Big Wall Episode #7 - Knots
Big Wall Bible
Big Wall Knots
The lightest but most useful thing you can take up a big wall is knowledge. Welcome to a resource that will help you be successful in getting up big rocks. Big walling is a big topic so we broke it into bite-size "pitches" with a video to START each one. The aim is to have lots of videos, photos, and written content in each section, not just of our stuff but your stuff as well. See HowNOT2 contribute your beta below.
Our courses are A-Z content in blog format, glued together with an overarching blog we call a textbook. A blog format is easy to read, easy to update, and easy to translate. Be sure to begin at the TEXTBOOK and at the end of each episode we'll point you to the next.
It's "knot" that hard to learn how to twist your rope in all the ways you need to go up a wall. This ties together a foundation for the next chapters so we can just show you what to do without getting stuck on knot basics. Knots are actually quite easy though. There are about 5 families of knots you will use and honestly only 3 would get you by. Hitches are nothing unless you have something in them and there are only 3 of those you need to know. Friction hitches let you bite a rope with a smaller rope and they are a handy and lightweight tool to have. Learn all 5 of those but you'll probably only use 1 or 2. We also cover anchor concepts so you know what to aim for when building anchors.
Knotology - bights, follow-throughs & bends
So many fancy words but it's so easy. Bight is when you pinch a rope into a loop, then tie your knot, you will need a carabiner to clip it. Follow-through is when you tie half the knot, put the tail of the rope through what you want to attach and then re-trace or finish the 2nd half of the knot. Just like tying a rope to your harness, you tie half a figure 8, put it through the two hard points of your harness and then trace it. BEND is just joining two ends of a rope to make a loop or connect different ropes together. The working end is the end of the rope or the side you are tying the knot with and the standing end is the rest of the rope.
Simplest of all knots. Overhands on a bight are not that secure so unless you are just tying a quick knot to clip some gear to it and have your partner pull it up, this isn't really used. Same idea with a follow-through, but if you tie the 2nd half like a mirror you get a butterfly, but that is for later. Flat webbing does best with an overhand so if you are making a sling, you join two ends (a bend) by using an overhand and then tracing it with the other end and this is called a water knot. Pre-tie an overhand, then stuff the ends of tubular webbing inside of itself, then shuffle the knot where the "splice" is and you have a BEER KNOT, which is a water knot without tails. An overhand bend in ropes is bomber and is one of the best knots to prevent getting stuck in cracks if joining two ropes for rappeling. It's called the EDK or European death knot because if you don't have a long enough tail, it collapses as it gets pulled tight and the tails can slip through. Just remember 18 inches of tail if you bail.
One extra wrap with an overhand gives you more options. Wrap the tail twice around a bight or after doing a follow-through and bam, you have barrel knot, which is the closest knot you can get to an object as it tightens around it. Just remember this is also the hardest to untie. Use it as a bend and you get a double fishermans, also one of the most difficult knots to untie. A stopper knot is when you just put it all by its lonely self at the end of the rope so you don't rappel off the end of it. You still want a hand width of tail on these knots but these suck the tails into the knot less than any other knot regardless of how hard you pull.
Here is the most common knot in climbing. Tie it with a bight and clip it to the anchor and the rope is fixed and ready to ascend. Do a follow-through to tie the rope to your harness. You can join two ends together in a bend, called a flemish, but it's rarely done in big walling because EDK or fisherman's knot is used. If you double up the strands as you tie it, you can get bunny ears or the super 8, building redundancy into the knot. The figure 8 can be difficult to untie if you keep taking whippers on it, but just hauling or ascending usually doesn't require a hammer and your teeth to undo it.
This is the easiest to untie but also the easiest to slip. These shouldn't be used without doing something with the tail that helps lock it solid like a smith lock or Yosemite finish. (Note: the video called it a "scott's lock" and it is actually a "smith lock" that we demo. You also can't ring load it, pulling on the loop itself, or it comes undone. You do not join two ropes this way. This can be such a great tool in your toolbox but if you don't learn it really well, you can 100% get up walls just using Figure of 8s instead of these.
This is a great midline knot. It's also easy to untie and therefore unties itself easy enough that you don't want it right on the end of a rope. But if you plan on tying something in the middle of a rope, whether a bag or a person, this is bomber and it doesn't deform regardless of which direction you pull it. This is most commonly found to isolate a core shot, or damaged section, of rope, like on a fixed line that you have to rappel or ascend. In theory, you could use it as a bend and join two ropes but it isn't super secure requiring long tails and has no advantage over the EDK.