/ NEW ARTICLE: How to tie in to the rope

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UKC Articles - on 03 Jul 2012
The Scary Knot Photo, 3 kbThe first and perhaps most important skill you learn as a climber is how to tie on to the end of the rope.

The most commonly used knots are the 're-threaded figure-of-eight' and the 'bowline with stopper'. Here's how to tie them.

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=4755

EZ on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Please someone tell me that is a photoshopped picture?
Monk - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to EZ:

If I remember right (and I often don't) I think that was from an old BMC poster, and I think Alan James may be the photoshopper responsible.
GrahamD - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to Monk:

It was part of the "Check or Deck" campaign
Coel Hellier - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

> "Some people use the tail to tie a stopper knot. This isn't necessary, but it ensures that
> you've left a long enough tail without leaving a loose end flapping around."

OK, agreed.

> Always make sure the stopper knot is tied snug up to the figure-of-eight.

Eh, why? If the stopper knot isn't necessary at all, why is it necessary to ensure it is snug to the fig-8?
AlH - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: If you have tied a stopper knot it is less likely to work undone if hard against the rethreaded fig 8 and it can't create a loop that can catch on things/be accidentally clipped into an extender.
EZ on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to Monk:

Phew, I was worried that there was some really bad taste going on or a very magnanimous allowance of the use of a photo by a bereaved loved one.
Niall Grimes - on 03 Jul 2012
The times I have made errors, and potentially serious one, with regards to knots, is when I have interrupted the tying-in process. Halfway through tying someone passes you a cup of tea or some nuts etc.

One of my rules for staying alive is to never interrupt tying in for anything, until the knot is fully tied.
GrahamD - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to Niall Grimes:

Equally, don't talk to anyone else whilst they are tying on.
Coel Hellier - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to AlH:

> If you have tied a stopper knot it is less likely to work undone if hard against the rethreaded fig 8
> and it can't create a loop that can catch on things/be accidentally clipped into an extender.

I guess so, though those are very minor points. An advantage of having the stopper knot an inch or two away is that at a glance it looks like a fig-8 and a separate stopper knot and at a glance you can see that everything looks right (in the photo in this article with them snug it is slightly harder to see that). This might be an equally minor point, but I've usually had the stopper knot an inch or two away from the fig-8, and I've never come to grief over it.
nocker - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles: I was taught to always thread the rope down through the harness tie in "loop". If the harness has seperate waist and leg loops, it is undesirable to miss the leg loop when threading down, whereas it can be terminal to thread up and miss the waist loop (risk of tipping upside down and falling out of harness !). I have seen it about to happen, as have others that have commented on it. Take care.
Ava Adore - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Some of the best photos detailing how to tie knots that I've seen
AlH - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: Agreed but working in walls I've seen sloppy knots (knots where the stopper is several inches away) cause problems on numerous occasions (of course that's only anecdotal but I'm probably talking a couple of dozen times in 14 years).
Whilst floor walking I've found a fig 8 with a 2 turn stopper against it to be a knot pairing I've always found easy to recognise but that may just be owing to familiarity.
I think one of the main points of the article is to use a buddy system and ensure your partner can recognise when what you have tied on is correct, or not.
_MJC_ - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to AlH: Isn't it also so people don't make the mistake of belaying from it instead of the actual rope loop (outside)?
odox - on 03 Jul 2012
Yosemite bowline is my personal preference these days.
AlH - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to _MJC_: Yep I suppose that is a danger too although I've never seen that one or spoken to to anyone who has.
El3ctroFuzz - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

How the heck can you tie a stopper knot with only 10cm....


A stopper knot on a 10.5mm rope uses 30cm of rope.
gethin_allen on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:
Some of the skills/tips/tricks taught in these articles is very useful but considering that pretty much any climber who has done more than a session at a climbing wall will know how to tie a fig 8 is this article not encouraging people who haven't got a clue to go out and give it a go without any real instruction. From this article they may be able to tie a fig 8 but then may get into a whole load of other trouble once off the floor.
perhaps there should be an extension/emphasis to the disclaimer "Being able to tie either of these 2 knots correctly isn't enough to keep you safe at the wall or crag"?
At least suggesting that anyone starting out should really try and get some guidance from someone experienced. And yes I know that many old-school climbers got on fine with just their mothers washing line and some grit and determination but a fair few of these people had plenty of close shaves doing things this way.
GrahamD - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to gethin_allen:

Not all climbers start on a climbing wall. Plenty still come into it the old skool way through the love of walking and scrambling.

