Technical issues- knots and tying in
It is impossible to use the rope on scrambles without learning at least a few knots but don't be alarmed as it really is only a few. The same handful of knots can be used over and over in a variety of situations. The simple systems are best as you are least likely to make a mistake or forget how to do it.
The most useful knots to learn are:
- Figure of eight (see main pic) - for tying onto the rope
- Clove hitch - for attaching to anchors
- Overhand knot - for adjusting slings
- French prussik knot - for safeguarding abseil
All harnesses are slightly different so you need to refer to the manufacturers instructions; normally you will be tying the rope around the leg loops and waist belt of the harness to create a loop known as the central tie in or rope loop. There are two knots to choose from: the advantages and disadvantages are outlined below.
Rewoven Figure of Eight
- Easy to learn
- Easy to see if it is correct
- If incorrect end up with overhand knot or figure of nine both perfectly safe knots.
- Cannot come undone
- Still safe even if the stopper comes undone as long as you leave a long tail
Bowline (without stopper) © Joachim Heller
Bowline with Stopper
- Can work loose during the course of a long day
- Must have a stopper to prevent it working loose
- More complicated to learn
- Less easy to recognise if it is correct
Using a knot to tie onto the rope is better than clipping in with a karabiner which can be tempting for speed but is not foolproof, as it possible to unclip by mistake.
Clove hitch © Claudio Baldini
This simple knot can be used to attach to anchors. It is very easy to learn, difficult to get wrong and easy to adjust. Once you know this one you won't want to use anything else.
The overhand is the simplest knot you can tie and can be used instead if you forget how to tie a figure of eight. It is also useful to divide a sling in half if you are equalising two anchors and can be used to tie two ropes together for an abseil.
This simple but handy knot is tied in a loop of 5 mm rope. It has many uses - the most frequent being to safeguard an abseil by using it as an autoblock.
Don't get carried away with learning lots of other knots, it is far better to be confident using a few rather than half know hundreds. All you need is a knot to tie you to the rope (figure of eight or bowline) and a knot to attach to an anchor (clove hitch). You may find it useful to use an overhand at times and it is reassuring to remember the French prussik just in case you need to retreat.
Libby is a highly qualified mountain leader with over 25 years experience, having worked as an instructor at Glenmore Lodge and Plas y Brenin and also having travelled the world seeking out the best climbs. She offers bespoke guiding, instruction and coaching sessions in climbing and mountaineering in her local area of North Wales - one of the best areas in the UK for outdoor sports.
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