Rock Climbing Knots: How to Tie the Basic Climbing Knots

Every climber, no matter if already an experienced one or not, can agree that the process of learning the climbing knots can be difficult to master. Learning how to tie some of the basic climbing knots isn’t as easy. However, rock climbing knots aren’t impossible to learn!

Actually, as long as you follow the proper instructions and try out the techniques at home, you might realize that tying a climbing knot is actually not that difficult. Learning some of the basic tying knots should also help you become more comfortable with your own rock climbing skills.

That is exactly the purpose of our article – to tackle the problems and the technique of tying the climbing knots. We have done extended research and included step-by-step guides in order to help you acquire the best technique of tying the climbing knots. Read on to learn more!

Where to Start Learning?

It’s true that seeing how a climbing knot is tied for the first time in your climbing career is confusing, challenging and it certainly raises many questions. But, that is why you start learning in the climbing gym.

Learning to Tie Knots

If you want to start climbing, the first thing to do is a climbing course in some of the local climbing gyms. You should find an appropriate beginner’s course with an experienced climbing instructor. The first few basic knots that you will tie will very likely be on the climbing wall in the gym and also you must be supervised by your instructor.

It’s very important to emphasize that you do not head into the mountains by yourself without climbing experience or even worse, with only theoretical climbing experience. Your first outdoor climb must also be supervised by an experienced climber who must prove all the tied knots and supervise your tying and climbing technique.

The technique of the climbing knots requires time and patience that must be acquired with exercise – the truth is tying a climbing knot is also not so complicated, but it does require time to learn how to do it right.

Proper Equipment and Gear Matter

To start with the climbing knots and the climbing course there is some equipment that is essential to have it.

Climbing Rope and Carabiner

In the beginning, you might not need to buy any of the equipment because you should have it at your disposal at the climbing gym. But, if you want to continue climbing then you must provide the following equipment:

  • Rope- as a beginner you need a single rope 190 – 230 feet long. This is the main rope that connects the two climbing partners.
  • Slings –those are shorter ropes made from nylon, special cords, or regular rope material. These are also known as Prusik slings. They are used for ascending, descending, and extra security.
  • Climbing harness –at the beginning you will certainly not use it so often for climbing, but for exercising the tying of the knots. You must practice a real situation and learn how to tie the knots on your harness and to check them.

Basic Climbing Knots

There are some basic rock climbing knots that represent the basis for climbing. Those few are the first thing you will learn in every climbing course. These basic knots can be tied in minimum of two ways, but there are also few more similar types to the basic knots.

Basic Knot

There are around ten basic knots that are essential to start climbing. Some of the basic knots are more complex than others, but as long as you follow the guidelines and ask for help, the basis of the tying technique should be acquired in no time.

The Figure Eight Knot

The figure-eight knot is the most common but is also the strongest knot. It’s tied to the climbing harness when beginning the route, but it’s also used as a stopper at the end of the rope during sport or alpine climbing.

While climbing a long route, the figure-eight knot is tied to the climbing partner’s harness and when sending a sports route, the rope ends on the ground with a figure eight.

Figure 8 Knot

There are two types of the figure-eight knot- the follow-through and the double eight knot. Both of them are very similar but have different purposes.

How to tie a follow-through figure eight knot

Step 1: With one end of the rope, make a figure 8. Then, wrap this around the support. Figure 8 can’t be made at the very end of the rope because several centimeters must be left free for the follow-through process.
Step2: When the single figure 8 is finished, start retracing the single 8 with the free end of the rope. The retracing consists of passing the free end through the loops and leading the rope parallel to the standing (8) part.
Step 3: Finish the follow-through figure-eight knot by taking the free end through the loop and pulling so that the ends can tighten. The finished knot creates a loop between the end knot and your harness.

How to tie a double eight knot

Step 1:Begin with making a loop with a doubled line at the end of the rope. Again, this end has to be a few inches long, so that the 8 knot can be finished.
Step 2:Pass the end through the loop and pull it so that the knot can be tightened making a double 8.
The double eight knot can be done faster, but it can’t be applied if tying onto a fixed object.

The Girth Hitch

First, we need to mention that a hitch and a knot are not exactly the same thing. The hitch connects two ropes or a rope to a carabiner. However, a hitch can also be enlisted in the basic knots, because it’s essential in climbing and finds its usage in tying other more complicated knots, like the Prusik knot.

The Girth Hitch

For the girth hitch, you will need a sling (Prusik sling) with both ends tied one to another so that it forms a closed circle.

How to tie a girth hitch:

Step 1:Put the loop (the sling) behind the object (rope, harness or carabiner).
Step 2:Make a circle with one end of the loop around the object.
Step 3: Take the other end of the loop and lead it through the first loop.
Step 4: Pull the loop and tighten it.

The Prusik Knot

The Prusik knot is a friction knot and it’s used mostly by climbers, but also by mountaineers. This knot is a must for every climber, due to the fact that is needed for self-security, ascending and descending, and self-rescue.

Mainly the Prusik knot finds its usage in climbing –when making an ascend or descend on a fixed rope – but mountaineers use it for the same purpose.

The Prusik knot is made of Prusik slings that are made of thin nylon cord or simply with athinner rope. When the climber sits in the climbing harness and therewith loads the weight onto the knot, the knot tightens onto the fixed rope.

How to tie a Prusik Knot:

Step 1: Tie the two ends of the Prusik slings with a double fisherman’s knot – explained shortly after – and therewith to create a closed loop which you place behind the main (fixed) climbing rope.
Step 2: Take the loop of slings behind the fixed rope and lead one half of the loop through the other half in order to create a girth hitch.
Step 3:When the hitch is finished, lead the loop of slings back through the girth hitch minimum twice so that a cylinder is created.
Step 4: At the end of the tying process, tighten the knot and prove whether the wraps of the slings are placed next to each other. The wraps should never be crossed.
Step 5: When the knot is checked and ready, load the weight onto the knot and you will notice the knot starts to tighten onto the main rope.

