Tips for Avoiding Rock Slides

Tips for Avoiding Rock Slides
The Landslide Hazards Program reports that landslides--of which rock slides are a major part--cause an average of 25 deaths every year. As an avid rock climber or bouldering aficionado, you are in even greater danger of bodily injury from a rock slide. Read on and learn what causes rock slides, what to look for when seeking to avoid them, and how to deal with the occasion when you believe that a rock slide may be imminent. Also, find out what kind of gear can also help you to stay safe during your outdoor fun.

Know the Reasons for Rock Slides

Become informed about the causes of rock slides in your area. Recent wildfires lead to a loss of soil gripping vegetation. This in turns contributes to a potentially weakened soil structure, and a shift in topsoil--especially when it is weighted down with rocks--can cause a rock slide. Be careful of moving soil when bouldering in recent wildfire areas.

Saturation with water is another common reason for a shift in the soil resulting in a rock slide. This may be due to extreme amounts of rain in a short period of time or simply the seasonal snowmelt. Be aware of the weather conditions before undertaking a rock climbing expedition that takes you near snow covered areas.

Man made rockslides occur when vibrations cause already weakened rock faces to crumble. Avoid rock climbing in areas where nearby blasting is taking place.


Recognize the Warning Signs

Look out for sudden water seepages in the rock face that you are climbing. If you notice that usually dry areas suddenly are wet, there is a good chance that underlying shifts of rock and soil have occurred--they might be causing groundwater to leak. This is a general sign that the shift which began below ground may soon affect the above ground layers of rocks and debris as well. Get off the rock face as quickly as possible and seek out another area. Do not forget to report your findings to the park ranger.

If you frequently rock climb in the same area, check for new fissures in the rock. If your bouldering exploits take you into rocky areas where suddenly boulders appear further apart--or closer together--than you remember, you may be seeing the precursors of a rock slide. Leave the area behind and go to a different bouldering destination. Remember to bring your observations to the attention of park personnel.

Be mindful of the road conditions that you encounter as you head up to your favorite rock climbing or bouldering spots. If you notice that suddenly there are deep cracks or bulges in the road, phone poles that lean, or portions of the road are actually dropped low, you may be looking at the warning signs of a rock slide. Retrace your ascent, and return to an area not impacted by these warning signs. Contact public services personnel in your area and report the road damage.

Have the Right Equipment

Remember your rock climbing gear and make sure that you wear your helmet. In addition, bring along a portable radio that allows you to tune in to NOAA weather radio alerts and local newscasts reporting hazards. A good choice is the Garmin GPS Rino 130 that in addition to GPS services also offers NOAA weather radio access.

Leave behind your iPod and instead be tuned in to the sounds of the rock face. Rock slides announce themselves with a low rumble, and the amount of time between the actual sound and the slide itself may be sufficient to get to safety under a sturdy overhang or out of the line of possible harm.


Article Written By Sylvia Cochran

Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.