/ Bowline..Instrument of Death...apparently
"Almost every year someone dies because their bowline either came untied because the complicated knot was tied wrong, or because the bowline magically untied itself."
Complicated - really?
Depending on how 'partly' presumably?
I don't think it does. Any safety-critical system should be resilient to user error. The bowline is less resilient to user error than the fig-8.
So why bother finishing it?
> Complicated - really?
More complicated than a fig8 is, yes.
Have I mentioned to anyone about my disappearing clove hitch?
I think another safety tip, in addition to the vital buddy checks, is to add a stopper knot to the free end of the rope. Apart from adding redundancy, this is only done after one has *completed* the main knot. The extra time spent doing this ensures more time spent on the knot tying and checking process. Also, I use this as a kind of signing off procedure meaning "main knot tied correctly and checked".
A fool-proof (or tiredness- or distraction-proof) procedure is more important than the type of knot, IMO, though why one whould choose a bowline over a figure-of-eight for tying in, is unclear. (Having said that, I always used to use a bowline in my early days of top-roping at Harrison's without a harness, because it could be tied so fast starting with a twist round the waist!)
> I don't think it does. Any safety-critical system should be resilient to user error.
In before "if you can't tie in properly you shouldn't be climbing."
> In before "if you can't tie in properly you shouldn't be climbing."
When you look at the age and experience involved in recent accidents the above comment makes little sense, clearly even experienced climbers can be distracted even whilst tying in.
The difference here is that whereas it is possible to 'partially' tie a fig8, that is not possible with a bowline. It either is tied, or not.
In the latest accident, even though it is reported that he "didn't finish the knot", there was no knot on it. He simply threaded the rope through the harness and climbed like that.
Now you try that with a fig8 and get your belayer to report back what happens. ;)
Sorry that meant "I expect that someone will pop up and say this in a second (because someone seems to post approximately the same thing every couple of hours on the other threads on this subject." I think I spend too long on the internet.
> Complicated - really?
And before this degenerates into the usual fig8 vs bowline eternal debate, i didn't make the point to advocate for one or the other. Just pointing out what should have been obvious to anyone reading on what should be learned from this accident, that if you don't tie a knot you'll deck...
Started climbing with a bowline. Twice one came undone (though over 10 years).
Next 33 years have used figure8. No problems so far!
> More complicated than a fig8 is, yes.
I can't see that, they are both simple to learn and to tie.
Easier to see if a fig 8 is not tied correctly imo.
On the other thread a user reported he forgot to tie his fig 8 properly. He tied the initial 8 and then pushed the end through and didn't follow it any further. He got to the top shouted take and it held.
Wouldn't happen with a wrongly tied bowline.
Obviously it shouldn't happen at all in an ideal world.
Glad to see from the OP and the american side of the John Long debate that there is the same argument there too. It's not just us who spend endless hours on the internet.
> Complicated - really?
One could ask, who´s interested in what Duane Raliegh wrote, he is after all a part of the media where sensation driven numbers are more relevant than truth, accuracy or fairness. Some of course might start to look at you in the same vein as you devalue the editorial integrity of UKC!
> Started climbing with a bowline. Twice one came undone (though over 10 years).
> Next 33 years have used figure8. No problems so far!
Bloody hell! You were tied-in for 10 years!
Surely people should just be left to tie in with whichever knot they like. A normally tied and well dressed bowline with a stopper knot, sat snugly up against it should not fail, in the same way that a figure-of-eight, that's been properly tied and well dressed shouldn't fail (with or without the stopper knot).
The problem arises when people tie a bowline wrong or do not add a stopper knot, which allows the knot over time to release. Tied properly a bowline is just as suitable for climbing on as a figure-of-eight.
What's really annoying is when people post on here with things like "I can't believe that someone would ever tie in with a bowline" or "I can't understand why someone would put up with that risk". At the end of the day it's a personal decision.
I personally use a bowline for the majority of my climbing and I've yet to have any problems with it. I don't forsee me having any problems with it in the future either (though now I've written this...). The issue seems to be more to do with the fact that people who tie in the figure-of-eight seem to think of themselves as better, than people who use a bowline.
I thought AJ went mad when you duplicated threads ;-)
I read that blog this morning and thought it the usual pile of trans-Atlantic c**p!
JL didn't tie a Bowline incorrectly, he didn't tie a knot! He effectively just shoved the rope through the front of his harness.
Strange that he recommends using the European Death Knot :-)
Best thing I ever saw at a wall was some guys whipping the rope to create a loose loop then throwing the loose end through said loop to create a figure of eight.
Not all Outside is journalistic crap:
What do they do then?
Presumably meaning they don't tie a stopper on a figure-eight. I've met a few climbers who don't, and have been experimenting with it myself in certain situations, although it is a bit counter-intuitive!
I'm in the minority over here. It's rare ( in my experience of course ) to see a Spanish climber in this area tie a stopper on a fig 8.
I've always quietly suspected that stoppers on figure-eights are superfluous, if the knot is laid neatly and a 3-4 inch tail is left. I've also met someone who ties in with a figure-nine to avoid difficulty in untying (this knot is common in industrial rigging for this reason).
> I'm in the minority over here. It's rare ( in my experience of course ) to see a Spanish climber in this area tie a stopper on a fig 8.
Me too. Most folk I know don't. What I do sometimes see however, is a stopper tied about 15cm or more from the Fig 8 which doesn't really do anything except get in the way. Chris Craggs has a great photo of just that but I can't find it.
> Me too. Most folk I know don't. What I do sometimes see however, is a stopper tied about 15cm or more from the Fig 8 which doesn't really do anything except get in the way. Chris Craggs has a great photo of just that but I can't find it.
Anything for you Jon:
The thing that really made me realise in that article that as a UK dweller I shouldn't even try and think I understand the Yanks point of view and media, was a link at the bottom of the page.
It was to an article about US gun law amendment allowing guns to be carried in US national parks. At the bottom was a forum with one poster saying if you want to carry a gun, or not it should be down to individual choice.
In this forum we have several people stating that if you want to use a bowline it should be down to individual choice..........
Sort of puts this thread in perspective!
And to you Chris. I thought you had a better one than that of someone climbing and showing a much bigger gap between stopper and Fig 8...? I seem to remember a caption pointing out just that?
I don't get this. It's simpler than a fig8, much simpler and it falls apart under it's own weight if tied wrong. If stoppered as most people do for their fig8s it doesn't matter if it slackens.
Is the problem with the elaborate finishes?
On one hand you have John Long saying:
Long says that he ties in with a double bowline, but this time, distracted and tired after a long day of work, he didn't finish the knot. "I made the two bowline loops," he says, "and threaded the rope through my harness, but I didn't bring the rabbit out of the hole and around the tree."
Then the wisdom...
Adds Long: "A lot of people are down on the bowline, but the same thing would have happened with a trace-8. I just wasn't paying attention."
John, a very experienced climber, and author of several climbing instruction books, is a bowliner but recognises that both knots are OK if you tie them correctly!
Then, as I have highlighted at the beginning of this forum post (a post, not an editorial piece) you have Duane, again a very experienced climber and author of several climbing instruction books saying...
"Know the bowline for what it is: An instrument of death," Rock and Ice's Duane Raleigh wrote in a blog post
Duane is a Figure of Eighter......
Does anyone else see this tribal division about tie in knots a bit silly? (and the slagging off of Yanks....I find that really sad and insulting, having two children who are American...and I have something more important on my mind today after what has has tragically happened)
Then you have the BMC publishing this video today: Check that bowline: http://www.thebmc.co.uk/check-that-bowline
I was talking to my friend Greg tonight who I have climbed with for 30 years. We both started off climbing using a round the waist bowline, then a using Whillans harness with a bowline. Along the way, when more comfortable sit harnesses were invented, we started using a figure of 8: neither of us know why, but we both still use a figure of 8.
I have no opinion like many as to which knot to use, as long as the knot is tied properly....I think that is the BMC's stance.....and of course as long as you check it yourself and your partner checks it too, that's best practice, before setting off. Buddy Checks are good practice.
I think the more discussion and exposure about this subject the better, especially for new climbers who I am sure are a tad confused by this debate.
All the best,
My position on the bowline remains unchanged.
> My position on the bowline remains unchanged.
As I said that's fine. It's not about what knot you use, it's tying it correctly that matters and checking it.
> I've always quietly suspected that stoppers on figure-eights are superfluous, if the knot is laid neatly and a 3-4 inch tail is left. I've also met someone who ties in with a figure-nine to avoid difficulty in untying (this knot is common in industrial rigging for this reason).
I haven't used a stopper knot when tying in with a figure of eight since I went on a multi-pitch sport course with the UCPA course about 6 or 7 years ago and the instructor asked my why I did it.
I've since switched to a bowline for single pitch sport climbing, but still use the fig8 for trad and any sort of multi-pitch, and it's a knot that seems impossible to roll with repetitive loading and unloading, and I've never looked down after a fall and thought "hmmmm, that tail is shorter than it was when I tied it".
>>I haven't used a stopper knot when tying in with a figure of eight since I went on a multi-pitch sport course with the UCPA course about 6 or 7 years ago and the instructor asked my why I did it.
