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Tie in knots


curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 53
ViperScale . wrote:

Anything you do can be done wrong. However how many figure 8s are tied every year compared to how many are screwed up.. compare that to how many bowlines are tied vs screwed up. Even if there was 5 deaths from both knots every year the ratio would put 8s much safer than the bowline due to the number who tie in with each.

the point im trying to make is there are many options for tie in knots, but none of them matter if they are not tied properly, dressed, set and inspected.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 526

I couldn't care less what knot people use.  But the bowline hysteria is absurd, and riddled with what is now called fake news.  Shame on Duane Raleigh for promoting such nonsense!  I've never heard of an accident in which it could be verified that a bowline with finishing knot failed.  Not one---please correct me with links.  Every reference I've seen involved a known failure to tie the knot at all (this is the case in the frequently-referenced John Long and Lynne Hill accidents) or could not, after the fact, be distinguished from that possibility.  (The second instance is illustrated by a gym fatality in the UK in which the coroner's report concluded that since there was no figure-eigtht left on the untied rope, the knot must have been a bowline that untied or was "mistied."  Somehow, by far the most likely possibility, that that the rope had been threaded through the tie-in points and then distraction caused no knot at all to be tied, completely escaped the investigators.)

Here are some actual facts.

1. It is impossible to tie the basic bowline incorrectly in a way that leads to a dangerous situation.  There are sixteen ways to execute the "rabbit comes out of the hole goes around the bush, and goes back in the hole" instruction. (Two ways to form the hole) X (two ways to pass the end through the hole) X (two possible bushes to encircle) X ( two ways to encircle the bush).  You either get a standard bowline, or one of four other outcomes:  (a) no knot ever forms, (b) you tie a cowboy bowline, or, somewhat implausibly,  (c) you tie a left or right-handed Eskimo bowline.  The cowboy and Eskimo bowlines  are arguably better than the usual bowline when it comes to resistance to untying and ring-loading.  In no case does something dangerous result, so the idea that incorrectly tying a bowline might lead to a configuration that fails when loaded is without merit.

2. A bowline  in dynamic climbing rope without some kind of finishing knot  is subject to loosening and will not withstand ring loading, so it isn't a knot for any climbing application.  When the word "bowline" is used in a climbing context, it means "bowline with finishing knot" period.  So if your partner claims to be tying a bowlne and you feel obliged to check it, in view of Item 1 what you have to check is that (a) there is some kind of knot there and (b) a finishing knot is in place.

3. Ok, ok, there is a potential problem with the Yosemite finish to the bowline. (The Yosemite finish isn't a finishing knot however.)  The problem occurs if the Yosemite finishing loop is allowed to slip under the bowline nipping loop (the original hole in the rabbit instructions).  It is difficult to make this happen during normal tying, you have to keep everything loose.  I used a Yosemite finish for 30+ years without ever interchanging those loops.  However, the knot that results if the loops are interchanged is not a bowline.  Jim Titt tested it and stopped at 6 kN because that was all he was set up for. (Edit: the old rope he was using broke.  A subsequent test got up to 9.4 kN, and an ordinary bowline failed at 7.9 kN, so the "problematic" Yosemite finish appears to be stronger than an ordinary bowline.) Nonetheless, it is something to understand and avoid, as we know rather little beyond Jim's test about the resulting knot's properties.

The rethreaded bowline (which is a bowline on a bight but tied rethreaded so as to go through the tie-in points) is probably the best general-purpose tie-in knot.  However, if you use double ropes, you have to live with the bulk of four loops through your tie-in points, and everyone I've encountered opts for something else in that case.

Once  again, I'm not trying to convince anyone to change knots, just trying to push back against some of the nonsense that constitutes the vast majority of bowline objections.

