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Hanging Upside Down is Bad

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by Canyonero, Oct 29, 2019.

  1. Canyonero



    We've discussed how hanging in a harness is bad. Well, getting stuck upside down is even worse. 14 hours was clearly too long.

    A British man who was trapped atop a 290-foot smokestack for over 12 hours has died, investigators said.

    The unnamed man, believed to be in his 50s, was first spotted at the top of the Dixon Chimney in Carlisle, in northwest England, around 2:20 a.m. on Monday, Cumbria Police said in a statement.
  2. ratagonia


    Mount Carmel, Utah
    ... and so young!
    gajslk likes this.
  3. Kuenn


    I've started and stopped this post several times.... In sharing it, it is my hope that intentions will not be misconstrued.

    On the topic of inversion, I'll relate a very recent experience for the sake of shared learning, awareness, and as a gentle reminder of the role we will play from time to time, that of canyon guardians.

    Just returning this past week from a canyoneering trip to the greater ZNP area, this event is memory fresh. (On a side note, this year's 8 day adventure was epic in many ways, which as I have come accustom to on that part of the planet, includes spending time with and meeting some truly outstanding people.)

    To the story.

    My arrival to the area was different from past years, I flew in to St George instead of LAS. A great choice, I must say. Having a few hours to kill in the afternoon I decided to drive up to Kanarraville and checkout the non-technical Kanarra Creek slot canyon hike. Another great choice. A picture perfect day, great temps with just the right amount of afternoon sun. And only three cars in the large parking area, excellent! The hike was as pleasant and scenic as one could hope for, with autumn colors exploding at almost every turn.


    Now fast-forward to the unplanned event.

    After scrambling up the spectacular lower falls, then 10 minutes upstream, I met an older couple coming back from the upper falls. We chatted for a few minutes, I would later learn this was Bob and Laurel, locals from a few miles north. Bob is 80 years young. Laurel, unhesitatingly stated that she was not looking forward to descending the lower falls "make-shift" ladder. I said something about taking your time and to be careful, we parted ways.


    Then those nagging little voices immediately start in. "You should go back and lend a hand to that couple." "No, they made it this far, they will do just fine. Besides, this is my time for solitude." (also, that little self-serving voice)

    I continued upward to the next falls, but couldn't silence the voices. Finally, giving in, I hastily hiked to the upper falls, snapped a couple of pics for the journal and hurried downstream to find the couple.

    I caught up with them at a spot just above the main falls where there is a short down-climb. They did just fine there, so I started thinking my concerns were over zealous and unjustified. Arriving at the top of the falls, I offered to take their hiking sticks down and provide a "spot" at the bottom of the ladder. Laurel responded positively to the offer.

    As I proceeded about halfway down the ladder I aborted the afore mentioned plan and said to Bob (who was coming down first) to start down and I would ensure that his foot placements were solid on the wet channel-iron rungs. He agreed and proceeded backing down the ladder, but was not using the wall to lean against, only trying to steady himself with the loose rope (too loose) spanning along the wall.

    A side note, this rope should be re-rigged with alpine knots at each anchor, not threaded through. The reason will become obvious in the next paragraph.

    Bob was not very stable in his descent. On rung number 3 or 4 he wobbled to the left (falls side) and by instinct attempted to catch himself, tugging on the rope. The rope, being free-threaded through the anchors, gave way pulling out all the slack over the 40' span. Bob plummeted head-first down with rope still in hand. When the rope was taut it yanked from his grasp and some how (amazingly so) wrapped around one of his ankles pinning the other ankle between the rope and the log-ladder pole. He is now completely inverted, literally hanging from his ankles. His head a foot or two from the water below.

    That's when I learned his name, "BOB", Laurel screamed out!

    I scrambled down the ladder to assist - cradling his back and shoulders lifting him up to release the rope pressure, so he could untangle and free his ankles. Dazed from the fall he soon realized his role in the rescue and was eventually able to free his feet from the rope, then to a standing position. During the accident he apparently scraped his arm on the corner of a rung and was bleeding pretty good.

    On his feet and out of the water he convinced me that he was all right for the moment and to please go help Laurel. She being in shock at this point after witnessing the ordeal from the top of the ladder. I rehearsed the descent plan again with her. She was a considerably more attentive and cooperative student at this point; using the wall for stability and the rope only as needed to control downward movement.

    Shaking, we moved Bob out of the slot into the sun and administered first-aid. We chatted about the event for a while, drawing out what-if scenarios. I commented to Bob the rope was both his friend and foe. Without becoming entangled he would have certainly landed on his head which could have been very bad. However, once inverted his weight loading the rope and prevented him from self-rescue. Laurel questioned whether she would have been able to do what was done. I asked if she had a knife. She said, yes. "Cutting the rope may have been your only option."

    Bob now patched up, snacked up, and hydrated, was ready to continue down. I walked with them for a while, convinced that he was going to make it on his own we parted ways for the last time.

    My take away:
    Listen to those little voices and respond to the first prompting. Nothing may come of it. If so, no worries. But, if and when something does happen, it will be much easier to live with whatever good Samaritan efforts you could provide than it would be to live with an opportunity lost and the pangs of an ignored conscience.

    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
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