What was your answer?
Why did you stop using the stopper knot?
Silly is an understatement!
It is possible to incorrectly tie or forget to tie at all any knot. Any incorrect or incomplete knot MAY result in a fall. The consequences of that fall will be influenced by height and the surface fallen on to. A rethreaded 8 has some characteristics that MAY reduce the chance of an accident but an aware climber should choose which knot to use for themself as their experience and understanding of its strengths and weaknesses develops.
I stopped using a bowline when I stopped using hawser laid ropes, except that I use a double bowline to tie into the middle of a rope for grit.
While both knots are easy to tie, the bowline is also easy to tie wrong but still to look right, even more so with assorted finishes.
My personal bugbear is people who tie a messy fig 8 and then complain that it's hard to undo. I neat, even fig 8 is fairly easy to break open and undo. If I habitually dogged routes, I might have a different viewpoint, but I don't
Beat me to it! same here.
I think that may have already happened across the North Sea. Twice whilst climbing in Norway someone has sidled over to me and asked what was the knot that I was using. I think they were more concerned with checking that an old dodderer was safe rather than any intrinsic interest in the knot.
I berated then that as sons and daughters of Viking seafarers they should know a bowline when they see one!
> >>I haven't used a stopper knot when tying in with a figure of eight since I went on a multi-pitch sport course with the UCPA course about 6 or 7 years ago and the instructor asked my why I did it.
> What was your answer?
> Why did you stop using the stopper knot?
It went something like:
Me: because that's how I was taught,it's safer right?
Instructor: well, not really, a figure of eight won't come undone no matter which way you load the rope so the stopper is redundant, and just makes your knot bulkier so more likely to get in the road
so I tried it without and did indeed enjoy using the less bulky knot.
One of my climbing partners never ties a stopper on his bowline and we have climbed together for 10 years,though he does leave a long tail of 5 or 6".The bowline was the knot used to tie me in for the very first time,so i've applied this problem free ever since,and prefer it in the winter and summer mountains to a f of 8,which takes longer to tie.Incidentally i do use a stopper on my bowline,as someone above mentioned i would only incorporate a stopper on an f of 8 though to stop a really long tail from getting in the way,but i would *always* ensure the tail would be no shorter than 5 or6",that's just common sense.I like to add that i have developed a habit of checking my partner is safely tied in and their knot is looking safe prior to them leaving each and every belay,it only takes a second to do and i think only once have i found a suspect knot.
More like bloody ridiculous... as with everything else in climbing, there's more than one way to skin the tying in cat, and why anyone wouldn't want to learn a bunch of techniques and use them where appropriate is beyond me.
Who knows, having learned (and practiced) how to tie a bowline with one hand could even save your life one day...
To say a knot is "an Instrument of Death" is silly and has no doubt been used by the author of the article to sensationalise the issue. There is no need to sensationalise it - just take your time if tired, remember what it's like to fall and hear gear popping if you're thinking of being complacent, and accept no distraction whatsoever until you've tied it, fared it, and checked it...and, whichever knot you are using, tie the ruddy thing correctly. Your life, and the life of others, may depend upon it.
Elsewhere on the forum simple buddy checks, formal or otherwise, have been discussed. Some people are 'for' others 'against'. No matter how long you have been climbing, what qualifications you hold, how much you and your buddy trust each other, or how good you think you are, when you are being belayed you are in a system, the failure of which can end in death or injury. It takes just seconds for your check your belayers system is sound (Krab locked, belaying device in correct orientation, rope through krab etc...) and say 'Good!' and for you to 'offer' your knot (or krab) to your belayer for them to check it and say 'Good, climb when ready!' If John Long had done this we wouldn't be debating his accident on the forum, would we.
Personally, I use a fig-8 when tying on and a bowline when rigging round a block, tree or thread, as rethreading a fig-8 in such circumstances can be a pain in the arse. Use of a stopper adds extra security to a system. If I'm rigging for a top rope or abseil I will invariably as a competent second to check my rigging. When leading and then belaying up I check and double-check, as after all sometimes even the climbing gods that we all love can be cruel to those who mock them by not showing due diligence!
> Who knows, having learned (and practiced) how to tie a bowline with one hand could even save your life one day...
Used to be taught to scouts in case they fell into deep water and had to tie on whilst treading. Equally applicable to a stuck climber hanging on with one hand. Easy once learned and the best way of securing a rope to yourself one-handed.
> Me: because that's how I was taught,it's safer right?
> Instructor: well, not really, a figure of eight won't come undone no matter which way you load the rope so the stopper is redundant, and just makes your knot bulkier so more likely to get in the road
> so I tried it without and did indeed enjoy using the less bulky knot.
I was taught to use a stopper on my figure of eight and always do. On a recent training course I went on the instructor said that the stopper was superfluous. I relayed this bit of advice to my climbing partner who knows a thing or two and whose opinion I respect and he was almost annoyed that people were saying the stopper knot is not needed.
I started climbing using a bowline tied around my waist, and it was a great knot for that. It's also easy to tie with one hand or round a tree. I would not say that it is a complicated knot to tie, as boy scouts around the age of 6 seem to manage it.
However I no longer use the rope tied round my waist when climbing and I also no longer use the bowline for climbing.
Why? Now I have enough experience to make my own judgements and am AWARE that the bowline can come undone, even when tied by an experienced climber. Admittedly not very often, but it does happen.
A few of the climbers who come to mind who have had a bowline come undone are: Lyn Hill, Will Gadd and now John Long.
In 1992 an Italian team member decked from 8m in a UIAA world cup competion. This hasn't happened again, as since then all competitors have to use a figure of 8 to tie in.
Anyone who wants more information about bowline accidents can read Pit Schuberts book, it has quite a few in there.
In the end climbing is a personal choice, climb hard routes or easy ones, run it out or don't, have a belayer you trust or someone you met 5 minutes ago hold your life in their hands. Solo or use a rope, it's all your choice.
However the first time your tie in knot comes undone is usually the last time you ever get a chance to tie one. I have to laugh seeing people post "I've been using a bowline for ..... years and it's never come undone yet". Otherwise you might not be able to post at all.
Sorry about the long rant.
PS don't be safe, be AWARE.
John Long didn't have the knot come undone. He didn't tie a knot. Any knot.
I think Granny Knots are dangerousness and should be banned! The Granny Not ™ that John Long didn't use could well have killed him.
> I was taught to use a stopper on my figure of eight and always do. On a recent training course I went on the instructor said that the stopper was superfluous. I relayed this bit of advice to my climbing partner who knows a thing or two and whose opinion I respect and he was almost annoyed that people were saying the stopper knot is not needed.
did your partner say why he thought it was needed? I can't see how a properly tied figure of 8 could come undone.
> did your partner say why he thought it was needed? I can't see how a properly tied figure of 8 could come undone.
obviously I mean in a tying in scenario, I can see why they say it could roll with cyclical loading and unloading as a joining knot between two ropes in an abseil scenario
> Depending on how 'partly' presumably?
Very partly. I once got distracted and got only got as far as poking the end once through the initial knot after threading my harness. I then climbed and lowered off a steep sports route quite safely, only noticing when I came to untie it. I would certainly have been decidedly alarmed if I had noticed mid-climb or mid-lower, but experimentation afterwards suggested it was perfectly secure. I am reassured that a fig 8 has ample redundancy. I only ever use a stopper knot when instructing!
Neither knot is foolproof. The important thing is to ensure it's tied correctly.
> obviously I mean in a tying in scenario, I can see why they say it could roll with cyclical loading and unloading as a joining knot between two ropes in an abseil scenario
AFAIK the problem with using it for joining abseil ropes isn't so much the cyclical loading it's the way the knot is loaded. If you're not careful when you are building your belay I suppose you could end up loading the Fo8 in the same way. I have to say though I've never actually heard of a belay failing in this way.
> AFAIK the problem with using it for joining abseil ropes isn't so much the cyclical loading it's the way the knot is loaded. If you're not careful when you are building your belay I suppose you could end up loading the Fo8 in the same way. I have to say though I've never actually heard of a belay failing in this way.
My understanding is that the fig 8 cannot fail catastrophically when it rolls once (like the bowline does), therefore (assuming you've left decent sized tails) you need to load and unload it repeatedly in order to roll off the end of the tails.
Happy to be corrected on that of course.
> did your partner say why he thought it was needed? I can't see how a properly tied figure of 8 could come undone.
I can't remember now. I might be making assumptions but I think most climbing walls I've been to expect you to tie in with a figure of eight with a stopper knot. There must be a reason why it's such common practice unless it's just to ensure your tail is long enough.
How closely do you have to look to ensure that any knot is correctly tied? I suspect a lot closer than most floor walkers do.
> My understanding is that the fig 8 cannot fail catastrophically when it rolls once (like the bowline does), therefore (assuming you've left decent sized tails) you need to load and unload it repeatedly in order to roll off the end of the tails.
I think we are at cross purposes, you're right that if you have long enough tails the knot would need to roll multiple times (hence cyclical loading). However I read your original post though as saying that cyclical loading causes the problem (the rolling) which isn't the case, it's the direction of loading.
