rucksacks, ice axe of another climber, pitons, anchors or even climbers themselves.
2. Falling head first
Probability of occurrence:
Risk of serious head injury:
Less likely but not impossible are injuries due to impact on falls. This could be because of tripping over a rope or losing balance while abseiling. The possibilities are endless. If the climber falls head down and from a great height, that could almost always be fatal.
Helmets don’t look cool…do they?
Well, now most of them do! The hybrid helmets these days come in beautiful designs and colours. Other than that, wearing a helmet shows how responsible you are as a climber.
Choosing a right helmet!
There are three major factors to consider while choosing a helmet
- Fit and weight
Hybrid helmet is an all-rounder. The combination of hard shell and EPS foam lining offers greater comfort and greater protection compared to the other two types. It would be even better if the foam extends all the way down till the rim of the shell. Unlike regular shell type helmets that only works best for centered impacts, these kinds will protect you even during off-centered impacts. Most helmets have a rotatable adjuster on the back to adjust the fit. The chin-strap should also be adjustable. A good quality hybrid helmet offers all of these features and has a higher strength to weight ratio. The helmet should be snug on your head and shouldn’t slip. This happens the most while sweating and walking.
A Helmet that makes your head too warm may cause too much of a problem than just discomfort. At best it can lead to a reduction in your performance. At worst, it could lead you to making errors in judgement that causes injuries.
– BMC, Helmet Guide
A good ventilated helmet can have a much larger positive impact on your climbing than commonly believed. Vents allow for a passage of air that keeps your head cool and dry. However, at higher altitudes they may also create a lot of noise because of high winds. But the benefits of having vents more than make up for this limitation.
3. Headlamp attachments
Do check whether headlamp attachments are provided. They are best suited for mountaineering.
The price of the helmet depends upon their type and properties. Generally, hybrid helmets are expensive because of their durability and impact resistance. Gipfel Alpine Helmet is very competitively priced at Rs. 2,800 because they are locally produced. The applicable standard for testing is EN 12492. The price of a helmet can go as high at Rs. 5,500 depending upon the manufacturer and helmet’s features.
So although wearing helmet is optional and not the first priority, you’d be far better off wearing it yourself and insisting others on wearing them too.
Climb safely and responsibly!