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Figure 8's partially untying themselves
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Dec 31, 2013
Mishap Report [Figure 8 knots undoubling themselves partially]

After recently reading about Lynn Hill decking from not having tied her knot and constantly going on about such things I found myself at the top of 5 pitches of ice [quebec, great white north] with not 1 but 2 half untied figure eights - as in they were no longer fully doubled back. WTF thought I.

I was gonna keep this dirty secret between myself and my partner but I really wanted to know whether this has happened to others ... and I'm a big believer in mishap reporting. I suspect the corrective action list might be longer after respondees begin the attacks :]

Facts :
Photographic evidence [below] shows that at least as far as the last pitch at least 1 of them had remained fully doubled back.
We were climbing on doubles in sunny -10/-15 weather on WI3+ ice.

My analysis :
- all that junk at the belay loop makes for lots of pushing about near the belay loop - especially with those little tails.
- ice / cold = lube
- hadn't rechecked those knots since leaving the deck [had checked on deck]

Planned corrective actions :
- keep as little 'junk' on belay loop as possible
- use even longer tails and you know how they say that little tie off knot w/the tail doesn't 'do anything', I'm gonna start using it, obviously it would have either completely prevented or helped prevent this situation
- be more paranoid on ice because ice + cold = lube
- recheck that s@#$t at least every 2/3 pitches because lots of s@#$t goes down when you are going up, hiking around, bushwacking, etc ... - REcheck your partner too

Feedback welcome, be safe and Happy New Year everyone!

Rock Climbing Photo: at last pitch belay ledge
at last pitch belay ledge
Joined Dec 31, 2013
0 points
Dec 31, 2013
The blue/green rope knot does not have enough tail. Can't see the other one well enough to comment.

I was taught that the standard operating procedure is a doubled-back figure-8 eight a double fisherman's knot as a backup. Always use that and you won't have this problem.
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Nov 16, 2007
0 points
Dec 31, 2013
There appears to be plenty of tail. 6 inches is all you need (that's what she said?!). Are they new ropes? Brand? Some stiff or new ropes tend to want to loosen themselve. I would recommend lingers tails with these ropes or a Yosemite finish. Also constantly be checking yourself and your partner. I myself had a Lynn hill moment after cleaning an anchor and didn't notice till I was on the ground and untying. Lucky for me the rope held and I got down safe with it only half tied. I thing these situations happen far more than people are willing to admit. Thanks for the post and stay safe. Ian Cavanaugh
Joined Sep 6, 2010
575 points
Dec 31, 2013
I had a knot come 1/3 untied on me once, ice climbing, at least a foot of tail, Yosemite/fig-9 finish. Brand new rope, and I was suspicious of it, so I was on the lookout already. But still, happened within a half a pitch.

Add to your list:
-- Pretension the knot.
Joined Apr 3, 2007
858 points
Dec 31, 2013
The knot on the red rope has only untied one step of the knot, it is essentially still full strength as that final part of the knot is mainly a finishing step, doesn't play a structural role in the event the knot is tightened. Jon Rhoderick
Joined Jul 21, 2009
540 points
Dec 31, 2013
JSH wrote:
I had a knot come 1/3 untied on me once, ice climbing, at least a foot of tail, Yosemite/fig-9 finish. Brand new rope, and I was suspicious of it, so I was on the lookout already. But still, happened within a half a pitch. Add to your list: -- Pretension the knot.

Learning how to properly pretension, its important that ones does this for each individual strand. And ya kinda silly not using a finishing knot honestly. To me it looks like stiff ropes combined with not tying the knot properly (tension & the standard backup).
The Pheonix
Joined Apr 23, 2013
0 points
Dec 31, 2013
The green rope's knot looks OK but I would have lfet enough tail for a back up, but the Red rope looks like the knot was not tied tight enough. With out knowing the particulars of how you tied in, My best guess is that you tied in and simply forgot to cinch the knot.
After tying in I always try to pick myself up by the rope and set that knot in well. I have yet to have a fig 8 come undone.
Jeff J
From Bozeman
Joined Sep 15, 2010
70 points
Dec 31, 2013
It sounds like you aren't anchoring with your rope. Just the act of weighting it at every belay would have kept it tight. I typically use 3-4" of tail and tuck it back. Double fisherman "safety knots" are gumby detectors and nothing more. highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion
From Colorado
Joined Oct 29, 2012
0 points
Dec 31, 2013
JSH wrote:
Add to your list: -- Pretension the knot.

This is your problem, and I would agree that a (Yosemite) finish on the knot is prudent.
Ryan Kempf
From Boulder, CO
Joined Jul 26, 2011
100 points
Dec 31, 2013
^ +1 more ERolls
From Custer, SD
Joined Jun 29, 2006
40 points
Dec 31, 2013
As with your own recommendation, I would be more vigilant in rechecking/resetting the knots at the belay stations.

I basically pulled a lynn hill one day on the redgarden, didn't even notice until we were leaving. I checked my partner, but we started shooting the bull, and I just took off climbing, stupid.
Buff Johnson
Joined Dec 19, 2005
545 points
Dec 31, 2013
Hard to tell whats going on in that picture. I'd have to agree with your assessment that cleaning up your tie in area would help.

I think the question about how your tieing into your anchors is a good one. Using your rope not only has the added benefit of helping to snug up your knot on every pitch but is far superior to any sling/daisy chain/personal anchor out there.

While the situation is far from ideal John R is correct. A figure-8 that is missing that last step has been tested over and over again. It still holds just fine. Do some searching on it and you'll find plenty to read.

6 inches of tail on a snugged up figure-8 is all you need. Any extra safety/backup knot is just using extra rope and adding to the junk show. I realize there are lots of people out there who like using them and that's fine but they are definitely not "standard". Far from it.
For example: here is a fun little video that Petzl put out.

No "safety" knot in sight.
From Seattle, WA
Joined Aug 5, 2009
0 points
Dec 31, 2013
There is concern that the "Yosemite finish" weakens the figure-8 rethread if the loop of the rope is used as an attachment to the anchor.

From Loveland, Colorado
Joined May 2, 2002
515 points
Jan 1, 2014
make sure the knot it nice and neat and tighten each strand ... and you generally dont need a stopper ... about 6" of tail as mentioned

if the rope is very stiff then you might want a longer tail ... and if belaying off a rope loop then a stopper might be warranted

untidy fig 8s are a biatch to untie when you whip ... tidy ones are fairly easy

loose fig 8s can get a strand caught on gear and pull out partially

Joined Mar 1, 2009
25 points
Jan 1, 2014
So I thoroughly enjoyed that Petzl video. One thing stands out - orange ice screws! Anodized aluminum tubes with steel tips apparently. There was a non-major supplier (I wanna say e-climb) selling these a couple years ago but I don't think they made any real market penetration. Is Petzl offering these screws in the US? Gunkiemike
Joined Jul 29, 2009
1,725 points
Jan 1, 2014
1. Tie a clean knot
2. Dress the knot
3. Set each strand separately

Once I started doing that it eliminated the problem even with a shorter tail (3")

Irata/Sprat training (rope access) had some pretty crazy numbers when they tested poorly dressed & Unset knots as opposed to a "correct" setup.
Joined Dec 7, 2011
0 points
Jan 3, 2014
Never had any problems, even with fairly short tails (4 inch). Cinch the knot down and the whole thing stays tight.

Stopper knots are totally unnecessary if you get the first knot right.
Joined Jul 9, 2012
0 points

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