I guess this could be more of an issue with the sort of Fo8 people use to tie in on, which may not have a very long tail if they haven't put in a stopper knot.
> Very partly. I once got distracted and got only got as far as poking the end once through the initial knot after threading my harness. I then climbed and lowered off a steep sports route quite safely, only noticing when I came to untie it.
Ross Henigen did this once too I think, on as sport route above the walkway in El Chorro. He was apparently quite alarmed to put it mildly, but again the "knot" held him OK. A partner of mine had his bowline come off his harness while seconding me in Cogne last year (he hadn't tied a stopper), thankfully we not on a single rope that day! I know which knot "feels" more tolerant of minor error to me.
In this specific situation, it's been reported that John never tied his knot at all. Others have been equally unfortunate when failing to tie a figure 8. This is one of the reasons why you may have seen "Check your partners knot" signs appearing at walls. Whichever knot we use, and regardless of our level of experience, any one of us can be distracted and make errors, so building the extra safety layer of a partner check into our climbing routine seems like a good idea if we want to stick around.
Regarding safe knots, the bowline is not a safe knot for tying in with. The bowline and stopper by contrast is a great way to tie in when expecting to fall off a lot. Expect to see some free BMC publications covering advice and suggestions on this topic next year.
Climb safe and have a great festive season.
Well no, it doesn't, and there is no evidence that it ever has done so when tied properly. In the two example you give the knot did not come undone, it was never tied. In the Lyn Hill case it wasn't even a bowline that was untied but a partly tied figure of eight.
I would really advise reading the thread as this has been covered in considerable detail.
Interestingly the wall I climb at - Newcastle - insist on a fig 8, I guess so that it is easily checked.
I personally use both types as both have their uses.
> In the Lyn Hill case it wasn't even a bowline that was untied but a partly tied figure of eight.
I'm sure that I heard Lynn Hill did an interview and spoke about her fall, she was using a bowline with the yosemite finish which involves poking the dead end back up thru the bowline hole.
All I can guess is that she didn't actually go the loop before going back into the hole, which of cause would mean that it is only holding on by a bight of rope.
I could of miss heard this tho.
The third and very important reason is that in some situations it is VERY easy to clip a long tail thinking it is the live rope.
> The third and very important reason is that in some situations it is VERY easy to clip a long tail thinking it is the live rope.
It would have to be a VERY long tail to make that mistake!
The (with stopper) is a very useful knot to know if a rope is the only bit of gear you have available and someone needs the confidence of one.
Insert "Bowline" as required
Would like to see this sort of thing trigger more buddy checking. I always try to make people check me and I'll check them, regardless of experience. Knots is personal... I teach f8 and agree with above that stopper forcds new climbers to have a long enough tail.
> I think we are at cross purposes, you're right that if you have long enough tails the knot would need to roll multiple times (hence cyclical loading). However I read your original post though as saying that cyclical loading causes the problem (the rolling) which isn't the case, it's the direction of loading.
> I guess this could be more of an issue with the sort of Fo8 people use to tie in on, which may not have a very long tail if they haven't put in a stopper knot.
No, I don't think we're at cross purposes here - cross loading of the tie in loop is of course required to cause the knot to roll whether it's the bowline or the fig. 8.
The point is that if the bowline rolls once it'll turn into a slip-knot and fail catastrophically unless a stopper knot is present, whereas with a fig 8 the knot is still stable after rolling (I tried this out this afternoon and it seems to be the case).
This means you'd need to unload it and load it again to stand any chance of making it roll a second time. With an out-of-sight knot this could happen, but I find it hard to believe you could roll your tie-in knot several times without noticing.
Hmm, normally I've been using a FoE with a doublehand.
Been thinking about switching to a bowline+yosemite finish.
For what its worth, I think what matters is the following statistic:
Percentage of times one has attempted and failed to tie in safely with a bowline vs percentage of times one has attempted and failed to tie in safely with a FoE.
I have no idea what those percentages are.
Everyone I've ever climbed with has known how to tie in with a FoE, only some of them know what a bowline is supposed to look like.
Er the knot is only stable if the tails are long enough the first flip doesn't actually compromise it. Granted looking again at your post I replied to you did say tied 'properly' which I guess should mean long tails.
(The ring loading of a bowline is a bit more complicated as it actually depends on whether it's right or left handed. I agree you should still use a stopper knot though).
Yes I agree, though I would also have found it hard to believe you could set off up a route without trying in at all but it seems anyone can be momentarily inattentive. I still regard the fact you would have to intervene to stop a catastrophic event (the knot rolling again and actually fully failing) as a failure of the knot though.
> Everyone I've ever climbed with has known how to tie in with a FoE, only some of them know what a bowline is supposed to look like.
Could this be true for a whole generation of climbers which have only ever climbed inside and on bolts?
Is the figure 8 the only knot you really need for such adventures?
Video re testing of cross loaded knots and rolling, more food for thought than scientific proof. I always thought that a cross loaded figure 8 just looks "wrong"
video is more relevant to anchors being tied to the central loop than it is to the forces sustained by the leaders tie in during a fall.
> Is the figure 8 the only knot you really need for such adventures?
Seems feasible, even on multipitch.
> Yes I agree, though I would also have found it hard to believe you could set off up a route without trying in at all but it seems anyone can be momentarily inattentive.
Yeah true, I think these are rather different scenarios though, one is getting distracted during something very routine and then carrying on, whereas the other is failing to notice something very unusual happening several times in succession.
Really? I've never seen a fig 8 roll, so I'm guessing it takes a fairly unusual circumstance to do it (hooking up the belay loop on a spike of rock in a leader fall perhaps, or an anchor failing and shock loading loading the loop from a badly equalised belay) so I'd consider any knot that's capable of holding three or four of such events before failing as having enough redundancy built in.
Even if you didn't think to check your knot after such an event, the odds of several such incidents happening before you untied must be vanishingly small... surely we're getting into the realms of the chances of being struck by a meteorite?
Yes, but as I understand it, it's the cyclical loading that can occur when you're swinging down an abseil that can cause it to roll multiple times and off the end of the tail.
I don't see how that's going to happen with a tie in loop.
Anyway, I'm happy from the discussions that have taken place on these threads that what I'm doing is safe and there's no reason not to carry on doing so, or to not recommend the same to others, so I'll duck out of the conversation.
Possibly, but then again noticing it isn't the same as being in a position to do anything about it. Also as I said 'several' can be as low as once depending upon the length of the tail.
I did say in my first post I had never actually heard of it happening, it certainly isn't something that keeps me awake at night (but then again I use stopper knots with both bowlines and Fo8s.) All you asked for was a possible mode of failure though...
Half a dozen of us climbed on Stanage today and all tied on with a bowline (including one round the waist if you can believe that) and despite the dire warnings, not one of them came undone.
Often one reads "with a bowline" but what is meant is "with some secured bowline variation" : how much were these knotters tempting fate?
Those with an agenda are quick to shoot without looking (for they want to say what they have to say, and there's no point to slowing that down by considering facts ...)-: the Outside article is self-contradictory, and clearly the output of someone without qualms of spewing BS to support his cause.
And the sad thing is that this time of tragic result IS apt for making a strong recommendation for SAFETY, for checking oneself (and buddy) pre-climb, especially in gym atmosphere where distractions are greater. Missing the opportunity to drive home this lesson, for the lust of bashing the bowline, is worth a few good slaps upside the head!
The author conveniently --for his agenda-- neglects to articulate what this "finishing the knot" amounted to : it amounted to TYING THE KNOT AT ALL ! (How many untied knots would've done better, do you think?)
Ah, here's his agenda : guilty, nevermind evidence.
I admit to chuckling at this nonsense sometimes. It's hard to see something if one doesn't look at it; familiarity should be as easy to gain for the bowline as anything. I do confess, though, to finding the common presentation of the knot showing the wrong *side* : it should show the bowline in the same perspective as the sheet bend is commonly shown (but usually it's the flipped-around side presented).
This is pure BS, and the coroner who made such strong unjustified assertions in his official report should be at least reprimanded for that, if not more severely punished --it was without basis. Rothman fell, detached from the rope, which hung w/o any knot. THAT indeed shows that he'd not tied a fig.8; it does NOT show that he DID tie <anything>, and had perhaps only reeved the rope through his harness and then --like world-class climbers Lynn Hill & John Long-- gotten distracted and not completed tying in. Which would have the same effect were the intended tie-in knot the fig.8.
(But this reasoning doesn't support the writer's agenda.)
The "dumb mistake" was in NOT TYING IN; the choice of knot isn't in the game at this stage.
But this article went to press, didn't it; and the Net is already filled with echoes of "bowline came undone".
Damn sad, angering, but all too typical.
And, again, these bowline-bashers miss the opportunity to emphasize the point about using safe climbing procedures of checking tie-in & belay.
What he said.
People just love complaining.
John Long didn't tie in with any knot at all.
Instead of the focus being on buddy checks ("buddy checks yeee hah" Stateside) it seems an opportunity has arisen for the bowline to be given a hard time, and for the fig 8 users to protest that their knot is better.
