Check that bowline

Posted by Alex Messenger on 14/12/2012
Always use a stopper knot with a bowline.
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Legendary American author John Long is on the mend after falling 30ft to the ground at a climbing gym in Los Angeles. How can you avoid making the same mistake?

John Long has been telling Rock and Ice magazine about how he managed it

"I made the two bowline loops,” he says, “and threaded the rope through my harness, but I didn't bring the rabbit out of the hole and around the tree.”

We don’t want you making the same mistake, so here’s a quick video reminder featuring training officer Jon Garside of how to tie a single bowline and stopper knot in proper BMC recommended style.


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39
1) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
I was always taught that under certain loading conditions a bowline will become a slip knot
even with a stopper (half fisherman's) in place. Thus having the fear of the falling God put
Into me I have always used and taught others to use a figure of eight. My teacher was a BMC
Guide in the Lakes so not an inexperienced person. Would be interested on peoles thoughts.
PS never had a knot come undone so going to keep it that way :)
2) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
Iv pulled a car out of a field using a bowline and never came undone
3) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
I bet you couldn't make my bowline and stopper slip, even if you tried really hard. And they are so much easier to undo after a load or fall!
4) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
I always use the Yosemite finish on my bowlines.
5) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
Iv heard so much about the dangers of the bowline but I honestly believe that its the fault in the user rather than the knot itself!! Done correctly the bowline is safe as houses but I think because of the ease of tying people can become relaxed about paying attention to checks! All in all there is nothing unsafe about the bowline its human error that is what needs looking at!!
6) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
Iv heard so much about the dangers of the bowline but I honestly believe that its the fault in the user rather than the knot itself!! Done correctly the bowline is safe as houses but I think because of the ease of tying people can become relaxed about paying attention to checks! All in all there is nothing unsafe about the bowline its human error that is what needs looking at!!
7) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
When tying in with any knot, I would highly recommend to always thread the leg loops then the waist loop, then if your proceed to climb without tying any knot the rope will fall from your hasrness. I have observed this on several occasions indoors and outdoors.

Tony & Sarah Whitehouse
8) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
So he didn't tie ANY knot?

"made the two bowline loops...threaded the rope through my harness...didn't bring the rabbit out of the hole and around the tree"

Or presumably back down the hole? No wonder the no-knot didn't hold, there was no knot. A no-knot-tied figure of 8 would have not worked either. Nor would a no-knot of any type.

Well done for sparking the bowline vs. fo8 debate on UKC :D Hope you recover soon!
9) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
Surely an "incorrectly tied bowline" isn't technically a bowline at all. I have no argument with people that say a bowline never comes undone but an incorrectly tied bowline does not stand out to either the climber or belayer as an incorrectly tied figure of 8. Problems with untying the figure of 8 after a fall are a relatively minor inconvenience compared with decking out?
10) Anonymous User
14/12/2012
So which knot is better? Bowline or Figure 8?
11) Anonymous User
15/12/2012
... Must be one of the most common forum debates on UKC! The bottom line is that if a bowline is tied correctly then it's safe and is a practical knot for sport climbing (where the climber is likely to take some falls) as it's easier to untie than a fig eight after being loaded. However, I have heard of (and know of personally) people who have decked out because they haven't tied a bowline properly and I haven't heard of (or know of) anyone who has decked out as a result of not tying a figure of eight knot correctly. Not sure statistically whether this is because it's easier for some people to tie a bowline wrong or whether the fig eight holds more even when tied wrongly. I suspect a combination of both, but you can't ignore the accident statistics and many of the people who have tied the bowline incorrectly and injured themselves (or worse) were experienced climbers. Buddy checks are the way forward! ;)
12) Anonymous User
15/12/2012
... Must be one of the most common forum debates on UKC! The bottom line is that if a bowline is tied correctly then it's safe and is a practical knot for sport climbing (where the climber is likely to take some falls) as it's easier to untie than a fig eight after being loaded. However, I have heard of (and know of personally) people who have decked out because they haven't tied a bowline properly and I haven't heard of (or know of) anyone who has decked out as a result of not tying a figure of eight knot correctly. Not sure statistically whether this is because it's easier for some people to tie a bowline wrong or whether the fig eight holds more even when tied wrongly. I suspect a combination of both, but you can't ignore the accident statistics and many of the people who have tied the bowline incorrectly and injured themselves (or worse) were experienced climbers. Buddy checks are the way forward! ;)
13) Anonymous User
15/12/2012
The Bowline, is alot harder to recognise if it is tied correctly, so climbing partners cant really tell if it is correct or not, through just looking. The figure however is a very distinctive knot that is clearly noticable if tied in correctly. The bowline is a good strong knot that can slip if it takes alot of differental in weights. (Loaded and un loaded constantly) but the figure of 8 does not.