Also the technicalities of gear placement are a lot more intuitive than the technicalities of knot tying.
Dan Middleton, BMC - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to El3ctroFuzz:

I think you've misunderstood - 10cm is the safe minimum length of tail required for the knot to be safe (most if not all knots will allow some rope to slide through as they tighten) not how much is needed to tie a stopper knot. The stopper is an optional extra, if you like, when using the rethreaded fig-8. Maybe I need to rewrite that to clarify though?

I agree that buddy checking is probably the most important thing, it's something I do almost automatically these days.
Dan Middleton, BMC - on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to gethin_allen:

That's a very good point Gethin. I'll ask UKC to add something along the lines you mention.

When I wrote the article, it wasn't aimed specifically at novices, more as a reminder, update, call it what you will, for all climbers (including myself) to remind us why we do things the way we do.

I think it's a useful article because not everyone finds it easy to learn or process info when shown or instructed by someone else. Some do better by exploring and trying out for themselves, others can pick stuff up best by reading about it.

gethin_allen on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to Dan Middleton, BMC:
Reminders are welcome to most I think, I do remember getting to the top of a route indoors at the foundry in Sheffield and only noticing as I clipped the double crabs at the top that I was only tied in to a leg loop.
Rick Graham on 03 Jul 2012
In reply to gethin_allen:

Why not have a final photo of both knots properly snug and tight?
_MJC_ - on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to gethin_allen: Can't imagine how that must feel. What did you do about it?
a lakeland climber on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to Dan Middleton, BMC:

One thing I always do is to give the rope a good heave once I've tied in - the tug is good enough to feel the resistance in both the rope and the small of my back. I then visually check the knot again. Helps ensure that I've not done something too stupid like misthreading the rope through the harness or itself.

Obviously in the buddy system they can do this as well.

ALC
Neil Williams - on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to _MJC_:

First thing that sprung to mind, assuming I was somewhere fairly solid and had a krab handy, would be to tie some sort of knot on a bight with one hand and clip it to the belay loop.

But that said, the belay loop itself would mean that both bits of the harness are actually attached to the rope in a sense, just with the risk of going over backwards. So, so long as you were sure it was tied in correctly to the leg loops, steadying yourself on the rope to avoid going over backwards would presumably suffice. But it wouldn't have been nice if you'd taken a massive lead fall, it would most probably have resulted in going upside down and headbutting the wall.

I haven't done that, but I did once only tie in through the waist belt. That wasn't very comfortable, but it wasn't until I reached the floor on being lowered that I noticed why.

Neil
masa-alpin - on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to nocker: I can't agree enough with nocker, having seen a few incidents of mis-tying owing to that (including a climbing instructor!). In that sense, while the words in this article are not bad, the photos of two knots are dreadful - it shows how NOT to do!
Stuart Wildman - on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:
What are thoughts with a figure of 8, on tucking the tail back through the knot rather using a stopped knot?

It seems slightly better as the figure of 8 tightens on the end stopping it untie, also my stopped knots always untie, as I haven't left enough tail or am bad at tieing them.

Dan Middleton, BMC - on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to masa-alpin:

Actually, I don't agree. I think it's more important to tie in correctly, and check that you have done so (by using the buddy system) than to suggest people use a method which makes things marginally better if they mess things up.

This view is perhaps not universal within the mountain training community, but it appears to be the most prevalent (at least within those that I consulted with when researching the article)
Dan Middleton, BMC - on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to Stuart Wildman: There are some tests which show that using the "tuck back" method may destabilise the fig-8 when it is cross loaded. I'm not sure how rigorous those tests were though.
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nniff - on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

I'm a self-confessed knot-nazi (ghastly phrase, but it serves). For the Fig 8, picture 5 passes (albeit sans stopper), but 6 and 7 do not because they don't lie evenly.

