The extract below is from David Spiegelhalter's Column on the BBC website -
David ponders the widom of such extreme sports -
I will begin with one of the earliest examples of extreme sports.
Mountaineering has come a long way since the Alpine Club was founded in London in 1857 – when the British dominated mountaineering, and were bagging the classic Alpine peaks in desperately unsuitable clothing.
Climbing technologies (and clothing) have vastly improved since those heady days, but even apart from the possibility of falls, there are still the dangers of the low oxygen, freezing temperatures, exposure to wind and sun, and the exertion to contend with.
Mount Everest is the classic example: from the first attempt up until the end of 2011, there have been 219 deaths, which is 1 for every 25 that actually reach the summit. Out of the 20,000 mountaineers climbing above 26,000 feet (8,000 metres) in the Himalayas between 1990 and 2006, an estimated 238 people died, a rate of around 12,000 micromorts per climb (a micromort is a 1-in-a-million chance of death).
In another study of 533 mountaineers on British expeditions above 23,000ft (7,000m) between 1968 and 1987, there were 23 deaths (or 1 in 23), which comes out at 43,000 micromorts per climb – 'Making mountianeering riskier than an average bombing mission in WW2' !!
Western Kokshal-Too, Kyrgyzstan
You can read the column in full at