/ Knot in end of abseil rope, not joining

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SCrossley on 04 Oct 2013
I watched the UKC video about knotting abseil ropes and saw the barrel knot reccomended. I tie both ends of the bottom together with an overhand, the problem I see with the barrel knot method is if the rope gets pulled without the knot being taken off you have a stuck rope, wheras with my system, no big deal you can easily pull the knot back down, am I missing something?
MJ - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc:

The barrel knot can be tied into a single strand of rope.
BenPitt - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc:

Don't think you're missing anything. It's just a different method that is easy to remember. If you do leave the knots in without realising then you are scuppered though, so I'd say keep doing it the way you're doing it.
lithos on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc:

you are correct, but tying together can mean lots of twists,
so choose whichever you prefer
SCrossley on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to lithos:
> (In reply to sjc)
>
> but tying together can mean lots of twists,
>

I wonder why, never noticed that, but I will look out for that next time.

Rampikino - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc:

Ultimately the main thing is to make sure you DO join them. Having been witness to someone abseiling in Rjukan and watching them fall (and land at my feet) when they abbed off the end of one side of the rope, it is not a pleasant experience.

GridNorth - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc: The problem with joined ends is that there is nowhere for any twists that may develop to go. There is also more likelyhood of the ropes getting caught up in trees or spikes. Individual knots in the end of each rope is my favoured method.
SCrossley on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to GridNorth:
> (In reply to sjc) The problem with joined ends is that there is nowhere for any twists that may develop to go.

That makes sense


There is also more likelyhood of the ropes getting caught up in trees or spikes.


Can see that, but that can be sorted with good rope skills, but getting a rope down that has been inadvertently been pulled with the knot is more tricky.
Pro`s and Cons no right or wrong :-)
GrahamD - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to GridNorth:

> Individual knots in the end of each rope is my favoured method.

Mine too if I can't see that the rope ends are safely on the ground. By doing individually it a)allows twists to work out b) helps speed up rigging multiple abseils - the first person down can more easily start rigging the next pitch

GridNorth - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc:
> (In reply to GridNorth)
> [...]
>
> Can see that, but that can be sorted with good rope skills, but getting a rope down that has been inadvertently been pulled with the knot is more tricky.

Personally I think the pros outweigh the cons. I'm not sure it's just down to rope skills. Anyone can throw a rope down only for it to get caught in a tree, some crags in Europe seem to be riddled with them and if the rope, especially a closed loop, gets caught 50 metres out you end up unable to pull it up and even getting the abseil device onto the rope can be nye on impossible.
Kirill - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc:

I never tie any knots on the ends of the ropes when abseiling. No need, because as soon as I throw the ropes they invariably become one big knot.
SCrossley on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to GridNorth:
Well looking at your profile I ain`t gonna argue the toss with you :-), maybe as always in climbing learn as much as you can and try and apply the correct thing at the correct time.
sdawson1 - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc: first time I've heard of a barrel knot. looks like a stopper knot really except not done around a rope.

I end up with one big knot whenever I even layer the rope down si I never tie knots in the end. I know its safer to do so but climbing is a risk. I'm sure few people use a backup when abbing either. The only back up I use if taking novices and we do stacked abseils so I can control their descent if necessary.
GridNorth - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc: It's all down to experience but I don't mean that in the look at what I've done way. If you have never experienced a problem with a closed loop type scenario you would have no reason not to use it, your reasoning is perfectly sound.
GrahamD - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to Kirill:


> I never tie any knots on the ends of the ropes when abseiling. No need, because as soon as I throw the ropes they invariably become one big knot.

Remind me never to let you sort out the abseils :-)
GrahamD - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to sdawson1:

> I never tie knots in the end. I know its safer to do so but climbing is a risk.