> not tied a fig.8; it does NOT show that he DID tie <anything>, and had perhaps only reeved the
> rope through his harness and then --like world-class climbers Lynn Hill & John Long-- gotten distracted
> and not completed tying in. Which would have the same effect were the intended tie-in knot the fig.8.
However, when tying a F8 you first make the knot then thread through your harness. Thus the untied rope end shows that the climber had not intended tying a F8 (and so presumably had intended tying a bowline).
I am not aware of any proper statistics comparing the two knots, but the anecdotal evidence seems to be that intention-to-tie-a-bowline results in no proper knot more often than intention-to-tie-a-F8 does.
Less redundant and therefore less safe, because it is less tolerant of being incorrectly tied, just as (say) climbing on a single rope is less redundant than two ropes, yes. When deciding whether to use one, just as when deciding whether to use two ropes or a single rope, this must form part of your "risk assessment" (in your head, most likely).
An instrument of death, gutter-press nonsense.
I was taught that as a Scout - and indeed it's the only way I have ever bothered to learn how to tie one.
Perhaps ironically, the one time I did get a rope chucked to me while in a rather precarious position (albeit with the ability to use both hands, just) on a scramble, it had a fig 8 already in it when it was thrown to me so I just followed it through and used that.
No wall I've been to has had any problem with the use of a bowline. Normally any initial check involves a fig 8, but I tend to ask if they mind me using a bowline and none have said no so far.
Some do, but I think most still don't.
Perhaps, but the solution to this problem isn't knot choice but procedure change : CHECK the tie-in (& belay)! What these quick-reaction(ary) anti-bowline articles do is miss this important lesson, by mistakenly (and sometimes outright stupidly) blaming the (supposed) knot.
Sorry, I don't get that. If (and so far it is an "if") people are more prone to making mistakes when intending to tie a bowline than when intending to tie a F8, then changing the knot is an entirely sensible response. In effect it is a procedure change. As I said up-thread, safety critical systems should be resilient to user error; it seems the bowline is less so than the F8.
"changing the knot is an entirely sensible response"
Changing the knot *and* doing buddy checks is the safest response. Many will do.
However, climbers don't always do that. As top-roping rather than leading or soloing is safer, for instance. Risk assessment as a climber remains a personal/partner thing unless you're instructing novices.
You are someone who usually likes evidence so what evidence have you got of bowlines failing? There's been none on this thread yet nor any of the similar ones. All who use bowlines have insisted on the use of at least a couple of half hitches to complete the knot and when you do them and in the action of pulling tight you automatically check the knot - physically you have to look at it and tug them tight, which provides the redundancy you ask for... at the same time doing away for the silly "body checking" business.
So, if people like figure of eights for personal or aesthetic reasons then I doubt that many would object but to do so on any logical basis due to alleged safety reasons is balderdash... which is probably why no one can produce evidence to prove otherwise.
A figure of 8 is harder to untie after it's been loaded. Doesn't that suggest it's a better knot?! I'd rather spend a couple of minutes undoing a knot than get killed by knot failure. That's just my own choice, if others disagree that's their choice!
No need for a stopper on a fig 8 tho best practice. Not so with bowline!
In reply to all:
Couple of people have mentioned above they've had bowlines come undone and I've heard of other instances. Isn't that enough reason to not use it? Simple as that. Few things in climbing are black and white but this is one of them. At least that's what I think. Still, it's your life, not mine, make your own decisions...
> I don't get this. It's simpler than a fig8, much simpler and it falls apart under it's own weight if tied wrong.
You said it! That's really useful when it happens half way up a pitch. Good luck.
Best knot?? Three words: Monkey Fist
The long and short of all this is TIE YOUR KNOT PROPERLY.
If you do you will be climbing for as long as you want to.
If you don't then - it's gonna hurt you or kill you at some point.
I always use the bowline with a snug stopper knot, it just wins hands down for me.
Easy to un-tie after big falls.
Can be tied quickly if needed.
If both climbers use one then there will be an extra 2m of free rope in the system.
It's completely boomproof.
All this talk of them magically coming undone is because they simply weren't tied properly. Maybe a fig 8 that isn 't tied propely will hold your weight and allow you to lower off....but bugger me is that really a valid point.......? 'My knot wasn't tied properly and it still allowed me not to die' well isn't that great.........TIE YOUR CHOSEN KNOT PROPERLY :)
I also strongly object to all this nonsense at walls - you must use a fig 8! I also climb at Newcastle and have been told by the floor walkers that I can't use a bowline. When I asked could you please tell me what is wrong with a bowline I just got the standard response - it's wall policy. This is BS and it really annoyed me because this whole debate is based on unsubstantiated media gibberish......
Not really. For the many, many people who have a perfectly safe tie in regime using a bowline changeing that routine now is NOT entirely sensible.
Why is it "best" practice? You do it for a reason, so clearly it's "good" practice, but is tying a well-seated knot with 3-4 inches of tail (and no stopper) not also good practice? Why not, what's going to go wrong with it?
Being pedantic I realise, but never been a fan of "best" practice, it does seem a tad prescriptive in a world of judgement-calls and alternative cat-skinnings. Good practice seems a better way of looking at it; various solutions to the same problem can all be good practice.
"Doesn't that suggest it's a better knot?!"
No. The ultimate knot is one that never unties when you don't want it to, unties very easily when you do, and is resilient to being mistied or incomplete as far as possible.
Of course there isn't one, so we all choose our compromise.
The phrase "best practice" is often used by those who do not wish to justify their decision.
I can understand walls doing it, but I would like to hear a good justification, e.g. "our insurers require it" (if true), "it is easy for our floor walkers to verify", "it is more resilient" etc, and not silly ones like "it's a death knot" or the catch all "it's best practice" (says who? Not the BMC...)
The evidence is not of a properly tied bowline failing, it is of the bowline being more susceptible to user error.
Err yep, it is!
True, but no human gets everything right every time. So a safety-critical system should be resilient to user error.
By the way: I do agree entirely that the choice of knot should be up to the climber.
"I do agree entirely that the choice of knot should be up to the climber."
I would say the climber and the belayer, as the belayer does hold some responsibility for checking the knot, and if they don't know a bowline they might not be happy with that.
I choose to use a bowline except where prohibited to do so by a wall or where a belayer is unhappy with it (not happened yet), because I think that by checking carefully and by way of buddy checks I can mitigate the risk to a level that I am happy with while enjoying the ease of tying and untying. I don't mind what you use.
Further to that, if I'm belaying for someone who has tied in using a bowline variant I can't check because of lack of familiarity (the only one I use is the standard one with stopper), I will explicitly say so and leave it up to them to decide if it is OK or not, with a suggestion they double-check it carefully before climbing or use something I can check (don't mind which).
Personally it wouldn't make an iota of difference to me as don't see it as my belayer's responsibility to chack my knot. Sure its a bonus if they do but my knot is 100% my responsibility.
Lots here http://sgiguere.hubpages.com/hub/Rock-Climbing-Knots-the-Double-Bowline-Vs-the-Figure-Eight including the linked report (done already?) http://www.paci.com.au/downloads_public/knots/Bowlines_Analysis.pdf but being a fig 8 user I didn't read it all!
I don't expect a belayer to check (one person I climb with explicitly says he doesn't, another definitely does, and another would but doesn't know the bowline) but I do always check the climber myself as I would feel rotten if they got injured when it could have been avoided by a quick glance, IYSWIM.
Get a rope and harness, and try it (not too far off the ground).
A partially-tied Fig 8 is far more likely to hold than a partially-tied bowline.
If you lay out this evidence, you'll see that it is (1) quite limited, even including cases that are (2) quite uncertain (re facts).
You have some substantial leap of reasoning to make if you can connect the apparent lack of both Rothman (quite "apparent" at best) and Long/"Largo" & Lynn Hill (so admitted) to FAILING TO TIE their chosen knot (which happens to have been a bowline, of some variety) to their having preferred a bowline : indeed, just by mere process alone, one should reason that if one needs to tie the FULL fig.8 (i.e., not in a setting where a prior climber leaves the rope knotted w/base fig.8 single strand to be completed) there might be more reason to do the initial 8 and then forget, as the bowline is largely a tie-all-at-once knot. (In Largo's recent case, he claims to have formed the double-loop base; it seems most odd, then, that he should fail to finish as he'd have to let go of this --rather than, w/fig.8 base which is self-sustaining!?)
In short, I don't think that we have great evidence re some knots being prone to forgetting to tie. The bowline does bring into its history --something that sailors have trouble realizing, as it attaches to a different material than they're used to-- evidence of the basic knot coming loose & untied. That is something to note and advocate against, and there are various solutions. In this regard, it should be pointed out that the Yosemite bowline stands in relation to the the bowline in the same way that some so-called "single bowlines on a bight" stand to the traced-8 : the finish is in the form of a fig.8. Were the incomplete fig.8 (this "bowline on a bight") a better-known knot, it might be getting some similar misgivings and recommendation to completion with the further extension of a trace 8 finish vs. the simple U-shaped one; though the fig.8 base would still be more reliable than the loop base of a bowline.