IMHO one of the reasons people struggle to unitie Fig 8 knots is that they tie them so that they don't lie evenly and the strands cross over, in which case you can't break the knot to loosen it.

Again IMHO, the knot should look the same, every time. If it doesn't something's wrong. That thing might be trivial, but at least you're looking for something. It takes no more time to tie a good knot than a poor one.

gethin_allen on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to _MJC_:
> (In reply to gethin_allen) Can't imagine how that must feel. What did you do about it?
clipped the crabs and then lowered off holding on to the knot to keep me upright but with my weight supported on the leg loop.
The problem would have come if I'd fallen as at best it would have had me dangling around upside down. If I'd had gear I could have clipped another crab through the knot to my belay loop but you don't carry gear indoors.

_MJC_ - on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to gethin_allen: Ah right sorry for some reason i read it as 'gear loop'. I didn't think about just how exactly you would have managed it though.
gethin_allen on 04 Jul 2012
In reply to _MJC_:
> (In reply to gethin_allen) "Ah right sorry for some reason i read it as 'gear loop'"

Someone's probably done it.
nasher47 on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles: Dan, In your little sign off at the bottom you mention online resources. Can you tell me where these are to be found?
Dan Middleton, BMC - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to nasher47:

Hi Nasher,

The link at the end of the article takes you to the BMC website. Use the tabs to choose your area of interest (e.g Rock Climbing, Mountaineering). You can narrow down your search by then selecting the "Gear" tab. Here you'll find videos, articles and downloads.
masa-alpin - on 05 Jul 2012
I don't understand, Dan. As you stated, it is "marginally better", then, why don't you accept the method?
I fully agree with you that partner check (or buddy system - sounds like more American? :-) is essential, whatever knot or tying method you use (so do I!). However that does not put the tying method irrelevant.

I believe anything that reduces a risk, even if marginally (unless it is an awful lot more troublesome or time-consuming), helps make the bet of survival (or safety) in favour of you in climbing.
My attitude indeed saved my life more than once in my climbing career (though not this tying method, fortunately - I am not keen to test it!).
The tying method to the harness is one of those that reduce a risk, if marginally, then I regard it as relatively important.

Indeed I have once spotted an instructor tying to only the leg loops, because he threads from the bottom and because probably he was absent-minded or distracted while tying in. The latter is of course a more serious problem and we should avoid it by all means, but we all know that can happen one odd day. Then, when there is a better method that may improve the situation, why don't you use it?

I also note it could have been worse - there is a non-negligible chance of threading a rope via a small webbing to keep the rope in the centre of leg-loops (which definitely would not cope with even the body weight, except for ultra-overmade and well-thought Metolius SafeTech harness). It can happen whether you thread the rope from the top or bottom. However, if you thread from the bottom and if it happens and if you forget to thread the rope to the waist belt, the consequence is equivalent to not tying a rope to the harness at all!

In reply to Dan Middleton, BMC:
> Actually, I don't agree. I think it's more important to tie in correctly, and check that you have done so (by using the buddy system) than to suggest people use a method which makes things marginally better if they mess things up.

GrahamD - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to masa-alpin:

I can tell you why I don't thread top down. Its because its too bloody awkward. I've tried it after a mistake tying into a leg loop only but now I've reverted to bottom up threading because I find the liklihood of mistying the knot more of a factor for me.
Michael Gordon - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

That's a fearsome photo! I'm glad it's not real
James91 - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to Coel Hellier: may be minor, but believe it not in the same climb i firstly managed to clip the little loop imbetween the stopper and the fig 8 into my gear as i was moving past it on a particularly difficult move, just bad luck, and then while moving past another piece higher up the quickdraw caught my crampon and clipped the cage imbetween the boot and the antiballing plate... subsequently pulling out my only pro on that pitch while stopping me from moving up! disentangling that was one of the hardest things i have ever had to do. 2 very scary incidents on the same winter climb, so it may be a minor point but its certainly a valid one ha! I am now a lot more cautious about moving past gear...
jimtitt - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to masa-alpin:

There are plenty of very experienced, very safe and knowledgeable climbers who thread from the bottom up and donīt partner check either. We prefer it that way.
muppetfilter - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to jimtitt: A friend of mine was a very safe and knowledgeable climber who sadly died in a fall due to a mis-tied knot. A partener check could have saved his life.

