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Siebert Research - Must see informaton on the dangers of water knots and retiring gear


Original Post
Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,470

This guy is great. He does testing of knots, gear, and such in his own lab. He also demonstrates a very serious issue with how water knots in webbing can catch on an edge and open up, releasing the other threaded strand.

youtu.be/mXe-8GmS08k?list=P…

General information to know about slings.

youtu.be/FTiGHJRqsSc

Here is his testing and recommendations on the retirement of gear, a subject that comes up here frequently.

youtu.be/i3qXP4GWGd4?list=P…

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483

The 40 year old rope was an interesting one.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235

I kinda wonder about his credibility because of one small statement he makes multi times. He says it last forever... nothing will last forever. Alot of what he is saying is commmon sense leaving slings outside they will weaken very fast compared to ones that are never taken outside.

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,470
ViperScale wrote:I kinda wonder about his credibility because of one small statement he makes multi times. He says it last forever... nothing will last forever.
He's using a literary device known as hyperbole, but I wouldn't take that literally.
Alex Rogers · · Sydney, Australia · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 40

I also have my doubts about the scientific aspects - he is very loose with his language & broad with his assertions. Maybe because English is second language?

For example - are there really at least 20 documented cases of climbers dying because of failure of the water knot? IN the second video, he compares an industrial lifting sling with a climbing sling, and contrasts the climbing sling unfavourably stating it will break at its rated 22kN whereas the 2 tonne sling will probably break at twice that. It is not useful to compare Safe Working Load (the lifting sling) with rated strength (the climbing sling). And it is complete nonsense to say that because the lift sling does not have a "lifetime" in the manual that it is supposed to last forever. Its lifetime completely depends on the use it gets, must be determined by the users and legislated, regular safety inspection by qualified inspectors, and is ultimately limited by the national safety legislation and standards.

He states that age is no criteria for disposing of a sling - whereas manufacturers of slings recommend specifically retiring at various ages - but then at one stage in the video talks of a sling he tested to destruction at 19kN as being >10 years old and therefore should be thrown away. Then talks about how we know ropes last forever. WTF?

Alex Rogers · · Sydney, Australia · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 40
Stich wrote: He's using a literary device known as hyperbole, but I wouldn't take that literally.
Scientists (real ones) don't tend to use hyperbole much.
Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,470

Here is a recent case of a water knot failing. Perhaps you have already read it?

adventure-journal.com/2017/…

mtc · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 15

I read that article today after seeing a thread on the taco about it. It's sobering and I'll be OCD about checking any water knots in my kit from now on. I don't normally carry tied slings, but when I do they're 9/16" - the width that loosens easiest. Funny, I started climbing before sewn slings and we all knew to check the knots before every climb.

The article mentions a photo of Gary's sling before the accident and points out the knot was loose and one of the tails already being sucked into the knot. Bummer.

RandyLee · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5

The key is to check your knots and gear. If you check your knots, the water knot and many others are fine. If you don't check them, no gear is safe. Easy as that. The more you stay in the habit of checking your gear, the more likely you'll be do things right when you're in stressful or tired situations where things start to slip.

That said, the recent water knot failure involved a guide, and I don't know much about how mindsets change in guiding situations.

J Nieve K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 15
Alex Rogers wrote:I also have my doubts about the scientific aspects - he is very loose with his language & broad with his assertions. Maybe because English is second language?
In terms of knot safety I dont really understand why his language use matters, because it clearly shows that the knot can easily be untied by rubbing against an object. Doesnt exactly need to described in a super scientific way to get the message across.. And yeah Im sure his loose language is due to him not being a native english speaker, scientific jargon use can be difficult in different languages.
Alex Rogers · · Sydney, Australia · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 40
J Nieve K wrote: In terms of knot safety I dont really understand why his language use matters
It doesn't - it only matters if you claim to be a scientist. Posting videos with "Water knot = death knot" is not remotely close to scientific language, and even in laymans terms is sensationalist and inaccurate.
Alex Rogers · · Sydney, Australia · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 40
Stich wrote:Here is a recent case of a water knot failing. Perhaps you have already read it?
I have, with interest. Personally I don't have a single tied sling any more, as sewn slings are much safer and don't have a big knot clogging up the works. I do carry my chalkbag on a piece of webbing and carry a piece of spare webbing - and have happily tied and rapped off this on many occasions.

I am not dismissing the videos as content-free - there is some useful information about slings and webbing generally, and the failure mode shown is graphically illustrated. But it is sensationalist, and should be balanced against the 10's of thousands of people who have used slings tied with water knots for generations, without failure. We all know the knot can creep, should be tied with long tails, and checked every time. What is new here?
J Nieve K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 15
Alex Rogers wrote: It doesn't - it only matters if you claim to be a scientist. Posting videos with "Water knot = death knot" is not remotely close to scientific language, and even in laymans terms is sensationalist and inaccurate.
A self-claimed scientist isnt exactly required to post youtube videos under 'scientific language'.. If hes a real scientist who writes research papers he can stick his scientific language in his research papers, that kind of language isnt exactly needed or helpful for youtube videos which are usually made for 'non-scientific people'.

