The Sit, Spin, and Pendulum Rappel

This Sit and Spin Rappel was taken to the next level. A rappel with a low anchor proves challenging to a beginning climber.
David Shema David Shema
May 09, 2016

The Feathers, Vantage - April 22


I was leading a SIG rock field trip at the Feathers.

A Basic climbing student slipped while doing a sit and spin rappel from the lower boulder, and had a pendulum swing onto the side of the slope. Bruised hip, no medical attention needed, student continued climbing.

Site has been used often for this exercise but requires a long, horizontal rope. A fireman's belay is usually given from below to prevent swing, but in this instance, the belayer had left for another station. I was stationed above with student.

Student attempted to stand up at the lip, causing the rope to rise and lose the anchor point. With a combination of pushing on one side and standing, the student began a slow pendulum into the side of the hill.

Lessons Learned


The site is excellent for teaching this skill because it requires students to perform a true sit and spin with a low anchor in a place with relatively minimal exposure. The distance to the ground is less than 15 feet at the highest point. However, from my vantage point, it wasn't pretty. This could have been easily avoided by insuring a belayer below to steady the rope.

It is VERY common for beginner rappel students to invert when center of gravity is above the anchor. I made the exact same mistake as a student on my first try many years ago at Camp Long, and have heard the same from many others.

I failed to protect the student because I did not adequately perceive the objective danger, and did not properly instruct the student with proper cautionary advice. I also failed to insure that the student had a belay.

Complacency: I have instructed this skill from this same site many times over several years with no incident. I failed to accurately assess the objective hazard.

Communication: Failed to discuss the need to keep a low center of gravity. Must make sure belayer is present and ready.

[Mountaineers Safety Chair]

Instructors are reporting that rappelling with the device extended has increased the challenge of the Sit and Spin Rappel.


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