What are the Best Knots for Climbing?

Learn Your Essential Climbing Knots

The Figure-8 Follow-Through knot is the best knot for tying into a climbing rope. Photograph copyright Stewart M. Green

Knots are one of the essential links in your chain of climbing safety, a chain which begins with your climbing rope and the knots tied into it to secure yourself to the rock and your climbing partner. Your rope is your lifeline. Your climbing knots are your life preservers. Knots are the basis of your safety when you’re climbing.

Learn the seven essential climbing knots, then practice them until you can properly tie them blindfolded or at night with one hand.

Tie your climbing knots right every time and you will add to your safety when rock climbing. And always remember that your life depends on your knots.

Take your time when tying your climbing knots. Always make sure that you finish the knot—your life depends on it. Ask your partner to double-check your knots to make sure they’re right.

ROPE TYPES AND TERMS

It is easier to learn how to tie climbing knots if you learn the different types of knots and know the parts of a rope.

3 Types of Knots: There are three types of climbing knots—bends, loops, and hitches.

  • A bend knot has opposite ends of the rope coming out opposite sides of the knot.
  • A loop knot is tied in the rope’s middle.
  • A hitch is an adjustable knot with a loop of rope wrapped around something.

Working End and Standing End: The end of the rope used to tie a knot is the working end, while the rest of the rope and the opposite end is called the standing end.

Bight: A rope that is bent into an open U-shape is called a bight of rope.

Loop: A piece of rope that crosses over itself is called a loop.

Learn the types of knots and know the rope parts and it will be easier to learn to tie your knots.

7 ESSENTIAL CLIMBING KNOTS TO KNOW          

Climbing knots allow you to safely use a rope and to protect yourself and your climbing partner from the effects of falling and gravity.

Climbers use knots for many different situations encountered when climbing, including tying into the rope, attaching to anchors, and for rescues. While there are over 4,000 different types of knots, you only need to know and use seven knots to safely go rock climbing. As your climbing career progresses, you can learn other knots for special situations, but the following seven knots are the ones that you will usually use when climbing.

  • The Figure-8 Follow-Through Knot, finished with either a Fisherman’s Backup Knot or nothing, is the best knot to tie into the end of your climbing rope.
  • A Clove Hitch is used to attach yourself and your rope to belay and rappel anchors on the side of a cliff. It’s easy to tie and easily adjusted.
  • The Figure-8-on-a-Bight is a strong, easy-to-tie knot that can be used to tie into anchors or can be used to tie a person into the middle of a climbing rope with the knot and a locking carabiner.
  • The is a great knot to tie two ropes together for a rappel. While there are other good knots for rappel ropes, this one will never come untied if it is properly tied. It’s best to always use the same knot for tying ropes together.
  • An Autoblock Knot is a friction hitch that is tied around rappel ropes with a short length of cord. It functions as a safety back-up knot when you are rappelling, since it locks when loaded with your weight, keeping you from falling if you accidently let go of the rappel rope strands.
  • A Prusik Knot is an essential rescue knot to know. This friction knot allows you to ascend a rope to get out of trouble. It can, however, be difficult to untie after use.
  • The Münter Hitch is important to know how to tie and use since it is used for emergency belaying and rappelling if you drop your belay device, as well as for rescue and self-rescue situations.

LEARN HOW TO TIE KNOTS

You need to learn how to correctly tie into the end of your rope before climbing and to tie yourself into your anchors to ensure both your safety and that of your climbing partners. If you tie your knots incorrectly, your safety is severely compromised—an undone or incorrectly tied knot can lead to serious injury or death if it fails.

Learn how to tie the recommended climbing knots and then practice tying them. You should know how to tie the most important knots—those for tying in and anchoring—with your eyes closed and in every kind of weather.

Your life depends on this skill. Practice, practice, practice.

STRENGTH OF CLIMBING KNOTS

Not all knots are created equal. Some are stronger than others. The strongest knots are the ones we use when we’re climbing. A knot, of course, is only as strong as the rope it is tied into. Ropes are strongest when they are straight, without bends, kinks, and knots. Knots actually reduce a rope’s overall strength, so it is important to tie the strongest knots for the most important safety tasks.

Most knots fall within a fairly tight range in terms of strength, generally losing between 20% and 40% of the rope’s total strength. The quality of the tied knot also can affect its strength, although tests do indicate that even a sloppy knot retains most of its holding power.

In 1974 The American Alpine Club released a definitive test of common climbing knots, revealing their strengths relative to an untied climbing rope.

  • No knot 100%
  • Figure-8 Follow-Through 75-80%
  • Bowline 70-75%
  • Double Fisherman’s 65-70%
  • Water Knot 60-70%
  • Clove Hitch 60-65%