This is a touchy subject. Opinions vary
among climbers as to the best knot to use when joining two ropes together.
The figure eight, overhand, & double fishersman's are just three
methods. There's many reasons why you'd want to join two ropes together, but
perhaps the most obvious one is to allow for a full rope length retrievable
Rethreaded Figure Eight
There is more than one way of joining two ropes using a figure eight knot.
The method described below is purely the one I prefer. One disadvantage of
this method is that it leaves a bulky profile to the knot which could well get stuck when
you pull the abseil ropes down. If speed and stuck ropes is a concern, perhaps investigate the
method or the overhand knot (see below). The
advantage of the figure eight with stopper knots over the double
fisherman's is that it's often easier to untie afterwards, plus what I'd
call a psychological advantage. Anyway, follow these steps to join two ropes with
a figure eight knot:
Step 1: Put a figure eight in the end of one rope. Step 2 & 3:
eight with the end of the other rope. Leave plenty of tail (probably more
than pictured), because the
knot will slip a bit as it is tightened.
Step 4: Because I'm paranoid
about the figure eight slipping I generally add a stopper knot
to each end
as well. The figure eight with stopper knots is my preferred method,
however as I say, opinions vary.
using the "Abnormal Figure Eight" (pictured left), which Bush Walkers Wilderness
Rescue's research shows to
be dangerous. They state: "The Abnormal Figure 8 Knot
is dangerous due to roll back slippage. It is possible that this knot when
poorly packed and with short tails could completely
undo with loads as low as 50kgs". See Also: Abseil
Knots on Needle Sports, and this accident
report on rec.climbing or
R&I, in which such a knot may have killed a climber.
Here's another way to join two ropes, the double fisherman's (pictured
below). This method results in a smaller profile knot (should give less
chance of stuck ropes) than the aforementioned figure eight method. Its
basically just two stopper knots. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Put a stopper knot in the end of
one rope. The trick with stopper knots is to form two loops, the second
behind the first, and feed the tail back through both. Step 2:
Before you tighten the knot, pass the end of the other rope through both
loops as shown.
Step 3: Now form another stopper knot, this time with the
second rope, wrapping your loops around the first line.
Steps 4 & 5: Tighten both knots and draw them snug against
each other. Leave plenty of tail (probably more than pictured), to account
for any slippage.
It's hard to
describe in words. Be very sure you've got it right before abseiling down.
I strongly suggest you get someone experienced to teach you this knot, in
person, so they can verify you've got it right. The consequences of a
mistake, when using this knot to join two ropes for abseil, are naturally
going to be very serious indeed. Furthermore, its easy to stuff this up, especially if
its cold, dark and wet and you're looking to bail in a hurry, so perhaps
this is not the best method to employ, though it certainly works if done
correctly. The knot can also be difficult to undo once you've weighted it.
Right: The double fisherman's used to join the ends of some accessory
cord to form a loop, suitable for friction knots such as the Prusik,
overhand knot is probably the simplest and fastest knot you can form to
join two ropes together for abseil. This can be very handy in situations
where speed is critical to safety. It's also generally believed to be the
least likely knot to get stuck when the ropes are pulled. But how scary
does it look? Even with the recommended super long tails, the knot can take some
getting used to.
The theory with this
knot is that it will slide flat against the rock and flip over an edge
rather than jamming. (See picture right, and check out Petzl's
page explaining the concept).
these steps to form an overhand knot to join two ropes:
Step 1: Grab an end of each rope and form the simple pass shown
above. Step 2: Pull tight, leaving a large amount of tail (ie.
about a metre) for both ends, to account
for any slippage. It shouldn't slip too greatly if the ropes are of the same
diameter, but this is not something to skimp on. You should probably leave
more tail than the pictures above imply.
comments such as "The Overhand Knot should not be used
on tape due to progressive cyclic slippage." and "There may be
an issue with the strength of the Overhand Knot when used on older rope.",
appear in research articles
from the Bush Walkers Wilderness Rescue.
From Kieran Loughran:
1. If you are doing a multi-abseil retreat using two ropes of equal diameter
then the overhand knot is more secure than an figure-8
2. Use a double-fisherman knot to join ropes of unequal diameter for
3. If you are using two ropes as a fixed line, first join them with a
double-fisherman knot and then tie an alpine butterfly knot that
incorporates the double-fisherman knot in the loop. That gives you three
things 1. A bomb-proof knot; 2. A built-in safety loop to clip on the knot
changeover; 3. Knots that are easy to untie (unless you had to weight the
safety loop, in which case you won't care).
Preferred Knots For Use In
Canyons - Documents actual testing of Tape, Double Fisherman's,
Overhand for rope and tape, Rethreaded Figure 8, Abnormal Figure 8 and
Alpine Butterfly from Bush Walkers Wilderness Rescue web site.
Knots - Further testing and warnings against the abnormal figure eight
knot on Needle Sports site.
- From University of New England Mountaineering Club.
- From Petzl's web site.
Figure Eight With A Loop - Also from Petzl's web site.
FAQ - For rec.climbing discussions and arguments about the best knot to
use when joining two ropes for an abseil.
To Deal With Stuck Ropes - From Climbing Magazines Tech Tips.
Rope And Gear
Testing - Results of pull tests on various knots joining different
EDELRID Knot Tests
- Results of testing double fisherman's, and EDK, etc. Unfortunately much
of the text is in German.
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