Subjective human factors share the blame for many accidents along with the objective physical hazards of the mountain. The climber without a bivy sack or extra clothes wouldn't have become hypothermic if it were not for that unexpected snowstorm. Conversely, the snowstorm wouldn't have caused any grief if it had not crossed paths with the climber.
The natural forces constantly at work on a mountain are usually harmless unless a human being is in their way at a critical instant. Then a small mistake—the subjective human factor—can cost dearly. A slope may be ripening to an avalanche tomorrow, but a climber ignorant of snow structure can trigger it today. A rock weakened by natural processes may be preparing to fall next week, but the weight of a climber can pull it loose today. This subjective factor, which brings a particular climber to a given danger point at just the perilous moment, is nearly always at the root of a climbing accident.
Although we can't alter the objective hazards, we have considerable control over the subjective factors that can reduce their risk. These subjective elements affect every phase of a climb, including choice of route, skill of the climbers, equipment quality, physical conditioning, leadership, and climbing techniques. In the final analysis, everything goes back to a climber's knowledge, skill, and judgment. Any shortcomings will eventually show up in the reality of a climb.
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