Check 3 GPS Ready Score

Y / N         1. If you own your equipment, is it replaced on a timely basis (every four years)?



Y / N         2. If you borrow/rent equipment, is it from a professional school?   



Y / N         3. Do you do a maintenance check of all equipment prior to each climb or rappel?  



Y / N         4. Have you accomplished formal training for climbing/rappelling? 



Y / N         5. Are you familiar with the location where you will be climbing or rappelling?  



Y / N         6. Have you gone climbing or rappelling more than four times?



Y / N         7. Is a log kept of usage of the climbing surface for normal deterioration of the rock and record of falls (site management)?   



Y / N         8. Will there be at least one other person climbing or rappelling with you? If not, do you routinely advise others exactly where and when you will be climbing or rappelling and when to expect your return?    


Y / N         9. Do you carry an adequately equipped first-aid kit? 



Y / N         10. Do you carry a radio/cell phone (fully charged)?  



Y / N         11. Do you know if there are cell phone dead zones where you are climbing?  


If you answered “no” to more than five questions, plan ways to mitigate the risk.


Source: Department of the Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, Attachment 1, PACAF High-Risk Activities (HRA) Guide,  27 April 2016 

Check 3 GPS Minimum 'Must-Haves'


  • Helmet

  • Sturdy rock boots for walking back after your climb

  • Climbing harness

  • Ropes

  • Slings

  • Belay plates

  • Chalk bag

  • Warm and windproof clothing

  • Map (1:50,000 scale at a minimum; 1:25,000 for more complex areas)

  • Compass

  • Whistle 

  • Watch

  • First aid kit

  • High-energy food

  • Plenty of fluids


(Adapted from


  • Inform someone where you are going and when you expect to return

  • Get a local weather forecast

  • Plan your route according to the skill level of the group and the conditions

  • Take extra care on the descent (this is when most accidents happen)

  •  Turn back if necessary


  • Be proficient in map and compass use

  • Know first-aid basics

  • Know your own abilities and the expertise of your climbing companions

  • Know how to use your phone and/or whistle to summon help in an emergency)

Top Hazards to Mitigate

1. Climbing on unfamiliar route/rock face

Mitigate:  Use a good maps app to preview your route and the crags you’ll be ascending; one app even lets you see the climb from the bottom belay. Get advice/tips from fellow climbers who have been where you’re going either in person or online via the My Climb app. When you get to a new crag, study it first to plan out your ascent. 


2. Not checking all equipment prior to climb/inadequate equipment for the climb

Mitigate: Make a list of all the equipment you will need for your climb so you don’t forget anything. Check your harness, rope, belay device, knots and other equipment both before climbing and intermittently en route.


3. Climbing with novice partner/buddy

Mitigate:  To get a handle on a potential climbing partner’s skill level, try climbing with that person in a gym or low-stakes setting first. When out in the wild, don’t hesitate to turn back if you see that your buddy is in over his head. Try to climb with a partner of comparable ability.


4. Adverse weather

Mitigate: Try a specialized climbing weather app, which provides detailed forecasts (sky conditions, wind speed and direction, precipitation, etc.) for specific crags. If the weather looks really bad, consider postponing your trip or changing routes. If you do decide to brave the elements, dress and gear up accordingly. 


5. Not having proper first-aid training/equipment in case of accident

Mitigate: Every climber should know how to assess an injury and carry an essential

climber’s first aid kit

6. Rock slides

Mitigate: Practice climbing techniques this reduces your likelihood of dislodging rocks as you go. When climbing in narrow gullies with lots of loose rock, review methods for avoiding falling rocks before starting out. Always wear a helmet.

7. Accident when climbing solo

Mitigate: Don’t leave home without a device that gives you satellite communication capability, such as the entry-level, one-way SPOT Tracker or the more advanced two-way Garmin InReach.  Since cell phone coverage can be spotty in the mountains, such a tool is essential for initiating a rescue in an emergency or just to alert your contacts that you’re running late.

Fast Fact: Being physically fit does not decrease the risk of altitude sickness.




Altitude sickness is a mild to severe illness that results from ascending to a high altitude—generally above 8,000 feet—too quickly. Reduced barometric pressure and available oxygen molecules at high altitudes can cause symptoms that range from headache, nausea and insomnia to potentially fatal fluid accumulation in the lungs and brain. 





The prescription medication Diamox works for some people, though not everyone. Oxygen therapy and descent to a lower altitude also alleviate symptoms. Most people will naturally adjust in a day or two to the high-altitude conditions through a process called acclimatization.





When you first arrive at a high altitude, don’t over-exert or move to higher ground for at least 24 hours. If you go above 10,000 feet, only increase your altitude by 1,000 feet per day, and for every 3,000 additional feet of elevation gain, take a day of rest. In addition: 

  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other depressant drugs, including barbiturates, tranquilizers and sleeping pills 

  • Eat a high-carbohydrate diet

  • Stay properly hydrated

  • Engage in light activity during the day instead of sleeping (lower respiration rate and depth during sleep exacerbate symptoms)




Climbing at high altitudes can cause potentially life-threatening conditions known as High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).  Descend to a lower altitude and seek immediate medical assistance for any climber exhibiting the following symptoms: 

  • Confusion

  • Shortness of breath, even at rest

  • Unsteady gait

  • Initial dry cough that progresses to one producing pink, frothy sputum 

  • Gradual loss of consciousness



(Adapted from High Risk Activities Guide, PACAF and other sources)