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Rock Climbing, Abseiling & Canyoning

Climbing Knots | The Essentials

6 top knots that every climber should know

Climbing knots might make you feel like you’re back in the cub scouts but they’re a vital area of knowledge for every rock climber – in fact, one of the best tips for beginner climbers is to get a few of these down. There are loads of different rock climbing knots to choose from and each one has a purpose.

Knowing the right climbing knot for each situation and how to tie it properly can mean the difference between climbing up a mountain and falling off it, so it’s worth investing some time to make sure you know what you’re doing.

Put in some practice or your climbing knots will look like this – Photo: iStock.com

The bonus to any time spent learning climbing knots is that they can also come in handy in day to day life, from creating a makeshift belt or dog lead to tying up villains when you’re fighting crime. If you’re into that sort of thing.

The more you climb the more your knowledge of climbing knots will grow, but it’s a good idea to have at least a few key climbing knots down before your start. Climbing knots are, for the most part, pretty simple and very effective to use, so you should be able to pick up these 6 basic climbing knots pretty quickly.

It takes practice to make tying climbing knots second nature, but when you’re up on a mountain and need to trust your life to a rope, you’ll be thankful for all the time you spent learning them.

Figure Of Eight Follow Through

This is probably the most classic of all climbing knots and is also one of the most important too.

The figure of eight follow through knot is used to tie a rope into your climbing harness, providing a strong, high friction link to your most important piece of equipment. As with most climbing knots there are a few different ways to tie this one but the most important thing is to make sure that before you start you’ve passed the rope through the correct part of the harness.

The rope should pass vertically through the two horizontal tie in loops, one on the waist band and the other which lies between the leg loops at the front of the harness. It’s easy to get confused and accidentally pass the rope through the belay loop instead which is the loop which vertically joins the two tie in loops. If you notice you’ve done this just untie and try again and be glad of the chance to put a little more practice in on your climbing knots.

The figure eight can also be tied onto a bend of rope, called a figure eight on a bight, which allows you to create a strong, fixed loop that can be used to tie into an anchor while you’re on the rockface.

Prusik

Prusik climbing knots, also known as auto blocks and third hands, are very simple yet incredibly useful to any climber.

Prusik’s are usually tied using a loop of accessory cord. The prusik knot sits around the rope below your belay device and is attached to your harness by a carabiner.

When the prusik has weight put on it it pulls tight, grabbing your rope and stopping you from travelling downwards. This means that you can put your weight onto the prusik and then use both hands to do something else like tying additional climbing knots or flicking through your climbing knots guide book.

The prusik will also kick in if you drop suddenly, grabbing the rope and working as a backup for you when you’re abseiling. If you slip the prusik is there to help keep you safe, making you super glad that you learned this handy little knot.

Double Fisherman’s Knot

When you’re climbing it always helps to have a little more rope than you think you need, and that’s where being able to tie two pieces of rope together become a very useful skill.

There are plenty of climbing knots for tying two pieces of rope together, but this is probably the most popular. Also known as a grapevine knot the double fishermen’s knot creates two stoppers that work against each other, allowing you to increase the length of your rope.

For added security you can also tie a triple fisherman’s knot by simply adding an extra loop around the rope.

Stopper Knot

These climbing knots can literally save your life.

A stopper knot does exactly what it’s name suggests, it stops you. Tied into the bottom of a rope, the stopper knot is designed to prevent you from the ultimate abseiling fail – sliding off the end of your climbing rope. It does so by being too large to pass through your belay device. It might sound like a crazy mistake to make but when you’re concentrating on abseiling it’s easy to do and is actually a more common accident than you might think.

The other bonus to learning how to tie these climbing knots is that they can be used to tidy up long tails of rope left over after you’ve made a figure eight for your harness. This not only keeps the spare rope from getting tangled in other gear when you’re rock climbing but also adds an extra layer of safety too.

Munter Hitch

Lost or broken your belay device? Well this handy climbing knot can really save the day.

The Munter hitch, also known as the Italian hitch or the crossing hitch is named after Swiss mountain guide, Werner Munter, who popularised the use of these climbing knots in mountaineering.

This simple hitch allows the rope to run smoothly but can also be used to cause friction, slowing a climber’s descent just like a belay device. To use the Munter for belaying all you need is a large pear shaped or regular locking carabiner that can take two strands of rope at the same time. Tie the hitch onto the clip and you’re good to go, ensuring that a lost belay device isn’t a day lost on the mountain.

Clove Hitch

The clove hitch is another knot which is so easy even a rock climbing baby could tie it and it’s also simple to adjust while you’re on a wall.

This climbing knot is commonly used to tie into anchor points while you’re preparing to belay someone. The reason it’s so popular is that the clove hitch gives you a secure knot you can lengthen or shorten without having to retie it.

Once you’ve tied into the anchor point with your clove hitch, all you need to do is to feed extra rope into either side of the hitch to lengthen or shorten your distance from the anchor, making it easy to shift your position safely.

Coupled with a figure eight on a bight, the clove hitch provides a secure way to move off a belay and it’s even possible to tie a clove hitch onto a bar or closed loop that you can’t open.

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