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How to Tie and Untie Knots

Properly Tied Knots Are Stronger


Bob D'Antonio properly ties his knot in Escalante Canyon, Colorado.

Properly tying and dressing your tie-in knot makes it easier to untie after climbing.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

It's important to learn how to tie your knots. Properly tied and dressed knots are stronger and usually easier to untie.

Tying the Knot

Take your time when tying knots. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t let anyone else distract you. Your life depends on it. Many good climbers have fallen and hit the ground because they failed to finish tying the knot on their harness, distracted by talking or tiredness.

After tying the knot, ask your climbing partner to double-check the knot and make sure it’s tied right. Remember that you and your climbing partner are a team. You look out for each other. You each double-check every safety system to make sure it’s right. Don’t be too proud to ask, “Does this look right to you?”

Dressing the Knot

After you’ve properly tied your knot, you want to neatly dress it. When you dress a knot you neaten the separate parallel strands, making sure they’re free of kinks and twists. Then you cinch the knot tight and use the extra loose rope to tie a back-up insurance knot like a Fisherman’s Backup knot.

After it’s dressed, you can easily make a visual inspection to make sure it’s tied right. One of the best reasons to use the Figure-8 Follow-Through knot is because you can tell at a glance if the dressed knot is tied correctly.

Untying the Knot

After you’re done climbing, you have to untie the knot, which is sometimes easier said than done. When you load and tighten your knot by falling or hanging, it can be difficult to untie. One trick I use is to grab both parts of the rope and push them together to loosen the knot. If that doesn’t work I try to work the long end of the rope loose in the knot, which usually loosens the knot enough to readily untie.

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