If in dought try doubling back the bowline, to create the Assemites bowline. which has all the benefits of a figure of 8, yet the ease of undoing like the bowline. :)
14) Anonymous User
15/12/2012
If you research it even briefly more people have had Black Diamond harness failures
15) Anonymous User
17/12/2012
It's always an argument of what knot should you tie in with. yes both are safe if tied correctly. But the bowline comes undone quicker if you've take a few falls is not a reasonable logic in this view you are taking convenience over safety. I can get out of my car a lot quicker if i don't wear my seat belt, after all I've got my air bag to save me if anything goes wrong right? (OK extreme example but you get my point.) the FO8 may be a pain in the butt to untie after a hard climb but your not going to hit the deck if tied correctly. I've been climbing for a few years now and i did use the bowline on occasion until i heard of a couple of deaths at a climbing wall near me. 2 very experienced climbers fell (2 in the same week) because they had not tied their bowline correctly. if these 2 guys who had plenty of experience then what was going wrong? yes it is human error. people become to confident and forget the simple procedures that we should all follow from day one. Buddy buddy system, check your knot and check your partners knot while your partner checks your belay device. It's not a knock on your abilities is making sure that everyone is safe.
16) Anonymous User
17/12/2012
The bowline is a sailing knot isn't it ? Although it may be easier to untie its not intended to be used for climbing - I doubt I would ever try it and bearing in mind I was taught by the bmc themselves and this subject came up then for me it's a no go area as it does have the potential to slip ( no necessarily untie but slip)
17) Anonymous User
20/12/2012
so in his own words he did not tie the knot correctly
18) Anonymous User
20/12/2012
A bowline for me a double fisherman to tie off!
19) Anonymous User
20/12/2012
In the aviation industry there is a significant push to improve safety through identifying and changing practices where mistakes are likely (error management systems). That does not take away responsability from the technician, but it does recognise that making mistakes is human and therefore seeks to minimise the impact of mistakes that will be made (even if only by someone else!). I suspect it would be really helpful to have some stats for accidents due to knot tying. The anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that figure of 8 should be the standard knot, I wonder how much more compelling that argument would be if we had the evidence in numbers. Climbing is about risk, but personally I will restrict my risks to those that give me a buzz not knot tying- i can tie a bowline with total confidence but when climbing it is a figure of 8 for me and anyone I teach to climb. I do use a bowline when sailing and have experienced the jib sheet coming undone several times (tied by other people honest guv!) - fortunately that never leads to unpleasant gravity related pain.
20) Anonymous User
05/01/2013
A FO8 is easier to identify if tied incorrectly when you and your partner carry out a pre start check.
21) Anonymous User
05/01/2013
This just seems to be a problem o climbing. Cavers are taught to attach themselves to ropes using screw gate karibiners. These don't come undone. Ok cave rigging is such that there are never any large fall factors but perhaps it's time to find a better way to attach ropes to harnesses.
To take the earlier posters example. We don't tie ourselves into our car seat belt!
I regularly hang from bits of rope down some very large holes and am never directly tied on!
However I must also say I would always use figure of eights to attach ropes with as they are an inherently safer knot as is taught on every cave leader course.
22) Anonymous User
06/01/2013
Buddy checks are definitely a good thing and a good habit, as tiredness and distractions can get even the best climber.
23) Anonymous User
06/01/2013
I use bowlines all the time for sailing - with very short tails and no stopper, under theses conditions I have had several weeks use without failure. But have also seen them come undone!
The only sure fire way to tie this knot is to double it back - twice as strong (less bend radius) essentially 2 knots (so can't come undone) and 2 chances to tie it right (most important)
I'm surprised the BMC is not pushing this method!
24) Anonymous User
06/01/2013
Why not just use a re-tied figure-of-eight with a stopper and dispense with the trees, rabbits, holes and have less risk of getting it wrong ? Having a knot that's "easier to undo after a fall" is of secondary importance in my opinion. If you "break-the-back" of the fig8 by pushing the outer loop around the two tails then it soon comes apart. Besides, it's good strength training for your hands too.
25) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
He could have achieved the same result by not re roving a figure of 8, which is not un heard of (read Lynn Hill,s autobiography). The bowline is the best not to tie on with especially after loading.
The trick is not to talk to anyone until you finish tying on or do anything to distract yourself until the knot is complete, then chat to your mates at the wall.
26) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
In response to Tony/Sarah Whitehouse's comment, I'm thinking the advice on leg/waist thread order depends on whether the climber is seconding or leading? Either way, I think a self and buddy-buddy check is far more critical and useful.