Everyone who has been killed or injured due to a lapse in concentration tieing in left the ground with complete confidence in their ability.

Accidents happen but we can take steps to minimise the risk.
Al Randall on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles: One reason that I tie in from the bottom up is that if for some reason I forget to complete the knot, and I suspect that this is the main cause of tie in failures, the rope is more likely to fall off before I get too far up the route.

Al
jimtitt - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to muppetfilter:
> (In reply to jimtitt) A friend of mine was a very safe and knowledgeable climber who sadly died in a fall due to a mis-tied knot.

He clearly wasnīt.
muppetfilter - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to jimtit:

I really hope you never have to regret that statement.
Dan Middleton, BMC - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to masa-alpin:

It's not a case of right or wrong - I just happen to believe that the focus should be on getting tied in correctly in the first place, and then checking it (either self or buddy), rather than using a method which gives you some redundancy if you stuff it up. By all means thread downwards, I just don't think it's that important relative to the other issues.

One thing I have noticed, is that the proportion of my climbing partners who buddy check each other is slowly increasing. I think this is probably the single most useful increase in safety since I began climbing.
iain miller - on 05 Jul 2012
In reply to jimtitt:

That Sir, is a very stupid thing to think, say and put in print.
jimtitt - on 06 Jul 2012
In reply to iain miller:
No, they were both considered and reasoned statements, if you and Muppetfilter donīt like it then that is your problem.
muppetfilter - on 06 Jul 2012
In reply to jimtitt:
As I mentioned before I truly hope you never have to take a phone call from a distraught friend who has just stood by and watched someone fall from the top of a wall. As you can appreciate it was a situation none of us ever wants to have to do....
(I will not go into further detail on this out of respect for the friends of the deceased)

I get to see a lot of accident investigation documents in my job, the single common factor in most is an oversight in a simple operation. Dangerous tasks are always approached cautiously and the risk assessments by those involved are thorough. Routine tasks are not always done with the caution they should be and incidents and accidents can and do happen.


The climbers that are most frequently involved in accidents are experienced and competent and make small critical errors and get caught out. A second line of defence like the buddy check can catch an un-done buckle or incorrectly tied knot. Ropes rarely get cut, crabs rarely break but people DO make mistakes.
jimtitt - on 06 Jul 2012
In reply to muppetfilter:
> (In reply to jimtitt)
> As I mentioned before I truly hope you never have to take a phone call from a distraught friend who has just stood by and watched someone fall from the top of a wall. As you can appreciate it was a situation none of us ever wants to have to do....
> (I will not go into further detail on this out of respect for the friends of the deceased)
>
> I get to see a lot of accident investigation documents in my job, the single common factor in most is an oversight in a simple operation. Dangerous tasks are always approached cautiously and the risk assessments by those involved are thorough. Routine tasks are not always done with the caution they should be and incidents and accidents can and do happen.
>
>
> The climbers that are most frequently involved in accidents are experienced and competent and make small critical errors and get caught out. A second line of defence like the buddy check can catch an un-done buckle or incorrectly tied knot. Ropes rarely get cut, crabs rarely break but people DO make mistakes.

If you donīt want to discuss particular incidents then in future maybe you shouldnīt introduce them into the debate.

As a second line of defence against errors partner checks can certainly be recommended amongst other systems, that I know a large number of people who prefer other ways of doing things is fact. That a previous poster distorted Danīs words to say that partner checks are essential when clearly many disagree (including obviously some of Danīs climbing partners) merely gives the false impression that partner checks are the only way to safely climb.

