/ Which knot for a stopper knot when abseiling / rapelling?

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
anon60521 - on 18 May 2014
I'd imagine there are a few different takes on this but just had a few questions.

I'm referring to the stopper knot on the ends of the rope to stop you abseiling off the ends if they don't reach the ground

1) What knot do you normally use as a stopper knot (figure of 8, triple fishermans/stopper)?

2) Do you tie the knot using both ropes ie instead of a stopper knot in both ends do you tie one big stopper knot so the ends are held together?

Any thoughts would be appreciated
redsonja - on 18 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

I put a fig 8 on each end. I was taught to knot them seperately
andy_e on 18 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

Personally, I use half a double fishermans knot (as in the typical stopper knot on a FoE, like an overhand knot with an extra turn) on each strand of rope. One knot on each rope allows any twists / kinks to work their way out of the rope whilst it is free hanging, as the rope is free to rotate.

The downside to this knot is that it becomes very effective at getting jammed if it isn't removed before pulling the ropes through.

The single figure of eight knot (or overhand) is not appropriate as a stopper in my opinion, I find it has a tendency to undo itself as modern ropes can be quite slick, however a figure eight on the bight would be fine.
jezb1 - on 18 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

An overhand normally on both strands together but some prefer individual. Any any old knot a couple of foot from the end will do.
andy_e on 18 May 2014
In reply to jezb1:

> any old knot a couple of foot from the end will do.

If you're potentially trusting your life to this knot to stop you from going off the end of the rope, then you might as well tie a decent one! I've found that a single figure of eight, even when dressed and tightened can loosen and come undone once you've thrown the ropes and flicked and untangled them. Perhaps this is more of a problem with stiff, larger diameter ropes though, especially when there is not significant tail left in the knot.
Choss on 18 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

Both ends together, and a stevedores Knot.
redsonja - on 18 May 2014
In reply to andy_e:

I have never found the fig 8, or overhand knot which I used to use, come undone. maybe I have just been lucky
DBoothroyd - on 18 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

In terms of knotting both ropes together versus knotting each rope individually, one consideration is that, with the former method, you won't end up pulling the ropes through after the abseil and then realise too late that you forgot to undo the knot.
I also recall (I think in the Rockfax Lofoten guidebook, which had several pages of general tips on things like abseiling, efficient multipitching, etc) a claim that knotting the ropes separately leads to less tangling - I'm sure, however, that that's a hugely contentious claim and could only be solved by am extended debate involving personal recollections, half-arsed scientific theory, and a staggering level of hostility on both sides.
andy_e on 18 May 2014
In reply to Choss:

By a Stevedores knot you mean a figure of nine? Odd to hear it called that.
Choss on 18 May 2014
In reply to andy_e:

> By a Stevedores knot you mean a figure of nine? Odd to hear it called that.

Never Heard it called a figure of nine.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevedore_knot
FactorXXX - on 18 May 2014
In reply to andy_e:

By a Stevedores knot you mean a figure of nine? Odd to hear it called that.

Two entirely different knots.

If I can be bothered, I tie a figure of eight about a metre and a half from the end of each strand.
The reason for the long length, is that if you actually 'hit' the stopper and need to transfer systems, etc. then you are guaranteed to have a bit of rope to play with.

andy_e on 18 May 2014
In reply to FactorXXX:

When I said figure of nine, I was referring to it being tied on a single strand. As far as I can tell, the figure of nine and the stevedore knot are the same, unless I'm mistaken.

Figure of Nine, on a single strand:

http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/basic05.jpg
jezb1 - on 18 May 2014
In reply to andy_e:

> If you're potentially trusting your life to this knot to stop you from going off the end of the rope, then you might as well tie a decent one! I've found that a single figure of eight, even when dressed and tightened can loosen and come undone once you've thrown the ropes and flicked and untangled them. Perhaps this is more of a problem with stiff, larger diameter ropes though, especially when there is not significant tail left in the knot.

I use an overhand but don't see why a fig 8 will magically come undone.
andy_e on 18 May 2014
In reply to jezb1:
I've just never had much faith in a single figure eight stopping you, as it can be prone to capsizing, although like I say this might have been down to the diameter / type of rope I was using. Perhaps a more supple, skinny rope is better for it. I do recall one time when after manhandling a lot of misbehaving rope through a few bushes that at the bottom, only one strand retained it's figure eight. Perhaps it is unlikely to come undone, but I no longer trust it. The double fisherman's inspires more confidence as is less likely to work loose if the rope gets snagged on bushes/ branches.
Post edited at 14:29
jezb1 - on 18 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

Isn't the knot in the end just for you to bump into as a polite reminder you're very close to the end of your rope?

