Euro Death Knot, Flat Overhand, Barrel Knot evolution


Original Post
topher donahue · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 125

UPDATE:In follow up to my earlier post, my research has revealed that I am, happily, wrong about the flat overhand.

I made a mistake in my recent book, Advanced Rock Climbing: Expert Skills and Techniques and propagated the mistake in my recent post on the flat overhand (AKA, wrongly, the Euro Death Knot). At the time of publication, I received information from a reliable source that led me to believe that the knot should not be used.

As it turns out, the change in recommendation is not in the overall trustworthiness of the knot, but in how it should be used. I talked to an Austrian guide who clarified the situation nicely, as well as explained the fatal accident involving the overhand knot.

The bad news, is that the knot tying the ends of the two rappel ropes together did fail (when tied incompletely), resulting in an accident.
The good news, for those of us who have trusted our lives to the flat overhand, is that the investigation that followed revealed that the knot that failed had not been completely tied, so the accident was a result of human error in the tying of the knot, and was not due to the failure of a correctly tied flat overhand knot.

Please see my updated post explaining what I have learned about the best practices and limitations of the flat overhand knot:
http://topherdonahue.com/blog/2016/12/7/barrel-knot-for-tying-rappel-ropes-together

OP Here:
My book, Advanced Rock Climbing: Expert Skills and Techniques, just hit the shelves. In it I interviewed 15 superstar guides and climbers to get the most cutting-edge perspective on climbing technique. Among these are best practices for using progress capture devices, simul-climbing, a liberated view on the belay, and more.

Out of 350-pages of sometimes out-of-the-box discussion on technique, the biggest point of contention and confusion (at least so far) is my recommendation that the flat overhand (sometimes called the Euro Death Knot) should not be used for tying two ropes together for rappel, and instead a double strand version of the barrel knot is the best choice with all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of the flat overhand.

I know the flat overhand/rappel knot discussion has been beaten to death on the forums before, but because of the confusion I created with my coverage of the topic in my new book I felt the need to further explain the reason for my strong stance. To this end, I have written a blog post explaining how a recent death during a guides exam (when the flat overhand failed) is changing how guiding certification organizations are instructing guides to tie rappel ropes together. Please see the full article here:
http://topherdonahue.com/blog/2016/12/7/barrel-knot-for-tying-rappel-ropes-together

Barrel Knot - works just like a flat overhand, but safer

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15

I predict ten pages, mostly repeating everything that has been said before.

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 200

Where were you when I asked this question?

Tim Cooney · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 98

How do you feel about the figure 8 bend (also called the flemish bend)? So both ends come together to make a figure 8 follow-through? I use it almost exclusively and I know a lot of people get it confused with the flat 8 which is not good for this purpose.

nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 204

You have any data for this knot? Pull tests, rope diameters, wet/dry, etc

Edit: Directed at topher, regarding the barrel knot (flat double overhand)

Tim Cooney · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 98
Nathanael wrote:You have any data for this knot? Pull tests, rope diameters, wet/dry, etc
No hard data on strength or anything, was hoping someone might have that. In this R&I article, they claim the figure-8 bend is more reliable than an EDK. I figure if I tie myself in with a figure-8 follow-through, then that's the best knot I can use to trust my body load on.
nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 204
Tim Cooney wrote: No hard data on strength or anything, was hoping someone might have that. In this R&I article, they claim the figure-8 bend is more reliable than an EDK. I figure if I tie myself in with a figure-8 follow-through, then that's the best knot I can use to trust my body load on.
Sorry meant to direct that towards Topher regarding the barrel knot. The fig-8 bend is certainly strong enough, but unlike the other knots in the discussion it is not "flat", meaning it is more likely to get stuck when pulled over edges. The R&I articles are pretty poor attempts at addressing this topic (you can find discussion of this elsewhere), I would not put much stock in them.
topher donahue · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 125
Nathanael wrote:You have any data for this knot? Pull tests, rope diameters, wet/dry, etc Edit: Directed at topher, regarding the barrel knot (flat double overhand)

Nathanael, I don't have data for the knot, but it is being taught as a replacement for the flat overhand by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.
topher donahue · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 125
Tim Cooney wrote:How do you feel about the figure 8 bend (also called the flemish bend)? So both ends come together to make a figure 8 follow-through? I use it almost exclusively and I know a lot of people get it confused with the flat 8 which is not good for this purpose.
That's a bomber knot, but as was pointed out above, doesn't have a "flat" side, so is more likely to jam when pulling over edges.
topher donahue · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 125

To be clear, this post and my blog addressing the issue is not intended to rehash the question of what knot is better, but to point out that the flat overhand for rappel use is likely going the way of the standard bowline for tie in purposes - it works, but it isn't the best choice for most people, most of the time.

jleining · · CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 8

I read your article, and without any data it is pretty unconvincing. You have numerous duplicative statements that are not backed up by anything other than opinion.

