Learn to tie the Edwards bowline

by Alan James May/2003
This article has been read 46,202 times
Yes, we all know about the Figure 8 knot for tying on. It's easy, it's reliable, it's simple to see whether it's been tied right, and that's why it's shown to beginners rather than the bowline.

But - have you ever tried to untie a Figure 8 knot that you've taken a fall on? Even if you've only gone a modest distance, the chances are that you'll be struggling for a while, and probably end up doing unwarranted things with nut keys to your valuable rope. (Or your friend's, or the wall's, valuable rope.) And don't even ask about trying to tie an "8" one-handed, say when you need rescuing from an ill-advised solo (but thank goodness you're wearing a harness and are still able to hold on with one hand).

The solution: the bowline. Even after huge falls, it's still easy to untie. It can (with practice) be tied with one hand. And it's just as strong as any other knot such as the Figure-8.

This variation of the bowline is a neat and safe knot for tying on with. Once learned, you will probably never use another knot!

BEWARE though. If tied wrongly, the bowline can turn into a slip knot which will UNTIE at the worst possible moment. So ensure that you always, always check it - and then you get someone else to check it too.

So here it is - Click on any of the images below for a larger version with its instructions.

Step 1

Thread rope through harness and form small loop with live rope below harness rope.

Tying the bowline 1: Thread rope through harness and form small loop with live rope below harness rope, 3 kb

Step 2

Thread loop of live rope through original loop and then thread the harness rope through the new loop.

Tying the bowline 2: Thread loop of live rope through original loop and then thread the harness rope through the new loop, 3 kb

Step 3

Pull live rope and the harness rope will pull through the original loop forming a nice bowline.

NOTE - this is the "rabbit-less" method of tying a bowline.

Tying the bowline 3: Pull live rope and the harness rope will pull through the original loop forming a nice bowline, 3 kb

Step 4

Thread tail under the harness loop and back over the top of it.

UNDER - OVER

Tying the bowline 4: Thread tail UNDER the harness loop and back OVER the top of it, 3 kb

Step 5

Poke tail out through top loop, parallel to the live rope.

Tying the bowline 5: Poke tail out through top loop, parallel to the live rope, 3 kb

Step 6

Tricky bit. Cross the tail over the top of the live rope and back under it. Use This the opposite hand action from the one in Step 4.

Remember - OVER and UNDER

Tying the bowline 6: cross the tail over the top of the live rope and back under it, 3 kb

Step 7

Tuck tail back into knot parallel to harness loop. You can then tuck this loop neatly away in your harness.

Tying the bowline 7: Tuck tail back into knot parallel to harness loop, 3 kb

Step 8

Complete!

The Edwards version of the bowline knot, 3 kb

What else?

As with all knots, use at your own risk and make sure you are confident with them. In an emergency, use the knot you're most confident with.

Thanks to Steve Anson, who taught me this knot and to Rowland Edwards who taught it to him

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