Knot tying is one of the most underrated skills.
Very often if someone doesn’t know how to tie a knot, they’ll tie a lot.
Round and round with bowties or simple hitch knots leaving a tangled mess of rope or string that will be next to impossible to untie without the use of a good knife.
While tying knots upon knots can make you feel more secure, there are ways of tying knots that are actually tested and secure under incredible loads.
Knowing some of these knots will be invariably useful in your everyday life, but if you want to learn to repel, you should learn these knots like your life depended on them, because sometimes, it does.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the rappelling knots, we got you covered:
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Knot tying is a skill best shown in person, but seeing as I’m here and you’re there, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to word usage.
- Knot – A function of a rope or ropes to secure something in place.
- Standing End – In some instructions, we’ll use the words “Standing End” to represent the side of the rope that is not being manipulated
- Working End – We’ll use the words “Working End” to represent the end of the rope that we are manipulating.
- Hitch – A hitch is a type of knot that is used to tie a rope to another object. A hitch is still a hitch if the object that the rope is being attached to is another rope.
- Bend – A bend is a knot used to tie together two ropes.
- Bight – A bight is a curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope. If a knot can be tied in the middle of a rope let’s say, without use of either of the ends, it can be tied “in the bight.”
Figure 8 Knot
We’ll begin with the most important knot you could want to know if you’re about to begin rappelling; the knot that attaches you to the rope.
- Start by holding the working end of the rope in your fist and hold your arm out straight to your side. Use your other hand to measure the length of rope to your opposite shoulder. Pinch the rope at that length and let the working end of the rope fall.
- Twist the bight 180 degrees so that the working end of the rope lays over the standing end. Continue twisting another 180 degrees and feed the working end of the rope through the back of the loop you just made. Do not over tighten the knot at this stage. You’ll want a little bit of looseness in the coming steps.
- At this stage, you’ll thread the working end of the rope through the loop in your harness.
- Now comes the most intuitive part of tying the Figure 8 knot: you feed the working end of the rope back through the knot, keeping parallel with the rope you’re following.
- Finish the knot with an added hitch by taking the working end of the rope and laying it over the standing end. Bring it around and behind both bits of rope and pass the end through the loop you just made. Pull tightly away from the figure 8 knot and you’re done.
If tied correctly, you should be able to count five parallel lines, one from the loop going around your harness, three from the knot itself, and one more where the working and standing ends of the rope go off together.
A Girth Hitch is a very simple knot done with a loop of rope.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll assume that you can combine any number of the other techniques listed here to make a loop of rope on your own.
A Girth hitch, also known as the strap hitch you’ll recognize as the method that baggage handlers tie that little luggage tag to your bag; passing the tag through the elastic loop etc.
- Begin by taking the working end of the loop and passing it around the object you wish to attach to. In climbing and rappelling this is often a carabiner or a secure loop on your harness.
- When a loop is sticking out on the other side of the carabiner, pass the remainder of your rope, the other side of the loop, through this hole.
- Pull tightly and you have a secure Girth Hitch.
This is a simple knot and will be 100% secure if you’ve attached weight to the free end of the loop.
This knot is very handy when you want an impenetrable knot that can be easily undone when you no longer have use for it.
Next, the clove hitch is a great knot to know for climbers or rappellers, since you can tie it with two hands or just one on a carabiner.
- Make a loop with your rope, leaving plenty of rope on your working end, the more you tie this knot, the easier it will be to know how much rope to leave on the working end. For now just work with a few extra feet on the working end.
- make a small loop so that the working end overlays the standing end.
- Do it again. Make another loop next to the first one. The working end should still be on top.
- Align the second loop you just made behind the first loop.
- Clip the carabiner through both loops and secure by tightening both ends of the rope individually.
If tied correctly, it will not slip. You should be able to put a fair amount of weight on this knot. But it’s not impenetrable, and can slip on occasion, especially on smooth surfaces.
You can make this knot more secure by ensuring that when its tied all the ropes surrounding your anchor are close together.
The Munter Hitch is a knot that be done very easily on a carabiner, sometimes used by climbers to make a makeshift belay device.
- Form a loop by twisting the working end of the rope towards your face so that the working end lays over top of the standing end.
- Make a second one of these loops with the working end still on top.
- With one loop in each hand, put the two loops together as if you were closing two halves of a book.
- Pass a carabiner through those loops and voila, your makeshift belaying device is all set to go.
This knot is tied correctly if you can pull each side smoothly, feeling a little bit of friction and tension as you pull.
Prusik (Friction Hitch)
This hitch is often used by rappellers as a failsafe as they go down.
Using a loop of rope of a smaller diameter than the main line, the climber fashions a hitch that moves smoothly when not loose, but sinches tight and holds if tension is applied.
For demonstration purposes let’s have our example anchor line horizontally.
- Begin by forming a loop of rope using a section about a foot and a half to two feet in length
- Pass the loop under the anchor line and pass the knotted end of the loop through the new loop.
- Wrap the knotted end under the main line, and pass it through the loop again.
- Repeat the last step one more time until the knot is through the loop again.
- Gently take all the slack out of the knot by feeding the knotted end through.
- The knot should look clean with the knotted end of the loop exiting the knot in the middle, with nice parallel lines on either side.
This knot is tied correctly if, you can easily slide it in either direction by pushing on the knot with your finger tips, but will hold tightly if tension is put on the loop.
Climbers usually affix this loop to their harness as a backup in case the worst happens.
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