Friday, February24, 2017


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Knots for Rock Climbers
by Michael Strong
illustrations by Ryan Ojerio
The climber has a large selection of knots to chose from While it may be tempting to learn as many
knots as possible its usually better to learn the handful of knots essential to a specific situation and learn
them well enough to tie efficiently When it comes to knot selection ask What kind of knot is are three kinds to chose from bends loops and hitches
Bends are easily identified as the ends come out opposite sides of the knot Bends are commonly
used in climbing eg to tie two ropes together for a rappel or to tie accessory cord or tubular webbing into
slings or runners
Ring Bend
Flemish Bend
Loops can be tied two different ways The method used depends on the circumstance When tying
into the end of the rope for example theres no choice but to tie the loop with a follow through Likewise a
loop tied in the middle of a rope must be tied on a bight Whichever of these two kinds of knots you tie the
finished product looks the same as shown below
on a bight
Hitches are adjustable knots Rope can be fed back and forth through a hitch while it remains tied
The Menter hitch is shown below
Knots for Climbers 2
Menter hitch
Once you know what kind of knot is needed selection can be narrowed to one or two knots that will
do the job The choice of one knot over another is best based on a blend of the following Strength is usually the first quality that comes to
mind when deciding on which knot to use While it
is important strength should not be the sole determinant for selecting a knot Knots used by climbers rarely
break largely because the materials used in the construction of ropes webbing and accessory cord are
more than strong enough to meet the demands normally placed upon them
Knot security is critical The ability of a knot to stay tied is probably more important than Does this mean that the most secure knot is the most
appropriate one Not at all If this were the
case more climbers would use the overhand follow through as a tiein knot Its certainly strong enough
and its easier to tie than the follow through The overhand knot however is to untie once firmly loaded
Ease of tying is also important Theres no point in choosing a complicated knot when a less
complex one will work just as well Ease of untying after loading is especially important Ease of is a performance quality that should not be
overlooked Its important to be able to glance at the
tiein knot of your climbing partner or the knots of an anchor system and quickly recognize whether these
knots are tied correctly
One way to evaluate whether the right kind of knot has been selected for the job is to examine the
knot when its loaded Look to see if the knot is stressed along its long axis If it isnt eg the stress is
sideways the knot may be split apart under load compromising its strength and security
Knots for Climbers 3
A bend and a loop stressed along their long axes correct applications in each case
A knot stressed sideways across its long axis incorrect KNOT MANAGEMENT
A knot must be dressed or tied in its most secure orientation With most knots tied with this means making sure that strands running side by side
through a knot do not cross Knots with
crossed strands may not snug together can jam badly and risk coming loose over time
The manner in which knots are dressed may be quite different so know how to efficiently dress each
knot To dress a on a bight loosely tie the knot and then work out any twists or of the rope strands as freeway lanes Just like the lanes of a
freeway the cords should remain side by
side never cross at any point along their path When the crosses have been worked out tighten the knot
A loosely tied figureeight on a bight
Knots must also be firmly tightened In most cases its not enough to simply pull on the rope strands on
either side of the knot in an effort to tighten it With the bend and the for example both strands on each side of the knot must be pulled tightly
four pulls total
Knots for Climbers 4
Tightening a bend
Once a knot has been loaded it can be difficult to loosen Its best to break the strands which to the long axis of the knot away from the knots center
Make sure to work both sides of Loosening a Flemish bend
Bends loops and hitches are dressed and tightened differently so know the specific ways tie dress tighten and loosen each knot Keep in mind that
working with tubular webbing is than tying knots with rope or accessory cord for working with webbing are
addressed below in the section Webbing Knots
The most popular tiein and clipin knots are members of the family When tying into
the end of the rope use the Its strong stays securely tied and is to untie once loaded
Tying a follow through
When youre at an anchor station on a climb and need to attach yourself to an anchor for safety you
can tie a loop into the rope with a on a bight and clip the loop to an anchor carabiner
Knots for Climbers 5
Tying a on a bight
Friction knots are invaluable for rescue situations They serve as ascending devices when you need
to ascend a set of jammed rappel ropes and as a means to transfer the load to an anchor during a There are many friction knots to choose from
Some are more appropriate than others in a In all cases friction knots work the same way by clamping onto the rope when tensioned and
sliding along the rope when tension is released or allowing the rope to slide through the knot In order for a
friction knot to grip the cord from which it is tied must be smaller in diameter than the rope to which it is
attached It also helps if the cord is relatively supple so that it can easily conform to the ropes The prusik knot is tied by wrapping
consecutive girth hitches around the rope A twowrap sufficient grip for ascending a rope If the load is heavier a threewrap prusik is necessary
use a threewrap prusik for rescue work
A three wrap prusik Tie 3 consecutive girth hitches A single girthhitch is shown at left
Prusik knots tied with oneinch tubular webbing slip on the rope whereas prusiks tied with 916