This isn't actually true. The most dangerous times for abseiling are when complacency sets in. If you KNOW there is no safety knot before you set off, it can paradoxically make it safer because you check things over better before setting off. Doing things by rote is not always a recipe for safety
andi turner - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to GrahamD: this is my take on it too. I always like to keep as many factors as I can in my control. Knots jam easily, and that can cause more of a problem. However, if it was dark/I was tired/didn't know if I'd reach a belay etc then I may put knots in otherwise I go without.
David Coley - on 04 Oct 2013
In reply to andi turner:
I find a nice half way house of a solution is to put a clove hitch on the ends of the rope on a krab and clip it to a gear loop. Then throw the rope down. This stops me rapping off the ends, but if it starts to twist near the end of a rap, I can jettison the hitches with a flick.
Michael Gordon - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc:

I prefer not to have knots in the end of the rope. If there's the slightest doubt as to whether they'll reach the ground or not I'll take the extreme step of looking below me as I abseil. Not difficult.

I think if you do lots of multipitch abs, chances are you or your partner will pull the rope at some point forgetting the knot is there and that's you buggered. It's also just a pest having to undo it every time. I know folk who put a knot in the end even when the ropes together will be about twice the height of the cliff, don't ask me why!
needvert on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc:

Perhaps my greatest rope related shame is pulling a rope while canyoning without untying the knot in the end. It was cold, wet, dark...We cut the rope and moved on.

I had time to think on the 2km swim out about the merits of one way vs another.
andrewmcleod - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to GrahamD:
> (In reply to sdawson1)
>
> [...]
>
> This isn't actually true. The most dangerous times for abseiling are when complacency sets in. If you KNOW there is no safety knot before you set off, it can paradoxically make it safer because you check things over better before setting off. Doing things by rote is not always a recipe for safety

I don't disagree, but prefer to think of it from the other side. Doing things by rote is often the guard against complacency, under the assumption that complacency is inevitable. You are much more likely to do the thing that you ALWAYS do, even if you don't need to, than the thing you only do if you remember that you might need to, depending on the conditions. I always begin by assuming my own future idiocy :)

If you always tie knots in the end of your abseil rope, you will never abseil off the end of the rope even if you are completely complacent and not paying any attention at all. And while you may feel silly if you realise you have tied knots in a 60m rope to ab down 5m, it hasn't hurt...

I believe abseiling off the end of a rope is one of the leading cause of climbing deaths (possibly more so in America where it is more common)?
Ron Walker - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to sjc:

In the UK I rarely abseil except in extremis or on something like the Old Man of Hoy. However abroad we do a lot of multi-pitch abseiling throughout the summer on Alpine routes and in the winter on icefalls.
Normally unless it's an easy angled slab and the ropes land on a big ledge, in addition to an autobloc (prusik), we've always tied an overhand knot, about 50- 30 cm from the ends of each rope.
I'd never tie the two ends together, if you are doing lots of full length abseils as you'll end up with lots of twist and kinks setting into the ropes, no mater how new your rope is or how careful you are.
As some of the other posters mentioned, if the ends are left free then the kinks will work out of the free ends.
If you and your partner stay alert and have a well thought out and practised system of double and triple checking (buddy checking) what each of you are doing, you shouldn't get a stuck rope as long as you untie the knot from the free end before you pull it down - just make sure you partner is watching what you are doing before it's too late!
Remember that abseiling is probably one of the riskiest parts of climbing, so get into a habit of triple checking (or more!) everything you and your partner are doing.
I've abseiled off a rope myself, fortunately just a few metres off the ground and know of several others that have done the same, with less fortunate outcomes...
BTW the reason the knot isn't tied right at the end of each rope is that if loose, the knot can roll off the end, this has happened to a friend... :-(
Ron Walker - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod:

I totally agree...

Cheers Ron
Ron Walker - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to sjc)
>
> I prefer not to have knots in the end of the rope. If there's the slightest doubt as to whether they'll reach the ground or not I'll take the extreme step of looking below me as I abseil. Not difficult.
>
> I think if you do lots of multipitch abs, chances are you or your partner will pull the rope at some point forgetting the knot is there and that's you buggered. It's also just a pest having to undo it every time. I know folk who put a knot in the end even when the ropes together will be about twice the height of the cliff, don't ask me why!

