Knots

Knots, Bends and Hitches

To most, knots are what climbers use along with ropes to aid in climbs. In reality, climbers use a variety of knots, bends and hitches.

So what is the difference? Knots are when material is tied on itself. A bend is when you join two ends of rope, webbing or cord; a hitch is when you tie something around a solid object such as a rock or a tree.

So where did these terms come from? From my research, these terms are nautical in origin.1 Knots date back to the mid 15th century. Bend and hitch date back to the mid to late 1500’s.2

I will try to use the correct term for each knot described, although I may use knot for simplicity. There are many different knots. In reality, most climbers rely on only a few. Some knots can be used for a variety of instances; others are picked as a matter of preference.

It is important to remember that anytime you tie a knot that you reduce the breaking strength of the rope, webbing or cord. Depending on the knot, the reduction varies. The reduction ranges from 20% to 57%.

Some terms are used to describe the material that you are using while you are tying knots. These terms are nautical in originations, but are used when describing ropes in all fields. The end [of the rope] that is not actively being manipulated is called the standing end. The end that is being used is called the loose end. When the material is bent 180 it’s call a bight and when the material is turned 360 or more so it forms a circle is called a loop. A double knot is a knot that is tied with two ropes or a single rope that is doubled.

Knots

Overhand Knot

An overhand knot is used to secure the ends of a rope that are left over after another knot is tied. To tie this knot you bight the rope, then pass the rope over the rope then through the bight. Pull tight to secure.

Overhand Knot

Offset Overhand Knot (Bend)

The offset Overhand Knot (bend) can be used to join two ends of rope. This is very useful knot to join two ropes for a long two-rope rappel. This is especially useful when retrieving the rope. This knot (bend) is relatively small and reduced the chance of getting snagged during retrieval of the rope. To tie this knot you tie a loose overhand knot then feed the loose end of the other rope back through the knot. Once fed through pull the knot tight.

Overhand Knot Overhand Knot
Overhand Knot Overhand Knot
Overhand Loop

The Overhand loop is useful when making leg loops on webbing or accessory cord. To make the loops you take a bend of rope or webbing and tie an overhand knot. The result is a loop beyond the knot. Alter the length of the cord or webbing to adjust the size of the loop.

Overhand Loop Knot Overhand Loop Knot
Bowline Knot

A Bowline Knot is an excellent knot for tying a climber to the end of a rope. The Bowline can be attached directly to a harness or clipped with a carabiner. A Bowline on a Coil can be used to tie a climber in the middle of a rope on a three-climber rope. To tie the bowline you make a loop, and then feed the loose end of the rope through the loop from the under-side then over the top part of the loop, under the rope leading to the standing end and back into the loop. The Bowline on a Coil is tie by taking a bight of rope near the middle of the rope. Using the bight as the loose end of the rope and follow the above directions. To finish the knot secure the bight end with an overhand knot or a carabiner

Bowline Knot Bowline Knot
Bowline Knot Bowline Knot
Bowline Knot
Butterfly Knot

This knot is ideal if you want to attach something to a length of rope. An advantage is that this knot can be pulled from either end or from the loop created. To tie this knot you take a bight of rope and twist it twice creating two openings. Take the tip of the bight and bring it up over the top twist and through the second opening. When you pull the bight and the rope, the knot becomes tight.

Butterfly Knot Butterfly Knot
Butterfly Knot Butterfly Knot
Butterfly Knot
The Bachmann Hitch

The Bachman Hitch is used to ascend or descend a climbing rope, similar to the Pursik Hitch. Since this hitch is tied around a carabiner as well as the climbing rope, it is much easier to loosen and slide along the rope. This hitch is useful as a safety line while repelling.

To tie this knot or hitch, start by clipping a cord into a carabiner. Placing the carabiner behind the climbing rope, loop the cord around the rope and into the gate of the carabiner. Continue until the length of the carabiner is covered, 3 to 5 times.

Bachmann Knot Bachmann Knot
Bachmann Knot Bachmann Knot
Clove Hitch

The Clove hitch is an ideal knot to secure a belayer to an anchor. Using this knot allows you to adjust the length of rope between the anchor and the load without completely untying the knot or removing it from the carabiner.

To tie this hitch, create two bights3 next to one another, bring the right hand bright on top of the left one and clip a carabiner onto both bights.

Clove Hitch Knot Clove Hitch Knot
Clove Hitch Knot Clove Hitch Knot
Figure Eight

The Figure Eight Knot comes in a few varieties. The Figure Eight on a Bight is another good knot for tying a climber to the end of a rope. Once you tie the Figure Eight clip the climber with a locking carabiner. The rewoven Figure Eight is used to tie the rope directly to the harness. Both of these variations should be finished with an overhand knot. The Figure Eight Bend can be used to join two ropes together. The advantage of this knot is that it is easier than a double fisherman’s Knot to untie after the load is removed. To tie a Figure Eight Knot you make a bight at the loose end of the rope. Curl the bight under and then over the doubled rope then feed the bight through the loop from the underneath side. Pull tight and finish the end with an Overhand knot

Figure 8 Knot Figure 8 Knot
Figure 8 Knot Figure 8 Knot

The Figure Eight Bend is tied by first tying a loose figure eight with the loose end of a rope. Take the loose end of another rope and follow the knot in reverse. Tie Overhand knots on the two short ends to finish the knot. The Rewoven Figure Eight is similar to the way you tie the Bend. When you tie the loose Figure Eight leave a generous portion of loose rope beyond the knot. Take that loose end of the rope and after placing it through a harness follow the knot in reverse as you would the figure eight bend.

Figure 8 bend Knot Figure 8 bend Knot
Figure 8 bend Knot Figure 8 bend Knot
Fisherman’s Bend Knot

Double Fisherman Knot ApplicationThe Fisherman’s knot is the choice to join two ends of rope. There are essentially three variety of this knot: the single, the double and the triple Fisherman’s knot. When you use round utility cord with hardware like stoppers or hexes the single Fisherman’s knot finished with an overhand knot or a double Fisherman’s knot is a good option. When joining two low friction ropes the triple fisherman’s knot is the best choice. A unique feature of the Fisherman’s knot is that the more force you put on the knot the tighter the knot gets.

To tie the single Fisherman’s knot take the two loose ends of the rope and overlap them, tie an overhand knot around the other rope with each end. Pull the rope so the knots come together.

Single Fisherman Knot Single Fisherman Knot Single Fisherman Knot
Single Fisherman Knot Single Fisherman Knot

To tie a double fisherman’s knot, after overlapping the rope ends take the loose ends and twist them around the standing end twice. Pass the loose end through the two loops. Do this for both loose ends. Pull the rope so the knots come together. For a triple fisherman’s knot, you wrap the loose end around the other rope three times before completing the knot.


Double Fisherman Knot
Double Fisherman Knot Double Fisherman Knot
Water Knot

The Water Knot is an excellent knot to join two loose ends of flat webbing together. Flat webbing loops are very versatile and has a variety of uses. The uses range from wrapping the webbing around a tree to making slings and runners.

To tie a water knot, start with a simple overhead knot. With the other loose end feed it through the knot and follow it all the way around. Pull the loose ends and the other lines to tighten. The more tension you put on the line, the tighter the knot becomes.

Water Knot Water Knot Water Knot
Water Knot Water Knot Water Knot
Water Knot Water Knot

By John Dragotto

Footnotes

  1. https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=knot
  2. https://www.etymonline.com/word/hitch#etymonline_v_41976
  3. loops