KNOTS FOR CAVERS

From The Complete Caving Manual by Andy Sparrow

 Many of these knots are demonstrated in the video section

The Three Basic Knots

There are three simple knots that every caver should know and these are the bowline, figure 8 and Italian hitch. If you are unfamiliar with these, get yourself a short length of rope or cord and practise until they become fluent.

1.   Bowline

This is quick and easy to tie, to adjust and to untie. It is commonly used for anchoring around thread belays (and for the traditional direct tie around the body). The tail of the rope should be secured as shown to provide a safety locking knot. Alternatively, the tail can be used to tie another bowline around a second anchor to provide higher safety. This technique is known as multiple bowline.  A double bowline is the same knot tied in a double rope. This is more difficult to adjust for shared loading than the multiple bowline but is useful when one anchor point is much nearer the pitch head than the other.

2. Figure 8

This is commonly used to provide a clipping-in loop in either the end or middle of the rope. When used as an end knot a stopper knot is advisable.

 

3. Italian Hitch

A very useful knot that acts as a friction hitch. It can be used for abseiling or self-protecting short climbs but its main function is lifelining. The knot should be used with a large diameter karabiner (D-shaped steel or HMS pear-shaped alloy), which allows it to flip over and change direction. The Italian hitch is easily locked-off by a couple of half hitches.

 

 Other Useful Knots

Butterfly

A very quick and easy-to-tie knot which is used for general rigging. It is similar, but not identical, to the Alpine butterfly, a knot often used in climbing. It is used ideally, either for a three-way loading or for a mid-rope tie-in (a ‘middleman’s knot’).

 
Butterfly Knot

Bowline on the Bight

The best knot for tying a shared belay or Y hang, especially between bolt anchors. It can also be tied by rethreading and used for shared loading around thread anchors.

 
Bowline on the Bight

Double Fisherman’s

The only recommended knot for joining ropes, this is particularly safe for connecting ropes of different diameter. Half a double fisherman’s can be used as an excellent stopper knot in conjunction with the bowline or figure 8.  Half a double fisherman’s can be used to create a noose sometimes known as ‘barrel knot’, which is used to secure karabiners to cowstails.

 
Double Fisherman's

Tape Knot

Many conventional rope knots are unsafe when tied in webbing, and this is the only recommended method for joining tape. Generous tails of at least 10cm (4in) should be left, and the knot pre-tightened by hand before use. It is a good policy only to use pre-sewn tape slings which are stronger and safer.

   
Tape Knot

Capuchin or Stopper Knot

This large ball-shaped knot makes an ideal stopper, as it is sufficiently large (tied in 10mm rope) not to pass through a figure 8 descender, or even an HMS karabiner.

 
Capuchin / Stopper

Prusik Knot

This is tied using a 3–6mm cord. It is simple but ingenious as it can be slid up and down the rope, but (usually) binds tight when loaded.

 
Prusik Knot

Klemheist

This is an alternative to the Prusik knot which uses tape and provides an alternative if cord is not available. It is much stronger than the conventional Prusik knot.

 
Klemheist

Garda Knot

A really useful technique for improvising a jammer.  It works best with two identical karabiners.  A very good way to protect the ascent of a climb - but not easily releasable.


Garda Knot

Clove Hitch

A quick and simple way to tie into a karabiner using minimal rope, appropriate for mid-rope, rather than as an end-knot. Not for general usage, but occasionally very handy.

 
Clove Hitch

Overhand Knot

A loosely tied overhand knot is as strong as a figure 8, but after loading it is much weaker, and very difficult to untie. It is useful for tying a quick loop which can be clipped into, briefly, for safety.

 
Overhand Knot

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