Which is More Dangerous: Climbing Rainier or the “Deadliest Job”?

With the news a few weeks ago of the death of six climbers on Mount Rainier, I found myself wondering… just how dangerous is climbing Rainier, anyway? Is it really more dangerous than other risky activities that we do every day?

For example, thirty thousand people in the United States die every year in automobile accidents, but since we don’t see front page headlines about every single fatal collision, perhaps we just perceive the risk to be lower than climbing a mountain. Maybe mountain climbing is just as dangerous as your daily commute, but your perception is skewed.

In order to answer my question, I collected fatality rate data on a variety of activities to compare with climbing Rainier. Here are the risky activity contestants, and the average annual number of fatalities that occurred during each over the last ten years or so.

  • walking: ~4,000 fatalities
  • bicycling: ~600 fatalities
  • driving a car: ~30,000 fatalities
  • driving a motorcycle: ~4,000 fatalities
  • commercial flight: ~14 fatalities
  • skydiving: ~22 fatalities
  • Dungeness crab fishing: ~3 fatalities
  • climbing Mount Rainier: ~1 fatality

I wanted to include a good variety of activities, from things we all do every day like walking, riding a bicycle, or driving, to things that most of us probably don’t do, but are widely considered to be dangerous, like skydiving and professional Dungeness crab fishing, an activity that is widely regarded as the “deadliest” occupation in the country.

To compare everything on a relatively level playing field, I divided the total number of deaths over the last ten-ish years in each activity by the total number of trips taken in that activity in the same period, then multiplied by 100 million to bring all the numbers up to a scale that’s easier to visually compare.

Here’s the result:

Fatality Rate of Various Activities (deaths per 100 million trips)

Okay then! As it turns out, mountain climbing is ridiculously more dangerous than every other activity I was able to find data on. It’s not even remotely in the same league. Climbing Mount Rainier is 14 times more deadly than the “deadliest job” of fishing for crab in Alaska.

Now, it’s worth noting that normalizing for deaths per 100 million trips isn’t totally fair, since most people who attempt to summit Rainier will probably only do it once or twice in their lives, while the average person probably takes 50 to 100 thousand trips in a car through the course of their lifetime. Your odds of dying in a car wreck on any given trip are fairly low, but the odds that you might die in a car wreck sometime in your lifetime are much higher.

To quantify that, the odds that you’ll die in an attempt to summit Rainier are roughly 0.02 percent. The odds that you’ll die on any given trip in your car is 0.0000038 percent. But the odds that you’ll die in a car wreck sometime in your life is roughly between 0.19 percent and 0.38 percent—considerably higher than your odds of dying in a single attempt to summit Rainier. In other words, your chances of dying from driving at some point in your life are about 19 times greater than your chances of dying while climbing Rainier.

Still, I was surprised that climbing Rainier is that dangerous per trip. A 0.02 percent fatality rate sounds low, but it’s way, way higher than every other activity on the list. Of course, it’s not even remotely the most dangerous thing you can do. If I had included a bar for climbing Mount Everest, it would have made everything else on the chart look minuscule. Everest has around a one percent fatality rate—1,000,000 deaths per 100 million trips compared to “just” 15,942 for Rainier. And according to Mental Floss, there are at least five mountains even more dangerous than Everest—including Annapurna in Central Nepal, with a 22 percent death rate (22,000,000 deaths per 100 million trips).

So basically I won’t be climbing any mountains. Ever.

Feature photo by Flickr user Keith

Gordon Sands Threatens Seattle Bubble with Google Disavow in Misguided Attempt to Clean Up BankruptcyAction.com Comment Spam

Last week I got an email from Gordon Sands, “a principal” of BankruptcyAction.com—a website I’d never heard of—claiming that Seattle Bubble contains “link(s) to BankruptcyAction.com.” The claimed reason for this random email was to remove a link on my site “because the links are not in the same niche as our site,” but the real reason was obviously that the proprietors of this site had previously engaged in link-spamming, were punished by Google, and are now scrambling to get publishers to remove their comment spam links (via BoingBoing).


I especially enjoyed the big, red, bold text at the end of the email threatening to use Google’s Disavow tool as some sort of weapon against me should I not comply with his demand. Despite the vague claim in the email (no specific link to the post or posts in question) and the unnecessary threat, I decided to look into it, because to my knowledge no spam comments have ever gotten through on my site thanks to Akismet.

As best I can tell, there exists a grand total of one link to BankruptcyAction.com on Seattle Bubble. It was placed by a long-time reader in a 2008 comment. Since I’m not in the habit of editing reader comments unless the person who posted the comment requests it or it violates my comment policy, I politely declined to modify or delete the link in my reply:


This did not please Gordon, who indicated that he intended to follow through with his big scary threat:


Since Gordon seemed to be operating under some sort of false assumption that I care whether or not BankruptcyAction.com disavows my site to Google, I thought I would clear things up for him.


In reply: more veiled threats from Gordon.


I thought it only fair that I give Gordon a few tips, like if you want someone to do something for you maybe don’t lead off with giant bold threats.


Gordon’s final word on the matter confirmed my original suspicion: he’s trying to undo the damage done by comment spam.


That the comment in question on Seattle Bubble is obviously not spam is of no concern to Gordon Sands or BankruptcyAction.com. And because apparently he felt like his threats did not go far enough, he decided to close our conversation by calling me “a sensitive woman,” which I assume was meant to be an insult. But I am the one who “can’t handle your business.” Right.

Good luck to you as well, Gordon Sands and BankruptcyAction.com! You’re going to need it.

Oops, I guess Gordon Sands decided he wasn’t done “wasting time” after all!

Keep digging, Gordon.

Don Adams, 86 in Get Smart & Inspector Gadget

I got the recently (finally) released “Inspector Gadget Megaset” for Christmas, and I noticed a familiar number on the box…


Don Adams’ “Get Smart” character Maxwell Smart was Agent 86.

Don Adams’ voiced the goofy 1980s cartoon character Inspector Gadget in a total of 86 episodes.

I just thought that was an amusing and random coincidence.

Also, I love Don Adams. He was great.

“Would you believe…”