Climbing 101: How to tie a single bowline, double bowline and figure-eight knot.
Knots are the mainstay of a climbers life. It is what keeps you attached to the sharp end, and when tied improperly they can make for a very bad day. So, let’s review our three favorite tie-in knots so you can help your buddy out at the crag.
The Single Bowline
This knot tends to make the news in a bad way. The single bowline is popular among the super elites of our sport. It is small and light, and remains easy to untie even after you take repeated giant whippers onto it or just spend over an hour hang-doggin’ that project. We occasionally use this knot on overhung sport routes (such as at Rifle, where it seems this is every climbers knot of choice), but since learning the double bowline we have pretty much abandoned it. This knot has a bad rap because when climbers tie it without sufficient tail or a finishing knot, it is prone to coming untied upon initial loading. If you are doing a mutli-pitch or trad route where your knot is likely to be rubbed a lot, this is not the knot to use! If you cannot tie a finishing knot with your rope end, retie the knot.
The Double Bowline
This is my sport climbing knot of choice. On occasion, I use this knot on single pitch trad or hard multi-pitch sport. From our time living in Europe, we observed this was the knot of choice for climbing gyms, sport climbing, and for anything single pitch. This is a fully functional knot once it is partially tied! It is actually two full load bearing knots when tied. It is easy to visually check, like the eight (see video), but easier to untie after large or repeated falls. I tend to tie a finishing knot with the tail which produces triple redundancy and made some German friends laugh at me. This is a more lose knot, like the single bowline, so on climbs where your knot will encounter a lot of movement or abrasion, it risks starting to become undone.
The Eight Trace Knot (Figure Eight Follow Through)
This is the knot most of us grew up on. It is easy to teach and to check, which is why most North American gyms mandate its use. We use eight knots on almost all mutli-pitch and trad climbs as it is one of the most difficult knots to untie. The eight knot is the knot to tie if you want to tie in and forget about it, because movement, abrasion, and rubbing are unlikely to untie you from your safety line.
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Editor’s Note: Technical climbing is inherently dangerous. We strongly recommend that every climber seek instruction by a qualified professional. You are responsible for your own actions and decisions.