“David upside down.” Nuru Sherpa
Being upside down when rappelling is generally considered to be a serious problem. The rappel device can release and let you go. Nuru noticed my inversion from the foot of the West Col while he was watching me rappel down the fixed line. Alex was with him and by the time he looked up to where I was, my feet were pointing straight up and my head was down in the rocks. I didn’t fall or lose my balance. The figure eight rappel device was locked solid. I was holding it tight and nothing slipped. The prussik attached between the figure eight and my harness also held tight, backing up the figure eight. Neither budged 180’ed my head. So why was I upside down?
After finishing with the steep and snowy gulley shown in the picture below, I paused at the top of the rocky cliff to figure out how best to negotiate the rocks. My body weight was off the fixed line. When I put my weight back on, it stretched. Even though the line is not designed to stretch, with almost 200 meters of it above me, it did. As I leaned back into the rappel, I just kept going as the rope stretched out. Head down and belly up in the rocks, feet to the sky and pinned by my pack, Pema called “Don’t move!” He was about 20 meters above me and worried that I could fall further. I knew that both the figure eight and the prussik were holding me well so I was not worried about falling, only about how to right myself. Once Pema pulled my pack out from under me, I was able to spin around and stand up again.
The person in the rocks , lower left in the first picture, is located very close to the location of the inversion. The second pic was take just after I righted myself. The rest of the rappel down onto the glacier below was no fun. My nerve was somewhere up above in the rocks.
Lead climbing guide Saila says “Falling is learning.” I learned that really long ropes stretch. I also learned the luck is good when you have it. No serious injuries. This little incident could have been a show stopper.