If your knocked unconscious or whatever then your prussik is going to do the job of stopping you.
John Stainforth - on 18 May 2014
In reply to jezb1:

How many climbers actually abseil/rappel with a prussik back-up?
jezb1 - on 18 May 2014
In reply to John Stainforth:

I'd hope all of them. I do, and obviously when teaching I make it clear you always should.

Most people I see abbing use a prussik.

Seems silly not to.
Andy Nisbet - on 18 May 2014
In reply to jezb1:

It takes the same amount of time to put a prussick on as it does to tie knot(s) in the end, so I would say it wins hands down.
splat2million on 18 May 2014
In reply to Andy Nisbet:

They do different jobs, a prussik won't save you if you ab off the end of the rope; a knot in the bottom of the rope is unlikely to save you if you let go with 50m of rope below (although I agree better than nothing).

I do both, unless I am very sure the rope is long enough (e.g. abing off a 15m grit crag to clean gear with a 60m rope) when I just use a prussik.
andy_e on 18 May 2014
In reply to splat2million:

Well said. I doubt that even having a prussic above the belay device would catch you if there was no knot in the end of the rope.
John Stainforth - on 18 May 2014
In reply to jezb1:

I am guilty of never having done so, and I thought the majority of climbers did not.

Once or twice I have had to abseil off the ends of the rope, when the rope has been a bit too short to reach the ground or a ledge. This can be a little disconcerting to judge, because a rope that is too short when loaded at the bottom will appear to be much too short when it is unloaded, i.e., before one starts to abseil. As one descends, the ends of the rope descend also with rope stretch. A 60 m rope which is 5m too short say, will stretch until it is only one or two metres short by the time one gets to the bottom. The really important thing for the last person to remember is to keep hold of one of the ropes above the abseil device just before he/she goes off the ends of the ropes - so as to pull that side of the rope down. The best way to do that is to tie a stopper knot in the end of only one of the ropes, before going off the ends of the ropes, then one side of the rope is automatically pulled down. Otherwise one can be left with the ropes tantalising out of reach, fifteen feet up in the air.

Of course, none of the above to I advocate...
redsonja - on 18 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

i always use a prussik and knot the ends. I saw a fatality once where a guy was abseiling too fast and went off the ends of his rope. knotted ends and maybe a prussik would have saved his life
FactorXXX - on 18 May 2014
In reply to andy_e:

The Figure of 9 knot, is essentially in-between a Figure of 8 and a Stevedore.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figure-of-nine_loop
FactorXXX - on 18 May 2014
In reply to John Stainforth:

I am guilty of never having done so, and I thought the majority of climbers did not.

Agree with that.
Only time I've tied them, is when I've abseiled down multi-pitch sports routes and tried to make things quicker by by-passing the obvious belays and thus run the risk of being in 'No Mans Land' at the end of the available rope.
Luckily, have always managed to find a suitable abseil station before the rope runs out!
David Coley - on 18 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

I tie them together with a single overhand 1m from the end.

needvert on 18 May 2014
In reply to jezb1:

> I'd hope all of them. I do, and obviously when teaching I make it clear you always should.

> Most people I see abbing use a prussik.

> Seems silly not to.

Curiously the local caving club, despite being extremely serious about safety...Don't consider it worth while to backup an abseil (aside from firemans style when someone's learning), despite doing a lot of abseiling.


I've read of a few accidents of people just coming off the end of the rope (be it abseiling or lowering), though I only recall two of people losing control of abseils:
- One without a backup
- One with a backup, off the leg loop, who is thought to have relied on it and have rotated his body sufficiently that the prussic hit up against the abseiling device and not hold any more.

I'm not saying its only happened twice in history, but rather, that its a relatively rare event.

I used to always backup abseils, but it added a notable amount of faff. Now, not so much.

rallymania - on 18 May 2014
In reply to David Coley:

> I tie them together with a single overhand 1m from the end.

me too, but then maybe i miss-understood the point of tying a knot in the end of the rope anyway? i didn't think it was to stop you falling off as much as to stop one strand running through the device more than the other. tie the two ends together and you have a loop, and you can't fall off the end of a loop.

mind you i also use a prussik and to quote a more sensible person than me... "watch what the f_ck I'm doing" so i don't fall of the end in the first place :-)
r0x0r.wolfo - on 18 May 2014
In reply to needvert:

I do or I don't. Depends if I need to go hands-free or not.
FactorXXX - on 19 May 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

I do or I don't. Depends if I need to go hands-free or not.