Tyler Newcomb · · Burlington · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 86
rgold wrote: I couldn't care less what knot people use.  But the bowline hysteria is absurd, and riddled with what is now called fake news.  Shame on Duane Raleigh for promoting such nonsense.  I've never heard of an accident in which it could be verified that bowline with finishing knot failed.  Not one---please correct me with links.  Every reference I've seen involved a known failure to tie the knot at all (this is the case in the frequently-referenced John Long and Lynne Hill accidents) or could not, after the fact, be distinguished from that possibility.  (The second instance is illustrated by a gym fatality in the UK in which the coroner's report concluded that since there was no figure-eigtht left on the untied rope, the knot must have been a bowline that untied or was "mistied."  Somehow, by far the most likely possibility, that that the rope had been threaded through the tie-in points and then distraction caused no knot at all to be tied, completely escaped the investigators.)

Here are some actual facts.

1. It is impossible to tie the basic bowline incorrectly in a way that leads to a dangerous situation.  There are eight ways to execute the "rabbit comes out of the hole goes around the bush, and goes back in the hole" instruction. (Two ways to form the hole) X (two ways to pass the end through the hole) X (two possible bushes to encircle).  You either get a standard bowline, or one of three other outcomes:  (a) no knot ever forms, (b) you tie a cowboy bowline, or, somewhat implausibly,  (c) you tie an Eskimo bowline.  The cowboy and Eskimo bowlines  are arguably better than the usual bowline when it comes to resistance to untying and ring-loading.  In no case does something dangerous result.

2. A bowline  in dynamic climbing rope without some kind of finishing knot  is subject to loosening and will not withstand ring loading, so it isn't a knot for any climbing application.  When the word "bowline" is used in a climbing context, it means "bowline with finishing knot" period.  So if your partner claims to be tying a bowlne and you feel obliged to check it, in view of Item 1 what you have to check is that (a) there is some kind of knot there and (b) a finishing knot is in place.

3. Ok, ok, there is a potential problem with the Yosemite finish to the bowline. (The Yosemite finish isn't a finishing knot however.)  The problem occurs if the Yosemite finishing loop is allowed to slip under the bowline nipping loop (the original hole in the rabbit instructions).  It is difficult to make this happen during normal tying, you have to keep everything loose.  I used a Yosemite finish for 30+ years without ever interchanging those loops.  However, the knot that results if the loops are interchanged is not a bowline.  Jim Titt tested it and stopped at 6 kN because that was all he was set up for. Nonetheless, it is something to understand and avoid, as we know almost nothing about the resulting knot's properties.

Once  again, I'm not trying to convince anyone to change knots, just trying to push back against the nonsense that constitutes the vast majority of bowline objections.

Lots of interesting points, thanks. 

I'm curious what finishing knot you are referring to and how you tie it. What's the purpose?
rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 526

The barrel knot (i.e. 1/2 of double fishermans) is the usual finishing knot, tied around the tie-in loop.  A lot of climbers prefer a double bowline (hole the rabbit goes through formed with two turns of rope rather than one).

David K · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 144

If the bowline is too complicated, climbing may not be the sport for you.

On an average climb, I:

  • Build an anchor that equalizes three pieces of trad gear.
  • Set up an extended rappel.
Both of these are far more complicated than tying in with a bowline, even the double bowline with a finishing knot.
Tyler Newcomb · · Burlington · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 86
David Kerkeslager wrote: If the bowline is too complicated, climbing may not be the sport for you.

I can certainly agree with that.

I tend to be in the camp that you should have many knots in your arsenal for each use, and az a result I end up having to teach people knots that they should probably know. Like an alpine butterfly to a multipitch trad climber. 
Brian · · North Kingstown, RI · Joined Sep 2001 · Points: 720
David Kerkeslager wrote: If the bowline is too complicated, climbing may not be the sport for you.

I guess it is too complicated for Lynn Hill and John Long.  They should probably quit climbing.  It is not that it is an unsafe knot once tied correctly.  It is just easier to screw up than a Figure 8 which is so easily identifiable.  That's why many gyms don't allow it.  

Abram Herman · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined May 2009 · Points: 20
Brian wrote:

I guess it is too complicated for Lynn Hill and John Long.  They should probably quit climbing.  It is not that it is an unsafe knot once tied correctly.  It is just easier to screw up than a Figure 8 which is so easily identifiable.  That's why many gyms don't allow it.  