To those who protest that belayers or other "buddies" might not know how to recognize a properly tied bowline, I say that the main point of the check is to see that SOME knot IS TIED ON --that is what should've prevented the trio of accidents referenced above (this post), though that speculative coroner's statement and some seemingly intentionally mistaken statements rushed out to press after Largo's accident insist that a particular tied knot was at fault.
Meanwhile, the bowline IS a quite useful knot (there is Life beyond climbing, even for most of those who tie in with bowlines (though we're less sure about those fixated w/fig.8s :o), and so it SHOULD be known IN GENERAL --and then would not be a recognition issue for anyone, even the ubiquitous "man on the street" ("Sir, could you come over and be my buddy & check my knot, take a quick gander crotchwise at me, kindly.").
Finally, perhaps the more important lesson to be learned in this current bowline battle is : HOW DAMN LOUSY THE MEDIA / Net IS ON CONVEYING (accurate) INFORMATION!!
Here, we had a living, well-connected-to-climber-community principal of an event, yet the descriptions and conclusions about this event were QUICKLY broadcast incorrectly and echoed. That is bad behavior by both those doing the broadcasting initially, and those listening so willing to swallow the crap hook, line, & stinker!
BUDDY CHECKS on reasonability!
> Of course there isn't one, so we all choose our compromise.
The rethreaded or retraced bowline comes mighty close to meeting all criteria, and deserves to be the knot of choice for everyone using single ropes. But as is often the case in matters in which tradition rules, the debate rages on about alternatives, neither of which is the best.
Because it puts two turns through the harness tie-in points, the retraced bowline is clumsy with half ropes, so for that application the old arguments still make sense.
Personally, I've been tying in with bowlines since my first day of climbing 56 years ago. Over the years, I've changed the type of finish used (the one thing that is clear is that an unfinished bowline is inappropriate for climbing), but that is all. I've never had any incidents in which the knot loosened or, heaven forfend, came untied, and am satisfied that, at least when tied by me, that the knot is totally stable and secure.
During the many years when it was the only knot, no one was afraid to teach it to beginners. But now, in light of the onslaught of bad press (most of it almost entirely unjustified), I wouldn't teach it to anyone unless specifically asked.
As for mis-tying it, there have been some comments about it simply falling apart in your hands if you do it wrong. This is not quite true. This is one of the things that can happen, but not the only one. It is possible to tie something called the "Eskimo Bowline."
If you count all the choices possible at each stage in tying the bowline, there are ten. Two of these choices result in the knot falling apart in your hands, and correspond to the most common mistake. Two result in a "right-hand" bowline, two result in a "left-hand" bowline (either one seems to be ok, although there are debates about which is more resistant to ring-loading), and the other four correspond to left- and right-handed versions of the "Eskimo Bowline."
I haven't seen any discussion of the Eskimo Bowlne in climbing circles. It is reputed to be less likely to come loose under intermittent loading and is better suited to being ring-loaded, which makes one wonder why it isn't the bowline of choice. I do not know what deficits it might have; perhaps KN can enlighten us.
The name comes from the fact that the knot was used to tie rawhide straps in a sled presented to polar explorer Sir John Ross by an Inuit tribe. This according to "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Knots," Geoffrey Budworth, p. 78, Google Books link http://books.google.com/books?id=diG_FXiJMzkC&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=eskimo+bowline&sou...
Ok, good practice. Makes sure you've got enough tail left and helps double check the knot as you're doing it. But not actually necessary.
I'm sure a properly tied bowline is perfectly safe but that's missing the point.
1. A bowline isn't safe without a stopper knot, whereas a fig 8 is. It's possible to forget to tie a stopper knot.
2. A partially complete bowline (rabbit gone in the hole but not back out) isn't going to hold, whereas a partially retreaded fig 8 might still hold. It's possible to forget to complete the knot (never mind doing a stopper). Unlikely, but possible.
3. A fig 8 is easier to check visually. May be a bowline is easy enough to check for the experienced eye but it's a knot that fewer people are familiar with. Depends who you're climbing with of course.
The key point is point 1 above. It's enough to make me always use a fig 8 as it's entirely possible to forget a stopper knot and indeed there are real life cases where bowlines have come undone for this reason. Wouldn't happen in an ideal world but we are all only human!
Its exactly the point for a lot of climbers.
> 1. A bowline isn't safe without a stopper knot, whereas a fig 8 is. It's possible to forget to tie a stopper knot.
It's also possible for stopper knots to come undone. My main gripe about the bowline is that if the stopper knot comes undone, the rest of the knot can then fail through repeat loading. My other gripe about it is that there is less uncluttered space on the rope loop for attaching the rope from belays.
I also think a lot of people spout off about how they use bowlines, but forget that they are talking about indoor or single pitch/sport climbing and would use figure 8's on multipitch routes, where the chance of the stopper coming undone and there is more repeat loading on the bowline.
If you're not going to fall (trad and winter,) then why not use a figure 8? It unties just as easily, but less prone to stoppers coming untied and the bowline coming untied 8 hours into the day? Yes you can check at every belay, but why take the risk?
"If you're not going to fall (trad and winter,) then why not use a figure 8?"
As the reason for me using a bowline is the problem of untying after a fall, that would seem to make a lot of sense.
> If you're not going to fall (trad and winter,)
Some people do fall off trad climbing and even when winter climbing... Being inflammatory, you could have more accurately phrased it 'If you're not going to fall (because you're not trying very hard)'.
I use the Bowline for all my climbing single pitch, multi-pitch, winter climbing, so there! None of that plebian fo8 :-)
> I use the Bowline for all my climbing single pitch, multi-pitch, winter climbing, so there! None of that plebian fo8 :-)
Well done sir! So do I. But I venture that you are wasting your time here, and would be better off on the "Bowline Connoisseurs" thread. There you will find mature and erudite, if sometimes high-flown, discussion of The King of Knots, free from the pious prejudice of the incorrigible "eighters".
> Well done sir! So do I. But I venture that you are wasting your time here, and would be better off on the "Bowline Connoisseurs" thread. There you will find mature and erudite, if sometimes high-flown, discussion of The King of Knots, free from the pious prejudice of the incorrigible "eighters".
"eighters" - the Brake of the climbing world - pick something that contributes to a low percentage of accidents, paint it as the root of all evil and condemn all who use it as irresponsible fools doomed to die a horrible messy death...
Safe and convenient.
First, a bit of background. Once upon a time every beginner learned to tie on with a bowline and a stopper knot. The stopper, or some kind of extra "lock" is essential because the bowline will easily work undone when not loaded but jiggled about as it is when used for climbing. The corollary of this is that it doesn't jam when loaded, so can easily be undone.
During the standardisation of instructional techniques and subsequent establishment of formal instructor qualifications in the late 60's, a new method was devised. This involved the figure-of-eight knot used both to tie on to the rope and to secure a belay. Thus novices only had to learn one knot in order to "become a rock-climber". The Fo8 was ideal for this purpose, being relatively easy to learn, stable and easy to check when tied. Its disadvantages are its tendency to jam when loaded heavily, and the fact that it can't be adjusted easily when tied. Nonetheless it's adoption as standard by the instructional establishment gave, over the years a spurious status to what is really a jack-of-all-trades knot.
Modern practice now prefers the clove-hitch for belaying, which is easy to adjust when tied. Tying onto a harness (as opposed to the waist-belt and karabiner used when the system was devised) now requires a Fo8 to be done by re-threading, a two-stage process which I would argue is actually more complicated than tying a bowline.
The bowline is really a family of knots and recent work has come up with some quite sophisticated, though not particularly difficult, versions which appear to combine the advantages of both the bowline and Fo8.
There does seem to be a body of prejudice against the bowline, exemplified by the quote from Duane Raleigh at the head of this thread. I suspect it's mostly down to unfamiliarity.
All I can say is that I've used both knots over the years, both for personal and instructional climbing. Unlike some, it would seem, I've never seen a properly-tied bowline/stopper knot come undone. I can also recognise a properly tied one from a distance.
The Fo8 probably is a better knot for beginners - I certainly teach it as standard. But I'm not a beginner, I can do better.
The main advantage of the bowline is that it falls apart at a slight shake or a puff of wind. This means it is much easier to untie after a big fall (that is, in the rather unlikely event that you are still attached to it after a fall, and are not then dead).
A Fig of 8 thread would be so boring wouldn't it:
So long as you don't forget to tie the other half it works.............err that's it.
Totally agree... and while I am sticking to Fo8, I am now sure that I think Bowlines are "cooler"
The advantages of a bowline are that its safe, easy to tie and easy to undo. As you observe, other clunkier knots are also available.
I tie in with a bow line, but then again I love danger!!!!!
dead man walking ! dead man walking ! :-)
> The advantages of a bowline are that its safe, easy to tie and EASY to UNDO ARRGGGH ARRGGGGH As you observe, other clunkier knots are also available.
Did you mean to write that?
Well, I just went climbing, and tied in with a bowline with stopper on each route, and it didn't come undone, nor come close to it, nor did I have any wall staff complaining about me doing so.