Just wrap the rope around your thigh a couple of times.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 19 May 2014
In reply to FactorXXX:

Not nearly as convenient for multiple stops. Takes more time than putting a prussik on.
ads.ukclimbing.com
FactorXXX - on 19 May 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

If I knew I was making multiple stops, I'd use a GriGri.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 19 May 2014
In reply to FactorXXX:
> If I knew I was making multiple stops, I'd use a GriGri.

If you want! I'm just thinking last time I was climbing trad and wanted to give a route a bit of a clean. Could have used a gri gri as was using a single rope but doesn't always come out with me.
Post edited at 00:16
FactorXXX - on 19 May 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

If you're abbing down a route to clean it, then a GriGri is perfect.
FactorXXX - on 19 May 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

Just chuck your GriGri into your sack for trad as well as sport. It's not exactly big and it does provide the ideal solution for what you describe.
krikoman - on 21 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

Separate knots, back up system.

A mate of mine banged his head and knocked himself not unconscious but out of it, if he hadn't had a prussic on at the time he'd have dropped 30m.Instead we could lower him down to the floor safely.

Both take about 30 seconds to sort out.

What's a grigri??? :) FFS
RomTheBear - on 21 May 2014

The best compromise I find is

- Always a knot at the ends of the rope (I find that one overhand knot with the two ropes works well, tangles a bit less, and is fast and easy to check)
- Prussik back up for the first to abseil
- Then when your climbing partner(s) abseil after you, they don't need to use a backup, as you can pull the rope to lock them if they ever need to stop or if they accidentally let go.
Post edited at 14:53
Kirill - on 21 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

There was a thread on this exact question not that long ago.
I personally don't tie knots at the ends of abseil ropes because knots need untying before pulling the ropes. No big deal I hear you say, but this can be forgotten which may lead to massive faff or worse, or in some situations (on diagonal abseils) the ends may be difficult or impossible to reach if the last person lets go of the rope after they take out of their abseil device.
andrewmcleod - on 21 May 2014
In reply to Kirill:
This is the advantage of tying the ropes together - you either can't forget, or you can get the knot back down afterwards.

I have a fairly experienced mountaineering friend who abseiled off the end of a rope which was not his and was shorter than he expected/was claimed; fortunately he only fell about 5m onto his backpack and was OK.
Post edited at 15:37
Kirill - on 21 May 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

This is also something I don't like. When the ropes are tied together, any twists that are introduced by the belay device have nowhere to go and the ropes become a tangled mess towards the end.
In reply to krikoman:


> A mate of mine banged his head and knocked himself not unconscious but out of it, if he hadn't had a prussic on at the time he'd have dropped 30m.Instead we could lower him down to the floor safely.

Assuming he was hanging on the abseil rope how did you 'lower him down'?


Chris
andrewmcleod - on 21 May 2014
In reply to Kirill:

It's one of those three-way compromises - you can have any two of 'definitely not dying by falling off the end of the rope', 'definitely not being able to get the knot stuck at the anchor' and 'not twisting the ropes', but not all three.
TimH - on 21 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

Q1) Fig 8 with a massive (approx 2m) tail (to allow for knot shaking down the rope a bit/give you something to play with should you reach the knot) unless I can see both ends on the ground.

Q2) I knot them seperately so that; a) any twists can work their way out, b) to make life easier when you manage to get one strand on the other side of an inconvenient tree.

And yes I use a prussik unless my mate's already down & able to hold my ropes.

Hasn't influenced my practice, but on an anecdotal level: A very experienced friend of mine managed to ab of the end of his rope at Tremadog (distracted, didn't realise that the weren't equalised for length. He's a jammy sod so he bounced better than expected.

Top abseil tip: lap the rope through a sling on the side of your harness to save throwing it on windy days/busy places.
David Coley - on 21 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

In the above you will see three camps:
1. don't knot - knots make for problems, mainly forgetting to remove them
2. knot together - means one can't forget to untie the knot
3. knot separately - means fewer twists

I would suggest you simply try 2 and find out if it does create twists. Assuming you have 60m ropes and most raps you do are <50m you might find that you don't get any twists.

You will then have a result based on experience. And you will have reached that from starting from the safest position, number 2. you might find something different, but you will have discovered what works for you. People often seem to not want to experiment safely.
krikoman - on 22 May 2014
In reply to Chris Craggs:

> Assuming he was hanging on the abseil rope how did you 'lower him down'?