If you think water knot cannot result in fatalities in any way and think that people have died from it as a sole cause is inaccurate, it would probably be more helpful to post a reply to his videos or try send a direct message to him saying that his display of water knot dangers are misleading :) And maybe ask for links to his research papers if you want everything explained in scientific terms
Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Walter Seibert isn´t a "scientist", he´s a mountain guide who runs a team-building/motivation type of consultancy. We are familiar with him in the German speaking world!
Anyone who compares lifting sling life with that of climbing gear is bonkers, especially when he thinks they are made from the same material.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235
J Nieve K wrote: A self-claimed scientist isnt exactly required to post youtube videos under 'scientific language'.. If hes a real scientist who writes research papers he can stick his scientific language in his research papers, that kind of language isnt exactly needed or helpful for youtube videos which are usually made for 'non-scientific people'. If you think water knot cannot result in fatalities in any way and think that people have died from it as a sole cause is inaccurate, it would probably be more helpful to post a reply to his videos or try send a direct message to him saying that his display of water knot dangers are misleading :) And maybe ask for links to his research papers if you want everything explained in scientific terms
You can die from anything. This is rock climbing it isn't safe. I know someone who lost a finger and almost bleed to death on the side of the crag because of a freak accident when he fell and the quick draw biner caught him in the wrist and ripped off his finger.

So should we stop using quick draws because they are dangerous and can cut off fingers?

I don't think anyone will disagree that a professional sewn sling is better than any knot that exist. I have used slings tied together for different reasons over the years and they have not killed me yet. I have tied ropes together over the years for rappelling and it has not killed me yet (even though those knots sometimes fail if done wrong).

Going back to the water knot. In his video he unties a water knot using a rock instead of his finger. Why is this surprising? In fact this is how I normally untie a water knot, I get a flat object like a butter knife and pop it apart. I bet I could take a figure eight and a rock and untie it the same way (given it would take a bit more work but still). I am not saying that it can't happen outdoors but acting like it is so simple to untie a water knot is just crazy and unrealistic.
john strand · · southern colo · Joined May 2008 · Points: 1,640

I'm with viper-----if water knots are so deadly, everyone over the age of 40 here would be dead.

Locker · · Yucca Valley, CA · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 2,265

Bottom line.

Always check your knots!

Robert Hall · · North Conway, NH · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 12,396

I kinda agree with John...we all used slings tied with water knots, and in the pre-harness days even tied swami-belts with water knots.

That being said...I should have been dead. While aid climbing over an overhang and calling for tension I just had to keep calling for it...belayer asleep?? No, water knot was slowly untieing on my swami!!! That was 40+ years ago and it wasn't until I saw this video that I knew why (knot must have rubbed against the sharp OH edge!). Harnesses came in shortly thereafter and I didn't have to worry about it any more...

But, videos like those posted provide information. Regardless of how much you agree/believe what is said, the video shown is a fact. The more info and facts we have as climbers the safer we are...or at least can be.

john strand · · southern colo · Joined May 2008 · Points: 1,640

Well the facts must be variable... a water knot is perfectly safe when done right,,, just like any other knot. I got a rigid Friend , tied with a water knot and I never extend the sling ? safe IMO and that's that...I'll take experience over a video

Just Solo · · Colorado Springs · Joined Nov 2003 · Points: 80

Breakout the tried and true FOTH and it discusses water knots at length and highly recommends a backup OHK or plenty of tail for all of the above reasons. I don't use water knots much these days, but used them ALL the time in my young days.

J Nieve K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 15
ViperScale wrote: You can die from anything. This is rock climbing it isn't safe. I know someone who lost a finger and almost bleed to death on the side of the crag because of a freak accident when he fell and the quick draw biner caught him in the wrist and ripped off his finger. So should we stop using quick draws because they are dangerous and can cut off fingers? I don't think anyone will disagree that a professional sewn sling is better than any knot that exist. I have used slings tied together for different reasons over the years and they have not killed me yet. I have tied ropes together over the years for rappelling and it has not killed me yet (even though those knots sometimes fail if done wrong). Going back to the water knot. In his video he unties a water knot using a rock instead of his finger. Why is this surprising? In fact this is how I normally untie a water knot, I get a flat object like a butter knife and pop it apart. I bet I could take a figure eight and a rock and untie it the same way (given it would take a bit more work but still). I am not saying that it can't happen outdoors but acting like it is so simple to untie a water knot is just crazy and unrealistic.
Of course climbing is inherently a dangerous sport which can easily result in fatality. But the problem here is that people seem to be saying 'water knots are completely safe in all situations' even though the video shows a potential failure, along with some others posting accidents caused by water knots. What Im trying to say is, regardless of how frequently water knots might or might not fail, it CAN definitely happen, so this is good information to keep in mind. Same with quickdraws- if more people keep in mind the fact that sticking your finger in the gate while clipping and falling can result in a sliced off finger, more people will be careful not to do it. In this case, if more people see the potential dangers of the water knot failing with - short tails & no safety knots, that many people will make sure their water knots are safer. Its not about how 'simple' it is to untie a knot- its about educating people that it is 'possible' so that more people are aware of it.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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