This weekend at Rumbling Bald an experienced climber died when he rappelled off of the end of his rope.
This was an entirely avoidable mistake that is nonetheless all too easy to commit in a moment of complacency, made by an experienced climber. There are a handful of safety measures to take while rappelling that sometimes we slack off on because we are sure we are in control of the situation, or else are in fact not exerting the level of control of the situation we need to but are not particularly worried about it because we've done this so many times. That razor-sharp clarity of attention to detail is hard to maintain on 100% of a day out on the rock.
I'm not dead yet, so I haven't made the exact same safety mistake this unfortunate person made. I do check safety pretty obsessively. But I have probably had moments of equal complacency, and even if they were just moments that I recovered from, if it's the wrong moment, one moment is enough.
But that is the risk that climbers take, because not taking the risk would be a denial of possibility. Despite public perception, climbing with proper attention to safety is less dangerous than a lot of other activities: swimming, driving or riding in a car, skiing...That is because although defying gravity inserts an automatic level of danger, circumstances remain more in control of the climber than they do in other activities that are dangerous. Climbers choose their level of risk and the equipment when properly used is very good at minimizing it. You just have to make sure you are maintaining that control of the situation, that you fully understand what you are doing with the equipment, constantly, and never move forward when you are less than 100% on it just because that's the flow.