[XAP]Bob wrote:Maybe the helmets are just effective at dealing with falling rocks?
magazine once ran a Top Gear Fails, one of which was a hollowed-out cannon ball of a helmet called the Compton Mk II, advertised as stopping a 14 lb weight falling from 50'. "How it was subsequently removed from the user's boots was not explained", quipped the nominator.
But that's not the sort of rock fall they're really aimed at. Doing a multi-pitch route you work in pairs, and the main source of falling debris is the leader, and the nature of routes means the leader is very typically at or close to directly above their second, with many climbing lines (gullies and grooves) tending to funnel and focus debris down them. While that can
be big rocks it's more often stones and, particularly in winter climbing where you're using axes and crampons, blocks of ice (mostly, but not all small).
So you're in the firing line for a lot of choss, most of it not life-threatening, and you're half way up a cliff where your leader is very much reliant on you for their safety by clueful rope management, and you on their being able to reciprocate, and where it's damn hard to get any further help. That is exactly the sort of place where the consequences of even minor head injuries make the sort of protection that really amounts to not being made momentarily senseless for a few minutes by dropped stones pretty smart.
Look at the people at the top of the game and they're quite selective about when they wear helmets. Daft overhangs they don't bother, because if they fall it's in to space and if something comes from above it falls behind them. Single pitch routes again they tend not to bother, because there's no leader above them to knock down choss. But big mountain routes, where a leader knocking small stones your way a lot, very common. And winter, where every move tends to produce a shower of ice chips of varying size, it's pretty much 100%.
While it's almost certainly the case that a lot of climbers wearing helmets are doing because, well, it's a dangerous sport, yeah?, and not thinking about the context they're climbing in, it might also be the case that someone reading dry summary statistics and not really appreciating the range of activities represented by "climbing" might ride rough-shod over the realities of why some of the people do what they do.
Often seen riding a bike around Dundee...