The Clove Hitch

With the clove hitch, you can tie and fasten the rope on the carabiner (mostly). The clove hitch is one of the strongest knots and allows the climber to load the weight on the knot.

However, the clove hitch is also one of the most problematic ones, because it can shift or slip from the object (carabiner) if the object moves or changes its position even a little bit. When tying a clove hitch, you must always lock the carabiner for your own safety.

Climbers use this hitch on anchors – they tie the hitch directly on the anchor. Usually, you don’t have much space to move on an anchor, but still,you can shift the weight and make some movements.

Therefore it’s extremely important that you lock the carabiner because the clove hitch can slip out of it. Experienced climbers make the clove hitch with one hand, but it can also be tied with two hands.

How to tie a clove hitch

Step 1: Take the middle of the rope and create a loop by crossing the rope over itself.
Step 2: Make another loop in the same manner next to the first one.
Step 3: Place the second loop behind the first one and hang the hitch on a carabiner.
Step 4: Pull the free ends of the rope that come out of the hitch and tighten the hitch on the carabiner.

The Butterfly Knot

The butterfly knot may seem like the most difficult and most complex one of the basic climbing knots, but if explained well it can be acquired as fast as all the other ones. This knot is tied mainly in the middle of the rope and it can take the weight in any position without changing its form. The butterfly knot is easy to untie and it’s used mainly in mountaineering.

The Butterfly Knot

Image credit: en.wikipedia.org

Mountaineers use the butterfly knot to secure the middle hiker when moving in a row. The climbers use this knot to create non-slip loops in the middle or to segregate a damaged part of the rope.

How to tie a butterfly knot

Step 1:Take the part (in the middle) of the rope where the knot should be tied.
Step 2: Start wrapping the rope around your open palm and do three wraps.
Step 3: Lead the free end of the rope over the other two loops.
Step 4: Take the loop that is nearest to the thumb and take out a little extra slack rope.
Step 5: Lead this loop over the other two loops and then pass it under the other two.
Step 6:Remove the rope from your hand and tighten it.

The Double Fisherman’s Knot

The double fisherman’s knot is actually a bend. A bend is a knot that joins two ropes together. The double fisherman’s knot is the most secure bend from all of them and it is a difficult one to untie. It is also a very compact and reliable one.

The double fisherman’s knot finds its usage in tying a Prusik knot. During a climb, it can happen that you need an extra Prusik sling and with this knot,you will create a Prusik sling, by joining the ends of the rope together. It is also used for joining two main ropes together during a climb or a hike.

How to tie a double fisherman’s knot

Step 1: Bring the two ends of the rope together next to each other.
Step 2: Take one end of the rope in your hand and place your thumb over the rope.
Step 3:Start wrapping the working end of the rope over the thumb and over the other rope. Lead the working end under and wrap it completely so that it creates an X.
Step 4:Pull your thumb out easily and lead the working end through the created X.
Step 5:Tighten the knot. You will notice a knot on one side of the rope and two parallel ropes on the other side, one of them coming out of the knot.
Step 6:When you have the first knot, take the other rope and pull it in order to have enough workingrope for the next knot.
Step 7:When you have the new working end, simply repeat the procedure.
Step 8: Start wrapping the new working end over the thumb and create a new X. Then,lead the working end through the X.
Step 9: After that, you will see two Xs, two knots and two ends of the rope coming out of the knot.
Step 10: Pull the two ends of the rope tight.
Step 11: The completed fisherman’s knot has two Xs and four parallel strands.

Safety Tips for Tying Climbing Knots

As we have already explained, tying even the basic climbing knots requires a specific technique and a procedure that must be well studied before implemented. This technique may seem a bit confusing and challenging, but it is important that you try it and do it until you learn the climbing knots.

Rope Knots

However, the climbing knots are used in a very specific, stressful, and dangerous environment and therefore we have also included few safety tips for the tying and learning procedure of the climbing knots. So, pay attention to the following tips:

  • Start examining and learning the basic climbing knots and how to tie them in the climbing gym, but always practice them also at home. Find guidelines, tutorials, and pictures of the knots, and try studying them by yourself.
  • Always ask for help from some of the experienced climbers or mountaineers, especially at the beginning. Let them watch you tying the basic knots for the first time.
  • If you want to start with outdoor climbing, you must do it with a professional- you need someone to prove all your climbing knots.
  • No matter if you are an experienced climber or a beginner always checks the ropes with your hands, not only with your eyes. The Prusik slings must also be checked before the climb or the hike.
  • The climbing knots are something that must always be checked twice –again it does not matter if you are a professional climber or a complete beginner.
  • Remember – pay huge attention to the ropes during the climb and also stay completely focused when tying a climbing knot – your life depends on it.

Ready to Conquer the Top?

The rock climbing knots can help every outdoor lover to feel secure and free during outdoor activities. They provide essential safety, especially in climbing as a sport. The name says it itself – their main usage is in climbing –every course begins with learning how to acquire the technique of tying the climbing knots.

Rock Climbing

Image credit: startribune.com

As we have already seen the number of climbing knots is huge and there are many ways to tie them right. For beginners, it’s important to find the easiest and the best-explained methods in order to simplify the learning process.

Everyone must be aware that it will take some time until you learn the tying of the climbing knots and of course until you start using them on your own. But, the effort is totally worth it, because you first ensure your safety and freely enjoy your outdoor activities.


Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.