I echo Nathanael's comments regarding pull test results... I would like to see that!

Also, can you provide further information regarding the accident of the Austrian you reference?

nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 204
topher donahue wrote:To be clear, this post and my blog addressing the issue is not intended to rehash the question of what knot is better, but to point out that the flat overhand for rappel use is likely going the way of the standard bowline for tie in purposes - it works, but it isn't the best choice for most people, most of the time.
I mean that's exactly the question you're rehashing... you can't say the flat overhand is outdated without a suitable replacement. And you can't publish a book claiming that the barrel knot is "without the finicky nature and tendency to fail" [compared to flat overhand] and that "the barrel knot is safer" [compared to the flat overhand] without any actual evidence.
Sam Stephens · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 740

Ooooo I like that. Love the flat overhand but it's always in the back of my mind. That looks pretty bomber.

jleining · · CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 8
Nathanael wrote: I mean that's exactly the question you're rehashing... you can't say the flat overhand is outdated without a suitable replacement. And you can't publish a book claiming that the barrel knot is "without the finicky nature and tendency to fail" [compared to flat overhand] and that "the barrel knot is safer" [compared to the flat overhand] without any actual evidence.
BINGO!!! +10
Chuck Becker · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 10
topher donahue wrote: Nathanael, I don't have data for the knot, but it is being taught as a replacement for the flat overhand by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.
You seem to discredit guide associations by saying what they've taught for extended periods in the past - bowline tie-in, etc - isn't actually the best practice, and then use the ACMG as your only argument for why the barrel knot should be used over the EDK.

As others have stated, this claim should be backed up by test data
nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 204
Sam Stephens wrote:Ooooo I like that. Love the flat overhand but it's always in the back of my mind. That looks pretty bomber.
I mean the flat figure 8 "looks pretty bomber" if you don't know better. And some people who didn't know any better died because of it.

I'm not saying the barrel knot is unsafe, my guess is it's about the same as a flat overhand. But I don't see how you could go around proselytising for it without any data.
Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0

This knot could be a reasonable knot for joining rappel ropes, though I will withhold judgment on that pending actual testing.

Even so, that is a far cry from "this knot needs to completely replace the flat overhand" that you are lobbying pretty hard for.

You claim it has "all of the advantages and none of the disadvantages" of the flat overhand. We don't really know that until we see some pull-test data, but what can be easily seen right now is that this knot is both bulkier and more difficult to visually inspect than the flat overhand. The disadvantages of the flat overhand are that it needs to be tied correctly... do you really know how forgiving this barrel knot is of incorrect tying? Any knot can fail if you tie it wrong.

You obviously feel strongly about this knot, but you will likely have a more receptive audience if you just present the knot, pros and cons, and present the safety data to go with it, and let people decide for themselves. Your railing against the flat overhand, and presenting your "cutting edge" book as a source to back up your own claim, are a bit off-putting.... but you really lost me when you used dental floss to make your argument.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

The europeans have done extensive testing on the flat over hand, the flat fishermans, and a new knot called the flat fish sandwich. Unfortunately BB isn't around to dig up the source because I'm too lazy. The flat fishermans, the knot in question, has a failure mode, but it's pretty far fetched and the probability of the failure mode is so small it's not worth worrying about. The flat overhand works, and works well at that. I will continue to use it because it's simple, well known, and work well.

Cor · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 930

following...

topher donahue · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 125

Ok, points taken. I'll find the data on the knot and repost.

nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 204
eli poss wrote:The europeans have done extensive testing on the flat over hand, the flat fishermans, and a new knot called the flat fish sandwich. Unfortunately BB isn't around to dig up the source because I'm too lazy. The flat fishermans, the knot in question, has a failure mode, but it's pretty far fetched and the probability of the failure mode is so small it's not worth worrying about. The flat overhand works, and works well at that. I will continue to use it because it's simple, well known, and work well.
You're right for the most part, with relevant links here: people.bath.ac.uk/dac33/hig... and gudelius.de/spst.htm

But the flat fishermans is not the knot in question. The barrel knot is different, it's closer to a flat overhand than a flat fishermans (aka big flat fish).
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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