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A Selection of Knot Diagrams for Introductory Climbing Courses

©1982 - 1994 Cyril Shokoples

Unauthorized duplication by any means is strictly forbidden.


Learning knots and systems from a printed page or a computer screen can be a dangerous practice. Using a knot or system properly or improperly, or tying a knot incorrectly, can lead to property damage, injury or even death. Be sure to learn proper knot tying and systems from a qualified and experienced instructor or guide.


This is one of the few bends which is suitable for use in flat material such as webbing. When tied with rope, it is most often referred to as the "Ring Bend". The bend is begun by tying a simple overhand knot in one end. The second running end is then traced back over the first knot in such a manner that the ends finish facing away from each other. Care should be taken to be sure that the strands of rope or webbing run parallel to each other along their entire length. As always, leave adequate tails on the ends of the bend, especially with webbing, which has a tendency to slip.


A simple loop for quickly securing a rope end. It is easy to adjust but suffers from a lower strength than some other loops and can be quite difficult to untie if loaded. Nice to know as a good backup knot to use when you need a loop fast.


The standard knot for attaching a climber to an anchor. The knot is simply tied by forming a figure eight knot with a bight of rope! Take care to be sure that the strands run parallel to facilitate adjusting the knot and to ease untying if the loop is loaded (as in a fall).

completed loop


An alternative to the Figure Eight Loop for tying into a climbing harness, this knot is compact, secure and quick to tie. It can become difficult to untie if fallen upon repeatedly. This loop starts with an overhand knot. The running end is then properly feed through your harness and comes back out through the center of the overhand. The loop is then completed with the second half of a double fisherman’s bend. It may be prudent to back this knot up with an overhand as well. Be sure an adequate tail is left at the end of the knot.


This is the first of the family of Fisherman’s bends (knots for joining two rope ends) that includes the single, double and triple fisherman’s bends. This bend is the quickest to tie as well as being the weakest and least secure of the bunch. Even so if properly tied, dressed to make the ends tight and then secured with additional overhand back-up knots as shown, it is often used in many situations. For more permanent, secure and stronger bends move to the double or triple variety.

...then dress the bend to complete it.


Probably one of the most commonly used bends in climbing when it comes to joining two ends of rope, accessory cord or even tubular webbing together. It is very secure if long enough tails are left protruding from the bend. Both running ends of the rope are tied identically around the standing part of the opposite rope and the knot is dressed by pulling the ends and standing parts alternately until a very compact "barrel" shaped knot results

Appearance of completed bend


By taking one extra turn around each side of a Grapevine Bend, the "S" Bend results. This is the strongest and most secure bend known for some types of rope. Some manufacturers of Spectra accessory cord state that this is the only bend to be used for joining two ends of Spectra. In large diameter cord, it is a bit bulky, and more difficult to tie and untie, but if you have slippery cord or want high strength, go for it!!


A good technique to learn for belaying. The Munter hitch has a tendency to twist the rope if you are not constantly vigilant in your rope handling. Note that the rope running to the climber should be on the side of the solid backbone of the carabiner, not on the gate opening side. Munter hitches are best used on large locking pear shaped carabiners, but can be used on any locking carabiner in a pinch. In an emergency, you can lower an injured partner or even rappel using a Munter hitch, but once again it twists the rope.


Another of the standard means for attaching a climber to an anchor. Easy to tie and rapidly adjusted, you should take care to secure the hitch well before trusting it. They have been known to slip on occasion before grabbing and are probably best used on a locking carabiner. A good knot to add to your bag of tricks. It can be tied with one hand. Practice that plenty before you try it on a climb.


Also known as a pseudo - equalizing anchor, this arrangement is commonly used to share the load between two otherwise strong and secure anchor points to provide redundancy in case of failure of a single point. There are two conflicting concepts to remember. Attempt to keep the angle between the two legs of the sling below 60 degrees when possible and always keep the angle below 90 degrees. If the angle is too great, load multiplication occurs. To reduce the angle, a longer sling can occasionally be used. If the sling is too long however, the failure of a single point can lead to a long extension of the sling before the anchor once again holds. This can lead to a belayer being dragged across the terrain with the potential for total loss of the belay. Secondarily, the remaining single anchor point will once again be shock loaded. This tendency is reduced by using a shorter sling.

Two bombproof points are the minimum for a strong anchor. This style of Load Distributing Anchor should only be used when 2 completely impeccable protection placements are being used as an anchor, such as with two modern, well placed bolts. If one ore more protection pieces within an anchor are less than perfect, an alternative configuration which does not allow for extension to occur should be employed. Learn more about anchors than just this picture !!!


This is a modern revision to an age old system. Three Prusik loops of unequal length are used. They are sized before they are attached to the rope.

The short loop should reach from the point where it is attached to your harness to the top of your helmet.

The long loop when attached to your boot should reach to nipple height.

The intermediate or medium sized loop should reach from your boot to just above groin height.

From the top down they are attached in order; short, then long then intermediate or medium (SLIM). To ascend, slide the short Prusik up to support your harness. Then slide up and stand on the right prusik. Then move the short Prusik again. Then slide up and stand on your left prusik. The process of harness then right foot, harness then left foot is repeated until you reach your destination.



A moveable point of attachment to a rope, the three wrap Prusik hitch is used for ascending ropes in self rescue, attaching other rescue system components such as pulleys and even special belays (which require special training). Learn this hitch, you may need it.


One of several traditional variations for an improvised chest harness, this version incorporates a fisherman’s knot on a coil to attach the rope or webbing which encircles the chest. Handy to know if you need a quick chest harness to connect to your seat to cross a glacier on an approach to a route. It is also a good idea to have a chest harness if you wear a large pack. For prolonged travel on glaciers, it's best to get a commerical chest harness to add to your seat harness, or use a commercial full body harness. Have someone show you how this is done rather than trying to figure it out from a diagram and having it fail with dire consequences.





This is a traditional harness improvisation as used by climbing guides. Impossible to learn from a diagram, it incorporates accessory cord or webbing for a seat and separate chest harness. The seat harness uses variations of the fisherman’s and overhand bends at various points. It is a good idea to know how to improvise at least one style of harness for those unusual situations in which you need one and don't have one. Once again, learning to tie this harness should only be done under the supervision of a knowledgeable instructor !


First of all, it must be recognized that a hip or "body" belay is not necessarily your first choice for a belay and, in fact, it may often be your last choice. It is best used for low or medium force falls in non-vertical terrain. Having said that, it can be a good alternative when on straightforward terrain with good stances, as it can be applied rapidly. It is also an excellent techique for using in emergencies when you have no belay device. Wearing gloves is always a good idea when belaying. Always be sure you are snug against your anchor and your feet are firmly braced.

Keep the anchor, belayer and climber in a straight line so that you will not be pulled off your stance if a fall occurs. Keep the rope going to the anchor and the rope to the climber on the same side of your body so that a fall will not spin you out of the belay. At the same time try not to let the climbing rope rub against the anchor rope. Never let go of your braking hand. Practice this technique until you can apply it flawlessly. It is one belay that requires no equipment to apply and has held countless falls before the advent of mechanical belay devices.

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Copyright © 1998 Cyril Shokoples
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Last updated September 9, 1998