webbing hold fine but are difficult to slide along the rope due to the small bulk Its best to use to tie a prusik knot
Knots for Climbers 6
The Klemheist knot works very well when tied with webbing unlike the prusik knot Its also faster to
tie when using a long 16 to 20 cordelette especially if the ends of the cordelette are left open a prusik knot with a long cordelette is more time
consuming as the ends must be repeatedly the knot
Klemheist knot Bachmann knot
The Bachmann knot incorporates a carabiner as a handle making it easier to slide the knot along
the rope a helpful feature when ascending a rope The carabiner also enables the knot to be selftending in
a rescue system This knot also works well when tied with webbing
One of the most useful knots is the Menter hitch It can be used in lieu of a belay device and as a
component of a tension release mechanism Its advantageous to be able to tie this knot one for a lone rescuer who may have to attend to other tasks
Use a locking carabiner when tying a Menter hitch A pearshaped carabiner may be needed to
allow the knot to be flipped from one side of the carabiner to the other especially when larger diameter rope
is used
Knots for Climbers 7
Tying a onehanded Menter hitch
Grab the nonloaded Pull the strand up into a Clip the bight into the
strand and pass it behind bight Do not twist or flip carabiner and lock the
the loaded strand this strand gate
When used in a tension release mechanism the Menter hitch must be backed up Tie a followed by a nonslippery
Tying off a Menter hitch
Keep your brake hand on the rope The knot is now slippery meaning The finished product
With your free hand pull a bight that the bight can easily be pulled out Notice the overhand on a
around the loaded rope and through For security a slippery tieoff should bight is snugged up
a slot formed immediately in front of always be backed up An overhand on against the slippery tieoff
the Menter hitch a bight is an excellent choice
Knots for Climbers 8
The Mariners hitch is a useful tension release knot Its simple to tie especially with an cordelette The major disadvantage to the Mariners hitch is
that it cannot be tied with a single
strand of cord
Mariners hitch
When tying the Mariners hitch wrap the cord twice around the body of the carabiner and then
around the strands with a minimum of five wraps Finish the knot off with a safety overhand
A clove hitch is an adjustable knot that grips securely onto the round surface of a carabiner The
clove hitch is particularly useful for clipping into an anchor because it allows for quick adjustment of the
amount of slack or tension in the rope
Tying a clove hitch
Using identical hand Slide one of the loops in front of the other It will be Clip the loops into a
motions tie two clear which loop to slide as one choice results in a locking carabiner
loops into the rope clove hitch and the other produces no knot at all In tighten the hitch and
this case the loop on the right is slid in front of the lock the gate
loop on the left Do not twist of fold the loop
Knots for Climbers 9
Always use a locking carabiner when tying a clove hitch and tighten the knot securely A loose clove
hitch can slip when loaded and weld abrade the rope A loose knot can also detach from the carabiner For
these reasons some climbers favor the on a bight as a method for attaching to an anchor
If you know how to tie a onehanded clove hitch you can tie and adjust the knot at the same time
Tying a onehanded clove hitch
Pull the nonloaded strand You have two choices for twisting this strand Youll Tighten the knot
behind the loaded one Twist always get it right if you twist the rope into a loop and lock the
this strand into a loop such that the length of the nonloaded strand ends carabiner
up behind rather than in front of the loop
One of the most secure knots is the grapevine aka double fishermans Climbers use it to cord or even webbing into slings The knot definitely stays
tied especially once it is loaded
Tying the knot is easier than it appears Tie one side flip the knot around and then tie the same
knot again using identical hand motions The grapevine is tightened by pulling the strands on either side
of the knot away from each other Its tied properly when the four parallel strands are on the same side of
the knot If the parallel strands are opposite each other a portion of the knot sticks out on either side
making these areas susceptible to abrasion
Knots for Climbers 10
Begin by tying one end of the rope around the other Pass the working end between the x
end Notice the x pattern formed and the stationary strand of rope
To adjust the length of end tail slide the knot Finish the other half of the grapevine by flipping the knot end to
along the stationary strand Tighten the knot end and repeating the above sequence of hand motions
Tying a grapevine
Overhand knots are used almost exclusively when working with sling webbing The water knot
Ring bend is used to join pieces of webbing into slings or runners
Water knot ring bend
The water knot has an uncanny ability to work itself loose over time Dressing the knot properly as
shown below adds to its security Nevertheless get in the habit of checking the water knot frequently Its
also a good idea to incorporate long at least 3 tails into the knot when tying it
Dressing a water knot
To dress the water knot pinch the webbing on each side of the knot and then give each strand a
good tug The finished product will look like a tie
Knots for Climbers 11
Its also possible to use a grapevine knot to join webbing into runners The grapevine cinches tightly
when loaded adding an element of security lacking with the water knot The grapevine however may be
impossible to untie once loaded a definite disadvantage when trying to tie runners together Some a selection of runners joined with water knots and
grapevines in order to take advantage of the
benefits of each knot
Tie an overhand onabight to form a loop in the middle of a runner or in one end of an of webbing eg for girth hitching a piece of webbing to a prusik
in a tension release Overhand on a bight at the end of a sling

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