As a qualified climbing instructor and a keen climber myself I've used a variety of knots through my career and climbing life. As an instructor i teach the figure of eight as its easier to learn, no matter what the age of the climber and easy to identify when tied incorrectly. My personal opinion on the bowline vs the figure of eight is that both knots are equally practical and safe... according that both are tied correctly with a double stopper knot. I think this is the sole reason from where the arguments occur. I've seen many climbers who have tied in with a figure 8 all their lives until one day they decide to tie-in with the bowline because they're simply to lazy to bother to untie a figure of eight after it has been fallen on. These are the type of people that are also too lazy to be bothered to tie a stopper knot or check they're knot before they start to climb. obviously they're is the times when we all make mistakes. mess up knots, forget to check, (i've even see people forget to tie-in and realised half way up the climb that the rope is simply pushed through their harness!) for this reason i prefer the figure of eight due to its design that if it is tied wrong, the likelihood of it holding a fall are far greater than that of an incorrectly tied bowline.
But it all comes down to one simple fact...
THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE KNOT, IT IS THE CLIMBERS TYING THE KNOT..
And the oldest rule in the book...
ALWAYS. CHECK. YOUR. KNOT
Well, the bits of it I did write, yes. Lots of things in climbing are better off being easy to undo - the obvious one being karibiner gates.
It seems to me that the bowline is fine if under constant tension but if it isn't then it's prone to it walking itself apart, which is why it's easy to untie.
This is where the stopper knot comes in, but I don't personally feel like putting my life in the hands of a stopper knot.
I'd quite happily pull a car out of a swamp using a bowline, but for climbing it's not for me.
A figure of 8 is impossible to wiggle loose by loading and unloading once it's been set with a gentle tug and does not depend on a stopper knot for its security. I always think the stopper knot on a figure of 8 is just there to tidy up the tail of the rope, not to add any aditional level of security, which is what it is used for in a bowline.
When I'm struggling to undo a fig 8 after a fall, I often think along the lines of 'rather this than deck out because the bowline fails'. And before anyone jumps in and says 'but a bowline won't fail if tied correctly', that's missing the point because the point is that it can fail if you forget to put a stopper knot in and that's easy to do, plus a stopper knot can itself get undone, and then yes you will have a bowline which will have failed.
I was talking about this at the wall last night and we came up with the perfect solution for this debate: combine the two knots, then you get the ease of untieing of the bowline and the security of the fig 8! So you do a single fig 8 with a very long live end, tie a bowline on the live end, then rethread the fig 8 with the tail left over from the bowline and finally add a double stopper knot just to be sure. Simples!
You could I reckon tie in with just a stopper knot or two, that in the end is what a prussik loop is made with. Good luck getting them undone if you fall. though.
> This is where the stopper knot comes in, but I don't personally feel like putting my life in the hands of a stopper knot.
How many times does it have to be said, bowlines don't fail, there is no evidence of this ever happening, all the cases have been when daft people haven't even tied any knot.
As for safety on bowlines, even on a boat or tying down a load on a lorry you automatically put on half hitches, it requires no extra effort, and in the process you are looking at the knot and can see that it is through all the right bits. This whole "argument" is a load of nonsense, either knot is safe.
I suppose it's only a subject because so many people climb indoors or on pre-bolted routes so about the only knot they have to tie is when they tie on the rope, on any normal climbing the number of situations that require care are so numerous that tying on, the simplest of tasks, pales into insignificance.
> Looked at your prussic loops recently?
Never taken a leader fall onto a prusik loop I have to admit.
No, but if you re-corded hexes or cams you might well do so using a double fishermans...
Did a similar conversation happen when the tried and trusted threadback harness buckles were phased out in favour of the new fangled fumble proof speed unzip buckles?
The knot you tie is part of a safety SYSTEM - also involving a human, who are prone to getting things a bit wrong. A bit wrong fig 8 looks wrong to anyone and will probably work. A bit wrong bowline looks like???? and means death.
Seat belts - who needs them I am a great driver - shame about the other drivers. Anyway I have not been killed yet without a seatbelt.
Yeah, most proberly he forgot to tie it properly and not that it came undone.
> How many times does it have to be said, bowlines don't fail,
but they can ! - if you tie a bowline on a new drytreated "springy" rope and "wiggle" it about a bit, it will come undone.
agree with that !
I give up :-)
PS. It won't, try it... don't forget the half hitches though.
asked in good spirit and not in the tone of some contributors, Andy
No bias here, I have and would use a Yosemite bowline with stopper.
> It won't with a stopper and maybe your halfhitches,
I think Bruce means using two half hitches as a stopper.
That's what the half hitches are! I doubt that anyone meant using a bowline without them. The variants mentioned in the thread are just fancier ways of doing the same thing.
In reply to Jon:
Quite, but for me there is a confusion in the term stop knot or stopper. For me a stop knot is what you tie in the end of a line to stop it running through an eye... maybe this is the nautical usage? This site illustrates this, plus giving various bowlining info, including an "improved" version for "slippery ropes":
Generally a stopper knot is taken to mean... err, half a double fishermans!
> Generally a stopper knot is taken to mean... err, half a double fishermans!
Meanwhile, in the figure of 8 saga,......nothing happened
I'm not sure I follow that?
As in: it stayed the same!
Nope, sorry. You've lost me!
Both. A stopper knot can come undone and then the bowline will no longer be safe. Perhaps not likely with a tightly tied double stopper but possible. Certainly possible with a single stopper. More importantly though, it's easy enough to forget to tie a stopper at all and then the bowline will not be safe. Ok, that's user error rather than an issue with the knot itself but why use a knot that's more prone to user error? Most people make errors now and then. Why risk it?
Surely the BMC hold statistics on the number of deaths / serious accidents caused by bowlines, and by figure of 8's?.
Statistical evidence is what is lacking in order to turn this debate / opinion into a well reasoned proposal.
Regardless of statistics of how many deaths/injuries/incidents were caused by a bowline, you will never know why the bowline wasn't tied properly, wasn't tired at all, worked loose or any other way it failed. The amount of external factors is enormous; were they novice, were they tired, were they distracted by something else, was rope defected in anyway.
Once you have deduced all the external factors (probably an impossible task), then you can say well, the bowline wasn't tied correctly/not at all (by human error) or the bowline failed due to mechanical error. Once all this is completed if mechanical error is struck off from the list of potential factors that causes a bowline to fail (again near impossible) you can then say well the knot is dangerous because of all of these (see above) potential human errors. Do we ban tired and easily distracted people from using it? Or do we ban it all together?
There's a lot of work to make a true positivist assessment of the use of bowline in indoor walls.
In a less rambling and probably more sensible answer to your message. Yes, there is a accident log. But walls have failed to complete it fully if at all over the previous years. Work is being/has been done to make it easier for walls to complete.
Zero, and zero.
Disproving any significant mechanical risk of a correctly tied bowline or figure of 8 could be (has been?) conducted using repeated rig tests. Which leaves it almost exclusively down to human error (whatever the specific root cause of that error might be).
Agreed there's a way to go before a solid argument for banning it at altogether at climbing walls can be constructed, but we are all a little tired, complacent, distracted at times; we need to teach methods which have some resistance to human error.
If we had some high level statistics i.e. an estimate of the # climbs per failure, a reasoned assessment could be made as to whether we should be promoting the use of bowlines as a safe knot.
I've sailed a large part of my life and if I don't tie a bowline for a year or so, I forget how and have to do it slowly.
The fig 8 is almost impossible to forget and much more obvious if tied wrong.
But a bowline isn't hard to tie. Slipknot, poke end through, pull, (add stopper knot if climbing), done!
I really struggle to see why so many people have problems tying the knot. As for suggestions of "banning" it, how about we just encourage people to tie it correctly and use buddy checks. All banning does is remove another tool from the box.
Thanks deepsoup - more pernickety than smart, but go on - 'the number of deaths / serious accidents following tie-in with a bowline / figure of 8'.
I think there is little controversy surrounding whether bowline / fig 8 knot failures are down to human error in the overwhelming majority. What would be useful however is an understanding of how often human error causes injury using a bowline against its alternatives.
> But a bowline isn't hard to tie. Slipknot, poke end through, pull, (add stopper knot if climbing), done!
> I really struggle to see why so many people have problems tying the knot. As for suggestions of "banning" it, how about we just encourage people to tie it correctly and use buddy checks. All banning does is remove another tool from the box.
I can see why walls ban it. Any knot is easy to tie if it's practised often, but a bowline is easier to mess up if you're not concentrating for any reason, and when done incorrectly, less easy to spot to the untrained eye than a bad fig 8.
It really is just a case of trying to minimise risk, surely.
Or forget to tie a knot at all, as in the incident that set off this debate, but there's no technical solution for that.
Seriously, if you forget to tie on correctly how many other things are there when climbing that would be far easier to forget?
I can understand it is easy to mess up if you go down the rabbit hole way of tying it. Instead of lowering everything to the lowest trained person, why not bring the training of the people up? I know why the fig 8 is taught to people, and teach it myself, but an experienced climber should be able to make their own decisions on how they tie in. If I was to have a fatal accident because I screwed up tying in I wouldn't want it banned.
Best way to minimise risk is to check each other. Or go down the american route and have gri-gri's attached to the ropes, figure of 8s pre-tied with a krab on the end. Lets ban lead climbing too as that is more risky than top-roping.
