If you didn’t already think there were enough safety precautions to take when rock climbing, then here’s another one for you – rattlesnakes! Rattlesnakes are of course a highly dangerous creature, and deserve our full respect. Here are a few pointers if you are out climbing in terrain associated with these creatures.
Try to Understand Where You Might Find Rattlesnakes
If you know where you might encounter a rattlesnake, then the chances are being prepared is going to help you in the event of discovery. First of all, research the area in which you are climbing. It may well be well known for rattlesnakes, in which case you will know to be on your guard. A few things to look out for and remember are that rattlesnakes like both cool out of the way spots, and warm rocks on which they can bask in the sun. You are also likely to find them close to places where they are likely to be able to find food, so you should always keep an eye out when climbing through undergrowth.
Carry a Snake Stick
Quite simply, this is a roughly five foot pole or stick, which surprisingly is not designed to use to hit a snake with! It is actually for prodding and assessing the ground in front of you to make sure you are not about to stand on one! Rattlesnakes don’t search us out, and most of the bites are from snakes that have been surprised, startled or scared by our presence. A good snake stick will let you check the terrain directly in front of you whenever you are in what you might believe to be good terrain for snakes.
Avoid a Bite
It sounds like obvious advice, but this is the most important thing to do. Try to avoid placing your hands on bare rock face when you don’t have to, and certainly watch very closely where you are placing your hands and feet. Never try to pick up a snake, and certainly don’t ever try to kill one of these creatures. It’s important to remember that it is us entering their habitat, and not the other way around.
Understand the Frequency of Rattlesnake Bite Occurrences, and Respect the Likelihood
We’re not saying that you are likely to get bitten, but when you look at the facts, you realise that it is not a total rarity. Around 7000 people every year in the United States are bitten by venomous snakes and only a small percentage of these are climbers. It’s worth remembering that the majority of these occurrences could have been avoided with sensible behaviour. Thankfully, there are normally no more than about 125 fatalities a year, which shows you that even if you do get bitten, the chances are you will make a full recovery.
As with most dangerous animals, avoiding problems is down to understanding, caution and quick thinking. Make sure you understand your surroundings, make sure you know what to do in the event of a bite and make sure you show these animals the respect they deserve. Show some caution, and you should never have a problem with any snakes when climbing.