Failure to finish a knot is different than not knowing how to tie it. Neither of them finished the knot because they got distracted during the tying process; I'm sure they both knew how to tie the knot.

Many gyms don't allow the bowline because gym employees are often inexperienced, and therefore don't know how to tie or check a bowline.
rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 526
Brian wrote:

I guess it is too complicated for Lynn Hill and John Long.  They should probably quit climbing.  It is not that it is an unsafe knot once tied correctly.  It is just easier to screw up than a Figure 8 which is so easily identifiable.  That's why many gyms don't allow it.  

Still in the fake news business in spite of all the explanations to the contrary?  Here's a direct quote from John Long:  “A lot of people are down on the bowline, but the same thing would have happened with a trace-8. I just wasn’t paying attention.”  And from Lynne Hill, "I went out climbing with my husband, and I got distracted when I was tying my knot, I went to get my shoes which were about 20 feet away, and I was talking to a visiting climber, and forgot that I didn't finish my knot."

F loyd · · Kennewick, WA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 361

Exactly, americanalpineclub.org is riddled with incidents of people not completing their tie in or failing to tie the knot right. One guy did an 8 and followed it through without putting the rope through the tie in points!! It was just tucked through his belay loop, just tossed the tied knot through the loop..

Brian · · North Kingstown, RI · Joined Sep 2001 · Points: 720
rgold wrote:

Still in the fake news business in spite of all the explanations to the contrary?  Here's a direct quote from John Long:  “A lot of people are down on the bowline, but the same thing would have happened with a trace-8. I just wasn’t paying attention.”

Would you concede that it is an easier knot to screw up than a Figure 8 especially for all but experienced climbers?

FosterK · · Edmonton, AB · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 44
rgold wrote: The barrel knot (i.e. 1/2 of double fishermans) is the usual finishing knot, tied around the tie-in loop.  A lot of climbers prefer a double bowline (hole the rabbit goes through formed with two turns of rope rather than one).

Is there an explanation for climber's preferring a double bowline (i.e. two turns)? I'm not sure what it adds to the equation.

Pete Spri · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 291
Brian wrote:

Would you concede that it is an easier knot to screw up than a Figure 8 especially for all but experienced climbers?

He already admitted that with the above with the multiparagraph post.  There are more permutations that can happen with a bowline than with an 8 resulting in a bowlin that can fail. And an 8 will always be simpler to check.

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490
Pete Spri wrote:

He already admitted that with the above with the multiparagraph post.  There are more permutations that can happen with a bowline than with an 8 resulting in a bowlin that can fail. And an 8 will always be simpler to check.

Why don´t you either actually read what was written or study bowlines more? The permutations of tying a bowline either give a variation (most of which are better and none more likely to fail) OR no knot at all. As far as is known there is no way of tying an "unsafe" bowline.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 526

I don't know which knot is easier to "screw up."  I've already suggested that you either get nothing or an acceptable knot if you tie a bowline, and you certainly get nothing if you stop tying prematurely.  The figure 8, on the other hand, can be partially retraced.  It will sit on the harness in that condition but may not hold a fall (depending on the amount of retracing completed).  So although I'm not at all sure one can make a meaningful comparison, I'd say the figure 8 is more susceptible to being "screwed up" than a bowline and have the problem go unnoticed.

Lynne Hill might be an example.  She didn't finish tying her knot, yet it stayed on her harness until she got to the chains.  It doesn't seem to be clear whether she had tied a figure 8 or a bowline, but I can't picture any way to not finish tying a bowline and have it stay on your harness while you climb 70 feet, so my guess is she was a victim of a partially-retraced figure 8.

Brian · · North Kingstown, RI · Joined Sep 2001 · Points: 720
rgold wrote: I don't know which knot is easier to "screw up."  I've already suggested that you either get nothing or an acceptable knot if you tie a bowline, and you certainly get nothing if you stop tying prematurely.  The figure 8, on the other hand, can be partially retraced.  It will sit on the harness in that condition but may not hold a fall (depending on the amount of retracing completed).  So although I'm not at all sure one can make a meaningful comparison, I'd say the figure 8 is more susceptible to being "screwed up" than a bowline and have the problem go unnoticed.