> I can understand it is easy to mess up if you go down the rabbit hole way of tying it. Instead of lowering everything to the lowest trained person, why not bring the training of the people up? I know why the fig 8 is taught to people, and teach it myself, but an experienced climber should be able to make their own decisions on how they tie in. If I was to have a fatal accident because I screwed up tying in I wouldn't want it banned.
What about next time you tie in?
I'm just seeing it from the wall operator's perspective. Banning is easier than enforcing training, and less risky than an free for all. If there is an accident, I'm sure the HSE would really tear into the wall and possibly even prosecute if they're not showing a duty of care?
It seems to Num Num that folks here need training on tying bowlines.
After a bit of practice it's easy.
You just take the end of the rope and make a loop then put the end through the loop and round the other bit at the back and then bring it round the front again and through the loop again finishing off with a wristy flourish by taking a hitch round the standing part, pull tight and your ready to go tiger.
Mastering this with an easy nonchalance has given Num Num access to quite a bit of female spandex over the years and has made him the envy of the crag.
It's a simple, mechanical, 'everyday' action, so I suspect it's easy enough to mess it up because you don't pay that much attention to it. Whereas you're unlikely to forget to clip a piece of gear or a bolt as you do tend to be focused on protecting your route. Still possible but less likely I suspect.
Anyway, far easier to forget are all sorts of useful things like shoes, harness, ice axes, sleeping bag, etc, etc...
>> It seems to Num Num that folks here need training on tying bowlines.
I'm glad to hear that the birdie has been able to get some birds this way, but other than that, what's the point of learning to tie a bowline if I'm happy with a fig 8 (of the other way round for that matter)? Even if I thought they were equally safe knots, which I don't, why bother learning two knots that essentially fulfil the same purpose of tieing in?
I like to keep things simple, so I know only four knots: fig 8 (to tie in), clove hitch (for belays), overhand (for joining ab ropes and occasionally for belays or to tie in half way along a rope, I suppose you could say that's a separate knot as it has a bight) and Italian hitch (for belaying or abbing without a belay device).
> If we had some high level statistics i.e. an estimate of the # climbs per failure, a reasoned assessment could be made as to whether we should be promoting the use of bowlines as a safe knot.
The DAV (German Alpine Association) who are the largest operator of climbing walls in Germany and probably the world keep detailed accident statistics. They teach the re-threaded bowline as a standard tie-in method.
> Or forget to tie a knot at all, as in the incident that set off this debate, but there's no technical solution for that.
> Seriously, if you forget to tie on correctly how many other things are there when climbing that would be far easier to forget?
Agreed, if you can't complete tying your knot to a suitable standard (THE most basic skill) then maybe climbing isn't for you.
The answer is clear then, ban indoor walls, the source of all evil.
losing a boot on a bivouac has always been my pet fear... so I'm careful not to.
I'm not *only* trying to be facetious. :o)
With the question re-phrased, the answer seems to be "a very small, statistically insiginficant number" and the same. May as well be zero really, I don't think any kind of rigorous (aka "pernickety") statistical evidence will be along any time soon.
It might be useful, but even evidence of correlation doesn't necessarily imply causality.
It might be, for example, that habitual bowline users are older and more experienced than the average climbing wall user, perhaps a tad more complacent and more likely to eschew the buddy system. In this case walls seeking to 'ban' the bowline could be counterproductive, since it would merely move those climbers from a tendency to fail to complete knot A towards a tendency to fail to complete knot B whilst degrading the relationship between the wall management (floor-walkers etc.) and those customers thereby making effective supervision more difficult.
Of course if that were the case you'd probably never know, since a counterproductive bowline ban would result in a negligible increase in a too-small to measure accident rate. (As opposed to the neglible decrease that would be brought about by an effective bowline ban.)
None of which is my concern about talk of banning this knot or that knot really. What concerns me is that is how you end up with truly ludicrous systems of "safety" at indoor walls such as compulsory ground-anchor + grigri belays, or top-ropers being required to both tie in with a fig-8 *and* clip in with a screwgate.
The BMC have it exactly right imo: Never mind the choice of knot, promote the buddy check.
If you want to minimise risk at indoor climbing walls, ban climbing.
Ok, I'm being facetious again. Obviously you can't ban climbing altogether and still have a climbing wall.
Ban bouldering. (*Way* more dangerous than roped climbing indoors. Unjustifiable, really.)
> If you want to minimise risk at indoor climbing walls, ban climbing.
> Ok, I'm being facetious again. Obviously you can't ban climbing altogether and still have a climbing wall.
> Ban bouldering. (*Way* more dangerous than roped climbing indoors. Unjustifiable, really.)
Funny you say that. My one and only climbing wall injury was falling off from the bouldering wall. I hadn't taken into account that the soft mat below would 'grab' your foot as you landed. When I baled, I turned my body, when I hit the mat, my body was turning and my foot wasn't so wound up with a twisted knee.
So banning mats would definitely cut injuries.
I can't help but feel a small amount of sadness for you. No alpine butterfly, no bowline, no fig8 with bunny ears.
How do you tie around a tree without the end of the rope? Must be one very big fig8. Have you never got to a belay and thought "there must be an easier way to do this".
If it was the guys first time, or second time for that matter I wouldn't be climbing (as they can't belay), so I would be ensuring they are tied in correctly.
If someone got injured and it went to court where they are trying to sue the wall for not showing a duty of care, they would ask: "Is tying in with a bowline a usual thing to do?" and the response would be "Yes your honour". Sorted case closed. HSE would only rip into the wall if there was something wrong with the wall, walls kit, or if it happened on an instructed session.
> If someone got injured and it went to court where they are trying to sue the wall for not showing a duty of care, they would ask: "Is tying in with a bowline a usual thing to do?" and the response would be "Yes your honour". Sorted case closed. HSE would only rip into the wall if there was something wrong with the wall, walls kit, or if it happened on an instructed session.
I've dealt with the HSE a lot. They're a funny bunch. Some things they accept, some they don't. If they get their teeth into a thing they can be like terriers and won't let go of it.
In the case of a wall allowing bowlines........ you're probably right. Unlesss the HSE got the idea in their head that there was a difference between the two knots, and if those two knots had different accident rates, as far as they are concerned it would be a simple case of asking 'did you conduct a risk assessment for both? Was one better than the other? If the answer to the first was no, see you in court.
If the answer to the first was yes, and so was the second, and you'd not banned it, see you in court.
Unfortunately, if there's an accident and the HSE become involved, it's often about the paper trail.
Darn HSE! What is the answers are Yes, No. To me it still seems ridiculous to suggest removing a knot because some people struggle with it. If you struggle with it don't tie in with it.
What concerns me more is that people this climbing indoors is going to magically make the floor softer if you hit it.
Agreed & understood, and I'm also with you that the BMC have it right promoting checks rather than enforcing particular rules.
What I am suggesting is that for the 'end of an era for the bowline' argument to have any weight behind it, there needs to be some statistical evidence - correlation is a good start with a large sample though as you say not concrete. If it exists, it should be presented. If it doesn't and individuals / groups are concerned that it is a much more dangerous knot (including the risk of human error) then this needs to be demonstrated by more than personal opinion.... otherwise it will never move past this.
And..... my personal opinion: Checking your knot is the most important thing. I've never tied a bowline in the 10 years I've been climbing, and perhaps that is an oversight on my part - 'a tool I don't have in my box' but then again I've never felt I need it. Fig 8s are hard to untie sometimes, but that's usually due to a sloppy crossed-over knot (aka human error / sloppyness) rather than the knot itself. This problem has almost disappeared since I was shown how to actually tie a fig 8 neatly (I weigh 70kg which may also be a factor). Also I nearly had a friend meet an early end due to a poorly tied bowline... Personal opinion based on anecdotal evidence.
> I like to keep things simple, so I know only four knots: fig 8 (to tie in), clove hitch (for belays), overhand (for joining ab ropes and occasionally for belays or to tie in half way along a rope, I suppose you could say that's a separate knot as it has a bight) and Italian hitch (for belaying or abbing without a belay device).
You only know three knots, that last one is a hitch.
Which of those do you use to tie your shoelaces?
The major over-riding factor in all this is that people are blaming the 'knot' for being dangerous. The same argument is being used in america where guns are dangerous, not the crazy insane survivalists who use them to kill innocent children!
The fact is that it's the person tying the knot that's dangerous. The same applies to abseiling - the act itself isn't dangerous if done by a competent person who remembers to tie a knot in the end, use a prussic, checked their anchors etc etc.
Fair point but to link to your analogy:
An abseil in itself isn't dangerous - even without a knot in the end or the use of a prussic.
But we teach these methods to reduce risk in the inevitable case of human error.
> The major over-riding factor in all this is that people are blaming the 'knot' for being dangerous. The same argument is being used in america where guns are dangerous, not the crazy insane survivalists who use them to kill innocent children!
> The fact is that it's the person tying the knot that's dangerous. The same applies to abseiling - the act itself isn't dangerous if done by a competent person who remembers to tie a knot in the end, use a prussic, checked their anchors etc etc.