I always put knots on the end of the rope unless I can see the ends are on the ground, though my partner sometimes insists I tie them on no matter what...!

However having said that and having witnessed two accidents when people have come off the ends of ropes, I think putting knots on the ends is a good habit to get into, rather than doing it sometimes and not at other times, as it doesn't do any harm and could potentially save you life, especially when tired and abbing off a big route.

I particularly remember abseiling off the Old Man of Hoy once and not being able to swing into the last ab point.
As my autobloc was starting to slip I was very grateful that I'd automatically tied knots in the rope ends!!!!
Michael Gordon - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod:
> (In reply to GrahamD)
> [...]
>
> I don't disagree, but prefer to think of it from the other side. Doing things by rote is often the guard against complacency, under the assumption that complacency is inevitable. You are much more likely to do the thing that you ALWAYS do, even if you don't need to, than the thing you only do if you remember that you might need to, depending on the conditions.
>

If I'm anything like a lot of folk, abseiling is one of the times where I have to be thinking the clearest. I'll double check a lot of things but only do what needs to be done, otherwise there's more things to remember and probably therefore more things to go wrong.

On the contrary to what you've said above, I think there's never a need to tie a knot in the end of the rope. If you're doing a multi-pitch abseil on ground you've never been on before you'll surely look where you're going, judging how much rope you have to help assess where your next abseil anchor should be. And if its one you've done a few times before, you'll have a good idea how long each abseil is and indeed wouldn't be doing it without the required length of rope.

I think it's worth considering that the practice of putting knots in might cause more accidents than it solves due to it having the potential to lead to complacency. It's not as though not doing so is dangerous - I mean how hard is it to look below you as you go, and this is surely good sense anyway?

>
> I believe abseiling off the end of a rope is one of the leading cause of climbing deaths (possibly more so in America where it is more common)?

Don't know. In recent years I seem to have heard of more incidents of folk being lowered off the end of the rope than abseiling. While this obviously shouldn't happen, it's easier to see how it does as the climber is relying on the belayer, not their own judgement.
Michael Gordon - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Ron Walker:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> [...]
>
> I particularly remember abseiling off the Old Man of Hoy once and not being able to swing into the last ab point.
> As my autobloc was starting to slip I was very grateful that I'd automatically tied knots in the rope ends!!!!

yes I think I went slightly past that one before realising! If the prussik is starting to slip I can see a knot below you being reassuring, though I think I've had more problems in the past with it gripping too much.
GrahamD - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod:


> If you always tie knots in the end of your abseil rope, you will never abseil off the end of the rope even if you are completely complacent and not paying any attention at all.

I take your point that a large number of abseil accidents happen because people abseil off the end of the rope. I still don't agree that tying a stopper by rote (don't misunfderstand me - I never say never tie a knot - just tie a knot after assesing the situation) is necessarily the answer.

This is what I mean by doing things by rote. If you always have a stopper knot in the rope, what happens when it gets jammed on a multipitch abseil because your new partner didn't untie it, for instance ? each situation has to be judged on merit - it is dangerous to fall into the trap of fitting each situation into 'what you always do' - because sooner or later 'what you always do' will not be the appropriate action.
Martin W on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to GrahamD: Conversely one could argue that if you always tie a knot in the end of the ropes, you're more likely to always check that you've untied it before you pull the ropes. Whereas, if you only tie a know when you think you need it, you're more likely to forget to check and untie it when you have tied one.

Another approach might be to always run through a standard checklist with your partner, before embarking on a critical activity like abseiling. A bit like buddy checks in diving - although that analogy doesn't actually work very well because there is only one buddy check in diving, just before you enter the water. There are multiple steps in setting up an abseil and pulling the ropes, each of which could require a check eg: one when you've built the anchor and are just about to throw the ropes down, one when you've attached you ab device and you're about to set off down, and one when you're about to pull the ropes.
GrahamD - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Martin W:

Going through checks is always a good idea. Its just that mine goes along the lines of "are we happy with the setup here ?"

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