Tying knots is an essential skill for climbing. Whether tying in as a climber, building an anchor, or rappelling, using the right knot will make your climbing experience safer and easier.
Here, we’ll go over how to tie six common knots, hitches, and bends for climbing. Keep in mind, there are plenty of other useful knots.
And while this article can provide a helpful reminder, it’s by no means a substitute for learning from an experienced guide in person. However, this can be a launching point for you to practice some integral and common climbing knots at home.
This article includes:
- Figure-eight follow-through
- Overhand on a bight
- Double fisherman’s bend
- Clove hitch
- Girth hitch
- Prusik hitch
Before we get into it, these are a few rope terms to know for the rest of the article:
- Knot: A knot is tied into a single rope or piece of webbing
- Bend: A bend joins two ropes together
- Hitch: A hitch connects the rope to another object like a carabiner, a harness, or another rope
- Bight: A section of rope between the two ends; this is usually folded over to make a loop
- Working end: The side of the rope you’re using for the knot
- Standing end: The side of the rope you’re not using for the knot
This knot, also known as the trace-eight or rewoven figure-eight, is one of the first knots every rock climber will learn. It ties you into your harness as a climber.
To make this knot, hold the end of the rope in one hand and measure out from your fist to your opposite shoulder. Make a bight at that point to create a loop with the working end on top. Wrap the working end around the base of the loop once, then poke the end through the loop from front to back.
Pull this tight to achieve your first figure-eight knot.
For the follow-through, if tying into a harness, thread the working end through both tie-in points on the harness and pull the figure-eight close to you. Then, thread the working end back through the original figure-eight, tracing the original knot.
Once it’s all traced through, you should have five sets of parallel lines in the knot neatly next to each other. Pull all strands tight and make sure you have at least 6 inches of tail on the working end.
Overhand Knot on a Bight
This knot is great for anchor building, creating a central loop, or as a stopper.
Take a bight on the rope and pinch it into a loop — this loop now essentially becomes the working end.
Loop the bight over your standing strands, then bring it under the rope and through the loop you just created. Dress the knot by making sure all strands run parallel and pull each strand tight.
Double Fisherman’s Bend
Use this knot when you need to join two ropes together or make a cord into a loop. The double fisherman’s is basically two double knots next to each other.
To do this knot, line both rope ends next to each other. Hold one rope in your fist with your thumb on top. Wrap the working end of the other rope around your thumb and the first rope twice so it forms an X.
Take your thumb out and thread the working end of the rope through the X from the bottom up and pull tight. You should have one rope wrapped twice around the other strand, with an X on one side and two parallel lines on the other.
Repeat this process with the working end of the other rope so you have one X and two parallel lines from each rope. Pull the two standing ends tight to bring both knots together.
This hitch is great for building anchors with a rope or securing a rope to a carabiner. The clove hitch is strong enough that it won’t move around when it’s weighted, but you can adjust each side to move the hitch around when unweighted.
To make this hitch, make two loops twisting in the same direction. Put the second loop behind the first, then clip the carabiner through both loops. Pull both strands tight, and the rope should cinch down on the carabiner.
The girth hitch is ideal for attaching a personal anchor (or any sling) directly to a harness. The hitch is not adjustable like the clove hitch, but you can form it around any object as long as you have a loop.
Wrap this loop around the object, then feed the other end through the first loop so the rope or sling creates two strands around the object. Pull the working end tight.
This is the most common friction hitch and is ideal for a rappel backup or ascending the rope. The friction hitch will grip the rope on either end when pulled tight but can also easily move over a rope when loose.
To make a Prusik hitch, you’re essentially making multiple girth hitches.
Put the loop behind the rope, then thread the other end of the sling or cord through that loop. Loosely wrap the cord around the rope at least three times, threading through the original loop each time.
Pull the hitch tight around the rope and test it by making sure it successfully grips the rope.