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Yosemite National Park - Merced River
Knots - are an extremely important part of climbing and mountaineering. No climber could be complete or safe without some basic knowledge of knots. On this page, I will show you what I believe to be some of the most important knots that you need to be familiar with.

There are multitudes of knots that can be tied, and if you knew them all you would be not only set for climbing, but also to tie off a clipper ship. But I have found that the knots shown on this page have been sufficient for me to get along quite well over the years on many climbing and mountaineering excursions.

If you would like to advance even further in the art of knot tying, there are many good books, and other websites that specialize in knots, and you may want to explore them on your own if you feel so inclined.


The Waterman Knot -
This Knot is a very useful knot for tying two ends of webbing together. This is extremely important in climbing and mountaineering, because 3/4; or "1" inch webbing is used all the time for runners, anchors (by throwing it over a knob or projection), aid (for stepping into), or even for a safety harness for rappelling and climbing.

The uses of the humble webbing seem to be endless. But in order to do any of the above, the webbing must be configured into a loop, and that requires tying the two ends together. Here is where the "Waterman Knot" comes into play. It is the perfect knot for tying those ends together. The two colors of webbing shown below are for illustrative purposes only.

You can also use the waterman knot to extend the length of a piece of webbing by tying another piece of webbing to it (the length is only limited by the amount of webbing you have on hand). But for the most part, climbers use a 5 or 6 foot piece of webbing and tie the two ends together to make a loop. This seems to be somewhat of a standard length of webbing in mountaineering. Tied off loops of webbing are so important that most climbers carry several of these pre-configured loops on every climb they go on. Webbing can be used for aid, runners, protection, and for a multitude of other uses out there.
#1 - To start the knot, make a simple overhand knot configuration as shown with the red webbing. Then begin to lay the other end of the webbing directly on top of the end portion of the other end as shown in the red.

#2 - Next, continue to lay the yellow webbing directly on top of the red webbing following it exactly around in the opposite direction.
#3 - Now feed the yellow end under the bridge of webbing where the small two black arrows are.
#4 - Nearly done. All you need to do is to pull the two ends tight, and you will have a first class "Waterman Knot." Make sure you have 2 or 3 inches of loose on each side for added security.

The Fisherman Knot -
Like the Waterman Knot above, the use of the Fisherman Knot is similar. It is used to tie two ends of rope together, but that is where the similarity ends. As you will see below, it is tied in a completely different way. The Fisherman Knot is useful for tying two ropes together for the purpose of rappelling often times. This allows two - 50 or 60 meter ropes to be tied together.

This allows the mountaineer to rappel over 150 feet and still be able to retrieve his rope. The Fisherman Knot is also used for tying narrow diameter rope together for protection purposes and also for short loops of rope that can be used to prusik up a fixed line for ascending purposes. The four step process of the Fisherman Knot is shown below.
#1 - Lay the two ends of the ropes side by side as shown.
#2 - Next, coil a couple of loops around the opposing rope lengths on each side. The more the coils the more secure the knot. Two to three coils should be more than sufficient.
#3 - Now complete your last coil and then feed the end of each rope through it's own coils from the inside out. This way when the knots slide together they will press against each other to provide lots of friction. This will eliminate slippage under most normal loads.
#4 - All is left to do now is to pull the opposing ends of rope and slide the opposing knots together. Once this is done take time to dress up the coils and make sure you have a few inches of rope free on each side as shown. This will give you a bit of extra security just in case there is a small amount of slippage under load. Shown above is a two coil fisherman knot, but as mentioned above, three, four, or more coils could be used if more friction is desired.

Double Figure Eight -
The double figure eight knot is very fast to tie, and in my experience, a very secure knot. This knot is a good one for quickly tying of the rope to a piece of protection, or tying in climbers in sequence on glacier travel. These are only a couple of uses. You will no doubt find many other uses for the Double Figure Eight Knot. Below is a four stop sequence showing how to tie this knot.

#1 - Double back the rope and create a loose loop as shown.
#2 - Next, turn the doubled rope to the left, and create a circle of rope as shown above.
#3 - Take the loose loop of rope that extends to the right in figure two, and wind it over the top of the double line.
#4 - Lastly, take the larger loop "A" in figure three, and wind it under the small doubled coil shown in figure three "B" and pull it through from beneath. Finally, pull the ends tight. You should now have a configuration that looks similar to the above.

The Bowline Knot -
The bowline knot is another very valuable knot in the climber's arsenal. This is a must know how to tie knot for every climber and mountaineer. It is one of the most secure knots if tied correctly, and is used often for tying directly to the climber's safety harness. You will find many other uses for this knot also. An old saying for tying this knot goes something like this: "Through the hole around the pole and back down the hole" Below is a six part series on the "Bowline Knot"

#1 - Start off with a simple overhand knot configuration. This is the "Through the hole" portion of the knot."
#2 - Next, wind the loose end of the rope around the long end of the rope. In other words, "Around the pole."
#3 - Now, feed the loose end of the rope through the hole as identified as "X" in figure two. Thus "Back down the hole."
#4 - Finally, pull the entire figuration tight, and dress up the knot.
#5 - I usually include an additional overhand knot to backup the bowline knot. This is not absolutely necessary, but I find that it adds just a bit more security. It also lets me know that something is amiss if I look down and see my backup knot has come undone.
#6 - Shown here is a bowline knot being used to secure the rope to the climber's safety harness.

The Prusik Knot -
The prusik knot is used most often by climbers for self rescue situations. This knot enables a climber to ascend a single rope. This would be useful, for example, for extricating oneself out of a crevice in a glaciated region. A prusik knot would also come into play if a climber fell on an overhanging section of a rock wall and swung out of contact with the terrain.

Being able to climb back up the rope to the anchor would be very useful indeed. Mechanical ascenders can also be used for these types of self rescues, but a lightweight loop of rope is many times more practical than carrying the extra weight of ascender (not to mention the expense). Therefore, I believe it is very important for any climber who ventures into the wild to have a knowledge of how to tie a prusik knot. You never know when your life could depend on it. Below is a five part illustration of the "Prusik Knot."

#1 - Create a loop using a lightweight determined length of rope. You need to make use of the "Fisherman Knot" as shown above to tie the ends together. Then begin to wind the loop around the main rope (in red) shown above.
#2 - Next, continue to wrap the loop of rope around the main rope. The more the wraps, the more the friction. Two or three wraps should be enough.
#3 - Above shows the prusik knot nearly complete. From here all you need to do is pull the coil from the right, and tighten it up as shown in figure #4.
#4 - Prusik knot completed.
#5 - Prusik knot in action.


Well, that's it for the knots section of Timberline Trails. I believe that it will serve you well in your climbing and mountaineering career if you are able to master the above knots. In my years of experience I have found them to be by far the most important knots to learn. For other Timberline Topics, just click on the below link and jump back to the top of the page and select another side or top link for more adventure!