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How to Tie and Use a Prusik Knot

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4 of 5

Step 4: How to Tie and Use a Prusik Knot
A Bachmann knot slides up the rope more easily than a Prusik knot.

A climber uses a Bachmann knot (top) and Prusik knot (bottom) for ascending a fixed rope.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Okay, you’ve tied the Prusik knot. Now is the hard part—how to use it.

The Problem With Prusik Knots

The big problem with Prusik knots is that they can grip the rope so tightly that they are difficult to release and slide up the rope, whereas the Klemheist knot and Bachmann knot are easier to release. If your Prusik knot is too tight to push, loosen it by pushing the center loop or tongue into the knot.

Ascending a Fixed Rope

Most of the time climbers will use mechanical ascenders to climb ropes, especially on big walls. But two Prusik knots, used in tandem with one for the right hand and one for the left, are the best way to ascend a fixed rope in an emergency. Many climbers will use another friction knot like a Klemheist knot or Bachmann knot in tandem with a single Prusik knot since the Prusik, as noted above, can tighten up. The top Prusik cord is attached to the belay loop on the front of your harness while the other cord is attached to a longer sling for one of your feet. Some climbers prefer to attach both Prusik slings to the harnesses as well as have foot slings for each foot. Either way you need to remember to always tie into the end of the rope. Never trust your life to a Prusik knot.

Basic Prusikking Technique

The basic technique of Prusikking is to weight the bottom Prusik knot by standing up in your foot sling. Now slide the barrel of the top Prusik knot up the climbing rope until it’s tight against your harness. Sit down in your harness, tightening the knot and allowing it to bite into the rope. Next, hang from the top knot and slide the lower Prusik knot up the rope until its cord is tight against you. Repeat the process and you’re on your way up the rock. It is not, however, as easy as it sounds. Practice using it first at a small local cliff. Learn how long the cords to your waist and for your foot sling should be.

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