Deep water soloing : be careful, the potential of injury is real
Deep water soloing continues to grow in popularity. Especially during summer. And climbers identify more and more areas to enjoy this unique pursuit. It offers the simplicity of free soloing while significantly lowering the potential consequences of a fall. Still, there have been a number of deep-water soloing accidents.
The following tips will help you identify potential injuries, landing-zone dangers, and precautions to take. The ability to swim confidently is a must, especially as many deep-water soloing walls are located above saltwater, with associated changes in tides and currents.
Drowning, potential trauma during deep water soloing
Drowning risk may be even higher in deep-water soloing due to the sudden nature of immersion as well as potential trauma. With cold water, there is risk of cold-water shock, wherein sudden exposure to cold water can cause uncontrolled gasping, rapid breathing, panic, and even lethal heart rhythms.
Gasping or panic can cause choking, and the altered rhythms can cause unconsciousness, with the mouth and airway dropping below the waterline. If you survive this phase, within the first 15 to 30 minutes cold-water shock can reduce your swimming capability due to cooling of extremities, increasing your risk of drowning. after 15–30 minutes, you risk hypothermia.
Controlling your breath and keeping your airway out of the water is critical during initial exposure. This is a mental exercise as much as anything—recognize that gasping and the shock of the cold water are normal and not necessarily dangerous (aside from irregular heart rhythms). Your best bet is to consciously slow your breathing and assert mental control over panic. Once the initial minute of cold-water exposure passes, you actually have a long window to problem-solve getting out of the water.
Deep water soloing climbers are also at risk for traumatic injury—typically blunt trauma. Such injuries usually occur due either to poor entry or collision with submerged hazards. (With submerged hazards, there’s also the possibility of becoming entrapped by a tree, rock, etc., representing not only trauma risk but also that of drowning.) Of special concern are neck and head injuries, with particular drowning risk if a head injury causes unconsciousness or a spinal-cord injury causes paralysis.
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