> Chris

We used another rope and lowered him on his rope, all very awkward, controlling two belay plates and backup systems!!
In reply to krikoman:

> We used another rope and lowered him on his rope, all very awkward, controlling two belay plates and backup systems!!

I still can't work out how, if he is hanging on an abseil rope attached to a Prusik you could 'lower him'?

Chris
GrahamD - on 22 May 2014
In reply to David Coley:


> You will then have a result based on experience. ...... People often seem to not want to experiment safely.

This I agree with - many people expect a text book 'one size fits all' answer whereas its not that way in reality.

For what its worth, if I know the rope reaches the ground, I don't use a knot at all and if I'm uncertain I tie an overhand on the bite on each end well away from the actual end of the rope. If you allow yourself to abseil right to the end of the rope hard against the knot you haven't many places to go !
andy_e on 22 May 2014
In reply to Chris Craggs:

Presumably, the second rope was attached to both strands of the abseil rope (if it was set up to be retrievable), using a prussic or similar method. Then the climber was hoisted a little bit to unweight the abseil anchor and transferred to the second rope, and the climber, abseil rope and second rope were then lowered of the ab anchor?
GrahamD - on 22 May 2014
In reply to andy_e:

Sounds a lot more complicated than simply disconnecting the abseil rope anchor and lowering that on the spare rope - but then I wasn't there.
ex0 - on 22 May 2014
In reply to anon60521:

I use a double overhand, both ropes tied together.
Carolyn - on 22 May 2014
In reply to GrahamD:

> Sounds a lot more complicated than simply disconnecting the abseil rope anchor and lowering that on the spare rope - but then I wasn't there.

Guess it depends what the ab anchor is , though - if the rope's directly round a large tree, and both sides are through the descent device (quite likely if you want to pull the rope through and leave no gear), it's not going to be easy to disconnect....
andy_e on 22 May 2014
In reply to GrahamD:

That's essentially what I think they would have done, but short of cutting the abseil tat whilst it is loaded, you would need to hoist the climber to be able to disconnect the ab rope from the tat. It would only have to be hoisted a few centimeters so that it can be unclipped from the anchor. And I suppose clipping the ab rope with a carabiner is a better idea than a prussic around both strands.
andy_e on 22 May 2014
In reply to Carolyn:

A large tree provides a trickier situation that some tat round a block. In that situation, if your spare rope was long enough, tie it off at one end, ab down and rescue the climber on abseil by transferring them to the spare rope.

If you had no spare rope, It goes to show why tat round a tree is better than threading the rope directly. As well as being better for the tree, the rope is more likely to pull clean if there is a mallion or rap ring, and other climbers might also appreciate it.
GrahamD - on 22 May 2014
In reply to Carolyn:

I'm joining dots here..

If the person could have fallen 30m, it was longer than a 30m abseil so it would either need 2 ropes in a retrievable abseil scenario or a dedicated single rope abseil. If it was two ropes, where does the third rope come from ?

All speculation and guesswork like most of these threads.
krikoman - on 22 May 2014
In reply to Chris Craggs:

He was abbing of a single 60m rope round a tree (so 30m rope - two strands), he went first, bashed his head.

My mate then went down on our other rope same set up and sorted him out to the ground.

Like I said he wasn't totally knocked out just very dazed and confused and he let go off the dead end of the rope, so he'd have plummeted to the floor.

Ever since then I've nearly always backed up when abbing.

Xharlie on 23 May 2014
In reply to krikoman:

Pick-offs are pretty standard and there are many ways to pull them off (sigh... sorry) - this is one of them.

Another common one involves making yourself secure, attaching a long sling to the patient's harness, threading it through a 'biner and standing on the other end to achieve the required few centimetres of slack. (Of course, static ropes help, here.)

The point is this: if you're on an abseil and come unstuck, a prussic might prevent a potentially long, uncontrolled descent. Even if someone can't enact a pick-off with available toys and needs to call a proper rescue, you're probably safer waiting where the accident happened instead of the unknown and unpredictable bottom of said descent.

I always back up my abseils. Beyond safety, the time taken to tie a prussic is minuscule compared to the hours saved by having two free hands to deal with tangles, knots, stuck gear abandoned by my second and other malarkey.

DO NOT knot the ends of your ropes when abseiling into water. You do NOT want to be stuck on a knot or struggling to untie one while floating in a mountain stream or under a waterfall.

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.