As you may know, most of my climbing consists of bouldering, but I do love me some rope every once in a while. In fact, I wish I climbed on rope a little more often. I think I’ll start making a bigger effort to make trips to the sport climbing crag more often (i.e. convincing my husband to go sport climbing more often).
So regardless of how much or little you climb on rope (even if not at all), it’s important to be familiar with the skills of tying knots. We trust our life on knots, so it only makes sense to, at the very least, take a couple minutes to understand common climbing knots so we can prepare ourselves for many situations.
Even if you don’t climb on rope at all, I believe knots are part of the basics of climbing and every climber should at least have these kinds of skills in their repertoire. You never know what kind of situation you may find yourself in so it’s best to be prepared. Plus, it’s not just yourself that you’re helping, your knowledge could help other climbers.
Below I’ve listed 8 common climbing knots. Depending on the type of climber you are you don’t HAVE to know every single one of these, but I wouldn’t hurt. 🙂 Just take a moment to understand the type of climber that you are, then read through the different knots and learn the ones that will be the most valuable to you.
If there is only one thing you take away from this, let it be to ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK YOUR KNOTS! You can never be too experienced to avoid doing this. A well trained climber never takes safety lightly.
1. Figure 8 Follow Through
Purpose: The standard knot used to tie yourself (via your harness) into a rope.
Probably the most popular type of climbing knot and one that every climber should know. It’s a very strong, non-slip knot; as it should be since your life depends on it. It works so well because in tightens onto itself as load is applied which makes it basically impossible for it to become untied while you climb, which I’m sure you’ve realized as you’ve attempted to undo a figure 8 knot that you took a couple whippers on. Another great thing about this knot is that it is very easy to inspect. It is important for both you and your belayer to be able to inspect a knot easily so you can immediately know if it’s ok or not.
2. Fisherman’s Backup
Purpose: To backup your tie-in knot.
You trust your tie-in knots with your life so having a backup knot to make sure it doesn’t untie is always the way to go. There are a couple backup knots, but the fisherman’s backup is the most secure. The fisherman’s backup has two loops around the standing rope, however, if I have a lot of slack I’ll loop around 3 or 4 times so I don’t have a long loose strand hanging down and annoying me.
3. Figure 8 On A Bight
Purpose: Most commonly used to tie yourself into anchors or used to lower off of.
The figure 8 on a bight is a very strong knot that is reliable and easy to untie, even after being weighted. The knot is simple to create and can easily be made in the mid-section of any rope, so long as the rope is not tight. Basically, when you tie this knot you are creating a strong loop in the rope that you can clip into with a locking carabiner.
4. Clove Hitch
Purpose: Most commonly used to tie into belay anchors.
The clove hitch is a simple knot that doesn’t use up a lot of rope. It’s quick to tie, untie and even adjust. When a clove hitch is placed on the locking carabiners of each anchor, the distance between you and the anchors can be easily adjusted so that you can ensure that each rope is carrying equal tension. One important thing to note about the clove hitch is that they must be pulled and kept tight in order to avoid slipping.
5. Double Figure-8 Fisherman’s knot
Purpose: To tie two ropes together for top-roping or rappelling.
The double figure-8 fisherman’s knot is a completely secure knot and is known to be stronger and more reliable than the typical double fisherman’s knot. It does have a bigger profile though, so it can have a greater chance of getting caught on something during rappels. For top ropes, the knot is placed just past the anchors on the belayers side of the rope. So, as you climb the knot descends toward your belayer.
6. Double Bowline Knot
Purpose: Most commonly used to form a secure fixed loop.
The loop created with double bowline knot is good for securing around trees. It is easy to tie and also unties easily even after sever loading. Some climbers even use it to tie into a rope instead of using a figure-8 knot, however, I (and many others) don’t recommend using it as a tie-in knot since it is not as secure and can untie easily.
7. Water knot
Purpose: To tie create a loop in a single piece of webbing or to tie two pieces of webbing together.
Water knots are commonly use when building anchors with webbing. They are known to slip slightly so it’s important to make sure you have, at the very least, 3 inches remaining on each end tail. Some climbers even tape or sew the ends to prevent the knot from creeping. If you already have sewn webbing slings available then those would obviously be more preferred if you’re using it for an anchor. Sewn webbing slings are stronger and more reliable than one you tie and create yourself.
8. Münter Hitch (With Tie Off)
Purpose: Used for belaying or rappelling
The Münter hitch is a great knot to know when you need to create a back up system to perform a belay or rappel. Obviously, using an actual belay device is safest, but situations can come up where you’ve lost or dropped your device, so knowledge of this knot can be beyond helpful. This knot should only be used on a locking carabiner that is large enough to let the knot invert based on whether you are taking or feeding rope. The tie off is used to secure the Münter hitch.