You ought to try working in construction!!!
You're obliged to absolutely minimise risk wherever possible. You simply are not allowed to rely on expertise.
I think in climbing, there's a seperation between what people do when they are out on their own, which is entirely their choice, and when they are paying a business for a service. That business has to minimise it's exposure to prosecution. Unfortunate though it is, that's the world we made and the one we have to deal with.
Climbing is one of the few relatively free activities and should remain so.
Think yourselves lucky. If you're Joe Bloggs out sailing a boat you bought, you come under the full force of Chapter 5 of SOLAS. Even small pleasure craft.
> Think yourselves lucky. If you're Joe Bloggs out sailing a boat you bought, you come under the full force of Chapter 5 of SOLAS. Even small pleasure craft.
I think that is why many of us object somewhat when others start pushing ideas that could very easily turn into rules. Climbing is one of the few activities that has somehow managed to remain reasonably adventurous and I suspect that the great majority of us would want to keep it that way.
> Fair point but to link to your analogy:
> An abseil in itself isn't dangerous - even without a knot in the end or the use of a prussic.
> But we teach these methods to reduce risk in the inevitable case of human error.
Agreed, but my point still stands. we shouldn't ban the knot; just the people who can't tie one :p!
> Think yourselves lucky. If you're Joe Bloggs out sailing a boat you bought, you come under the full force of Chapter 5 of SOLAS. Even small pleasure craft.
The RNLI must have rescued scores of Joe Bloggs who haven't complied with SOLAS V - have there been any prosecutions ?
> I think that is why many of us object somewhat when others start pushing ideas that could very easily turn into rules. Climbing is one of the few activities that has somehow managed to remain reasonably adventurous and I suspect that the great majority of us would want to keep it that way.
I agree entirely. Climbing walls, for all their benefits, have also generated a view of climbing in which there are qualifications to be got, protocols observed etc. We've already seen plaintive queries on UKC along the lines of "are you allowed to do such-and-such outdoors".
People can look quite shocked when you tell them that you can do whatever you like and nobody can ban you from doing anything. There's simply nobody to do it.
Only in the rather peculiar and unnatural world of the walls are such things even discussed.
> Only in the rather peculiar and unnatural world of the walls are such things even discussed.
Correct. But not really their fault. They're just businesses protecting themselves.
The problem is, signing a disclaimer doesn't carry any weight if they're taken to court.
And it isn't just a risk of fines. People can be put in prison for negligence leading to serious accident or death.
I am totally on the side of keeping climbing free of regulation. Too much is regulated in my opinion.
But I also see their side as a business.
> Correct. But not really their fault. They're just businesses protecting themselves.
It's already pretty much the case in instructing, which I once did for a living and am still involved with on an occasional basis. It's why I keep "climbing" and "teaching climbing" completely separate in my mind.
You're overstating this, a lot. There's really no comparison between a customer at a climbing wall and a worker on a building site. Your talk of the HSE is just scaremongering imo.
The Health and Safety at Work Act (under which just about all elf'n'safety prosecutions take place) does not apply to the climbing wall punter, and the principle of 'volenti non fit injuria' does.
Do you really think a criminal prosecution is likely in the aftermath of an accident where even civil liability doesn't attach to the climbing wall? Unless they've been pretty egregiously negligent and frankly deserve it, not on your nelly.
> You're overstating this, a lot. There's really no comparison between a customer at a climbing wall and a worker on a building site. Your talk of the HSE is just scaremongering imo.
It isn't scaremongering, but yes, I am overstating it.
Again, see above. No, I don't think it's likely. I do however think it's possible.
And that is the point I'm making.
If you run a business or are responsible for it's health and safety, you don't go for the best case scenario, you look at the worst and work with that. That is the basis of your duty of care.
I think I've been pretty clear in saying prosecutions are unlikely and that I'm against controls.
But still, if I were doing the risk assessment for a climbing wall, I'd be looking at statistics for those knots and if it turned out there was evidence that they were more prone to being incorrectly tied, I'd be recommending they not be allowed as policy.
To do otherwise would be failing to do my job and possibly leave ME open to prosecution.
> Statistical evidence is what is lacking in order to turn this debate / opinion into a well reasoned proposal.
The BMC and ABC do both collect data on incidents and accidents in climbing walls, unfortunately they don't seem to make them public.
> The RNLI must have rescued scores of Joe Bloggs who haven't complied with SOLAS V - have there been any prosecutions ?
Why would a charity do that?
I can do the Alpine butterfly but have never had occasion to use it in practice. As for trees, a sling would be my first port of call. If it's loo large for an 8 ft sling, or if there's a large boulder, I would just walk round it. If it isn't possible to use a sling or walk round it and there are no other good anchors, I would tie an overhand with a bight, pass it round the tree and clip the bight to my harness with a screwgate.
I wouldn't call whatever knot I use for shoelaces a proper knot as it likes to get undone now and then, with some shoelaces more than with others. Certainly wouldn't use it for anything climbing related... Other than tying the shoelaces on the rock shoes and B3s!
> I've dealt with the HSE a lot. They're a funny bunch. Some things they accept, some they don't. If they get their teeth into a thing they can be like terriers and won't let go of it.
> In the case of a wall allowing bowlines........ you're probably right. Unlesss the HSE got the idea in their head that there was a difference between the two knots, and if those two knots had different accident rates, as far as they are concerned it would be a simple case of asking 'did you conduct a risk assessment for both? Was one better than the other? If the answer to the first was no, see you in court.
> If the answer to the first was yes, and so was the second, and you'd not banned it, see you in court.
> Unfortunately, if there's an accident and the HSE become involved, it's often about the paper trail.
The HSE wouldn't get involved - it's nowt to do with them.
> The HSE wouldn't get involved - it's nowt to do with them.
Yep, you're right.Just looked. HSE deal only with HASAW matters. It' the local authrities who deal with retail and service providers.
> Why would a charity do that?
not the RNLI, the prosecuting "authorities" .
I'm not particularly keen on banning any knots but banning acronyms would get my vote any day! HASAW, SOLAS and all the rest - can't people use words anymore?
You're a Wonderful Auld Numpty Keen Enough to Respond.
I would say he's a Terrible Old Senior Saddo in Every Respect
When I tried playing with bowlines (without a stopper knot) to see how they could fail (if correctly threaded but loose and/or improperly dressed), most of the failure modes involved converting to a slip knot. The end of the rope then slips through the knot and the knot disintegrates. It is commonly stated that many of the alleged bowline failures involved no knot being tied at all. However, given that people were clearly not paying attention when tying in, can we be sure these people really didn't tie a knot, or may they tied a bowline/partial bowline badly without a stopper, and had it disintegrate without trace? They may then have assumed they didn't tie any knot. Not saying this is the case, just a possibility.
With the (single loop) bowline, if you deliberately pull the rope in a weird way after correctly threading it you can produce the slip knot (not trivial to do but doable). This seems more difficult with the double bowline. I also found a video on Youtube, which may or may not be nonsense, showing that you can do very odd things with an improperly dressed Yosemite finished single bowline:
It seems to me (I may very well be wrong) that the rethreaded Fig 8 always works no matter how you dress it provided you thread it correctly. If I find in the future that I am having lots of problems undoing Fig 8's (will have to be outdoors, my local wall requires Fig 8) I may learn the rethreaded bowline, but I'm not sure I really trust myself to always always always tie the bowline right!
With the Bowline w/yosemite finish, you would normally dress the bowline before finishing it with the yosemite. In the video the first time he did tighten the bowline before finishing, on the second he did not.
As an indirect result of this the topic coming up so vocally now...I too are thinking about switching to a bowline.
http://www.mountainproject.com/v/figure-8-vs-double-bowline/107900351__3 has a nice picture :)
[They also have bowline yer gonna die thread. Perhaps its a rule of the internet, each time someone gets hurt with a bowline every climbing forum must have a thread debating bowlines vs figure of eights. It's likely that they'll all sound much like the same thread, only with different accents depending on where in the world the user base is.]
Hmm...They actually go on to say Since this paper was originally published in Jan 2009, I have found what I believe is the ideal
Bowline for climbing and indeed rope rescue purposes. (see figure 26 & 27) which is curiously one I haven't ever seen before. Anyone else know if it?
Its actually the bowline that I have switched to, having tied in with the standard bowline with a double stopper for the last couple of years. It does take a bit of time to get use to tying it, but so does every knot and once you get the hang of it, it doesn't take more than a couple of extra seconds over standard bowline with stopper.
My only slight catch with it now is where very few people have seen the EBSB I have to show them a couple of times before the know what it is, but it is easy to check as the topside looks a little like an 8, and the bottomside looks platted.
> As an indirect result of this the topic coming up so vocally now...I too are thinking about switching to a bowline.
> http://www.mountainproject.com/v/figure-8-vs-double-bowline/107900351__3 has a nice picture :)
Great to hear that people may actually be changing TO the bowline after this.
As for the picture, its good but the stopper knot should be butted right up to the bowline, and just pushing it next to it doesn't work ( I know this is something people do with the Fo8, as I have seen it many times at centres when a belay says that the stopper is to far from the Fo8.)
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