Lynne Hill might be an example.  She didn't finish tying her knot, yet it stayed on her harness until she got to the chains.  It doesn't seem to be clear whether she had tied a figure 8 or a bowline, but I can't picture any way to not finish tying a bowline and have it stay on your harness while you climb 70 feet, so my guess is she was a victim of a partially-retraced figure 8.

She wrote in her autobiography that it was a bowline.  I guess she would know more than us.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 526

Fair enough.  I don't have the book but have seen both knots mentioned in accounts of her accident in other places.

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Edit: Confirmation of Brian's claim from a SuperTopo post by Mal Daly (I've left my subsequent comment unchanged, even though it duplicates Mal's.)

"In a message up thread a few people thought that Lynn Hill had begun to tie in with a figure eight. This is incorrect. In a conversation I had with her a couple of months, we were discussing the "re-threaded" bowline and I asked her about her accident.

The key to Lynn's accident was that there was no knot. She was going to tie a bowline and had threaded the rope through the tie-in loops when she was distracted. When she started climbing the rope was simply threaded through the tie-ins. When I asked he if she thought she would have had that accident if she had been using a fig-8 she thought perhaps not. She thinks that if she had been using a fig-8 that she or her partner may have seen the unthreaded first knot hanging below her jacket and been warned."
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Then the most likely thing is that the rope was just draped through her harness tie-in points and stayed there if she started on a bowline but didn't finish.  It doesn't really matter, as the point is that the knot was unfinished, and  my answer stands, it is more likely for an unfinished a figure eight to go unnoticed as it gives the appearance of being a knot when it isn't.  That's probably the source of knot buddy checks; they were less necessary when everyone used bowlines.  It also suggests that the logic of the claim that bowlines are harder to check is inverted, as the bowline is in much less need of checking.

This is all a distraction, since I believe the only reason for any tie-in failure accident is that a knot was never tied at all or the climber paused while tying it and never finished.  It isn't because the knot was tied "wrong" and then failed, and with that observation, all the silly claims about it being easy to "screw up" a bowline go out the window.  Incomplete knot failures are attention issues, not  knot issues, and pretending that the bowline is at some kind of mystical disadvantage in this regard doesn't stand up to any kind of inspection.

I feel the need to once again assert that I am not arguing that anyone should use any knot other than the one they are comfortable with and can tie competently.  Just lay off the bowline hysteria already and make a rational choice if indeed you feel any need to make a choice.

Abdullah Mourad · · Elk Grove, CA · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0
Brian wrote:

Would you concede that it is an easier knot to screw up than a Figure 8 especially for all but experienced climbers?

I don't agree with this at all. I don't consider myself an "experienced climber" but I wouldn't hesitate for a second to use a bowline, because I learned how to tie it and I pay attention when I tie in. Conversely, I may trip over a curb when I'm walking if I'm not paying attention.

I think the reality is that gyms choose the retraced figure 8 because it is a lot easier to say "check for 5 parallel lines". As for the "simplicity" of the retraced figure 8, I've seen many a n00b struggle repeatedly to tie the initial 8 properly. Any new knot you learn will take practice to tie confidently, comfortably and correctly.

Similarly, it is easier to say tie a stopper knot (for a retraced 8) rather than say "make sure you have enough tail" since "enough tail" requires a judgement call, whereas if you can tie a knot with the tail then you have enough.
David K · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 144
Brian wrote:

Would you concede that it is an easier knot to screw up than a Figure 8 especially for all but experienced climbers?

There's not a number of years of climbing where suddenly you can tie the bowline and never screw it up. Either you learn how to tie/finish/check the bowline and are meticulous about doing so, or don't and you're not. The same applies to the figure 8. The same applies to every knot, ever.

EDIT: Toned down the sarcasm a bit.
F loyd · · Kennewick, WA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 361

I just clove hitch my belay loop and send it. Only folks that fall worry about correct knots and protection holding..

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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