Some would argue that the apparently ever-increasing number of accidents caused by incorrectly tying on, whether at the bottom or when re-threading on sport routes could be connected with the removal of the emphasis on personal skills and checks and replacing these with an attitude of reliance on others. A recent accident in the U.S where all the members in the group though the other had done the check shows clearly this could be so.
Coel Hellier - on 06 Jul 2012
In reply to muppetfilter:

> The climbers that are most frequently involved in accidents are experienced and
> competent and make small critical errors and get caught out.

Is that actually true? I'd have thought that the climbers most likely to have an accident were novice and inexperienced leaders.
sparra - on 06 Jul 2012
In reply to Niall Grimes:
> The times I have made errors, and potentially serious one, with regards to knots, is when I have interrupted the tying-in process. Halfway through tying someone passes you a cup of tea or some nuts etc.
>
> One of my rules for staying alive is to never interrupt tying in for anything, until the knot is fully tied.

never grab your nuts while tying in. Got it!
Kevin Woods - on 06 Jul 2012
In reply to jimtitt:

Just get out.
muppetfilter - on 06 Jul 2012
In reply to jimtitt: I haven't discussed anything simply relayed my personal experience of an easily preventable accident, the lasting consequences to those that were close to him are the things I don't feel are relevent or appropriate to put on an internet forum. If you feel that your crass replies are substantiated in this context then maybe a moments thought for your reputation as a supplier of safety products would be prudent.

Many may disagree with Dans affirmation of a pre climb check, how many of those would disagree that you check before doing something behind the wheel of a car. No one has ever suggested that a buddy check makes climbing safe, it simply offers the chance to catch a mistake and that is never a bad thing.

Dan Middleton, BMC - on 06 Jul 2012
In reply to jimtitt:

Far better and more competent climbers than I will ever be have died because of making simple errors. People, even very intelligent, focussed and skilled people, can and do make mistakes.

Your point about personal reliance is a very salient one, but I don't think a buddy check removes any personal responsibility. Rather, it reaffirms the traditional bond of the roped partnership.

Back in the day, if you fell when leading, it was the partnership that was likely to die together. Is this any different? You are a team (unless you are soloing) and look out for each other. The incident you refer to in the US doesn't sound like this, more like a group scenario gone wrong. The buddy shouldn't be any old Tom, Dick or Harry, it should the other person on the rope. If you don't trust that person with your life, then you shouldn't climb with them.

I think far more weight may be attached to the environmental factors than to a supposed diminishment in personal safety awareness. I bet there are very few incidents of simple errors at scary places like Swanage & Gogarth - you tend to triple check everything and watch the leader like a hawk. Meanwhile, at the well bolted crag there are stereos, bare chests and banter, and more likelyhood of being distracted. The climbing wall is like this but even more so.

These are the places where both experienced and novice climbers tend to have accidents - gravity cares not how many years you have under your belt, or how safe you were up till that point.

I think the real message here is whatever system you use or knot you tie, be mindful and don't get complacent. Don't forget to have fun too....

Neil Williams - on 06 Jul 2012
In reply to Dan Middleton, BMC:

"I don't think a buddy check removes any personal responsibility"

But it does add responsibility over your partner.

I usually do cross check, whenever I've forgotten and I've remembered once they were on the wall I start thinking nervously that if something was wrong it would feel my fault for not cross checking, which is not a situation I like.

Similarly, if my belayer forgot to clip the weight bag on (I'm quite heavy, most people I climb with aren't) and they got injured by being slammed into the first clip and I didn't check, I would feel responsible as well. (This has happened top roping when it's less of a concern, but fortunately not when leading).

Neil
frankboase - on 10 Jul 2012
In reply to UKC Articles: Beautifully clear photo's, is it possible to show some other knots? Maybe not just for climbers but just for the fun of it.
James91 - on 12 Aug 2012
In reply to jimtitt: i always do buddy checks with whoever i am climbing with and i still pay full attention to doing my own tying in.. i can see no reason for this to be a bad thing, and you do appear to be saying that experienced climbers never mistakes.... that is rubbish!! since when is minimizing the chance of killing yourself or your partner ever a bad thing?!

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