I use both the bowline (always with stopper) and figure of 8 (often without stopper - it's actually considered bad practice in Sweden to use a stopper knot!) depending on what I'm doing - single-pitch cragging = bowline, multipitch = fig.8. The only problem I've ever had with either knots is getting the fig.8 undone, even from a moderate fall.
27) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
I don't climb much now but I always used a bowline (carefully checked and with stopper knot) at the climbing wall simply because of the frequency of tying and untying and the amount of times the rope is loaded when top-roping. On the crag though (i.e. "for real"?) I always used a figure 8 or figure 9 (the latter being a bit easier to undo after loading).

Andy Hunt
28) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
In business the words KISS , keep it simple stupid are well known & a good maxim.

I am an experienced 25+ year climber on UK & Alpine rock & ice , the bowline is difficult to tie quickly & correctly. I accept that there are benefits in undoing it after repeated sport climbing falls but why bother tying a knot that is known to have the potential for problems ?

The bowline was designed for a direct tie on the rope pre the introduction of the modern sit harness , there is no need to use it today unless you are tying in directly in on the rope & who is doing this , only once in 25 years have I ever needed to tie in direct once & here I used ( NO I was helped ! as a foolish novice soling a grade 3 snow & ice route to fashion a parisien boudrier & a krab to fashion a makeshift sit harness to get over the crux )

Pureists may moan about lack of bowline tying skills but ignore them what matters is being 100% sure that you have it right 100% of the time whatever the situation you are in.
29) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
Both the bowline and figure 8 are safe knots. However in most industrial situations every safety critical function has some form of safety back up. In the case of knots it is a visual check, whether carried out by yourself or a buddy. With a fig8 this safety check is pretty close to 100% reliable, because an incorrectly tied fig8 looks wrong. An incorrectly tied bowline may look right, so the "foolproof" safety back up is in fact a big area of risk. Lets say you tie on 20 times a week for 50 weeks of the year, thats 1000 times a year. If your failure rate when tying on is as low as 1 in 1000 that still means that you tie on incorrectly once a year. If your visual check only picks up the error 50% of the time that means there is a risk that once every two years you will tie on incorrectly and it will not be corrected. If however your safety check picks up the error 9 times out of 10 (which i believe it does with a visual check of a fig8) that means the risk of undetected failure drops to one in 10,000 or once every ten years.

I started climbing using a bowline and switched to a fig8 when I climbed more regularly, because i recognised that as you carry out a function more frequently you often get more casual about it, so the chances of errors increase. I don't find it suprising that most of the instances of mis-tied knots quoted here, and elsewhere. occur to experienced climbers, as less experienced climbers may be more nervous when tying knots and so are more likely to carry out safety checks in a more rigerous manner.

As for the issue about untying loaded knots...in both the airline a rail industries the real danger is wrong side failure. In other words a failure which gives a false indication of safety when in fact the situation is dangerous. These have been largely eliminated in both industries. What still occurs are right sided failures - that is when the pilot gets a warning light, but in fact everything is safe, or when all the railway signals turn to red as the result of a very minor fault. Right side failures can be extremely annoying and cause huge delays.....but they are so much better than being involved in plane or train crashes!! And so it is with untying loaded fig8 knots. The inconvenience is well worth putting up with because it is allied to a significant reduction in risk.
30) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
It seems to that there are a lot of very bored people around these days with little better to do than pontificate. John Long has, according to his statement above, not tied a knot. You are adults for god's sake. Learn the knot you choose to use and tie properly.
31) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
It seems to that there are a lot of very bored people around these days with little better to do than pontificate. John Long has, according to his statement above, not tied a knot. You are adults for god's sake. Learn the knot you choose to use and tie properly.
32) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
I have often used a Yosemite Finish Bowline... Just watched this video...a bit scarey ?

http://www.youtube.com/v/tle6LJXOiAs&fs=1&source=uds&autoplay=1
33) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
I have often used a Yosemite Finish Bowline... Just watched this video...a bit scarey ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dj5Y3h1AEI

Sorry This one not as per previous comment ' Yosemite Bowline not safe for climbing'
34) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
I always 'pull the rabbit, pull the tree' in opposite directions to check the bowline has been tied correctly (it falls apart if it hasn't). I prefer the bowline to a fig 8 but as always, human error can occur so check, check, check.
35) Anonymous User
07/01/2013
Why dont just use the 8 figure knot?
36) Anonymous User
08/01/2013
John Long didnt tie a bowline end of story;Ive used one for over 60 years and taught hundreds to do the same ,never had aproblem but have seen real problems untying a loaded Fig 8 Both knots tied correctly are fine with a stopper knot .To each his own,
37) Anonymous User
10/01/2013
The comment that sticks with me is that after a fall is that the bowline is much easier to undo than a FO8. So the way I look at it is the FO8 tightens under load substanally more than a bowline.
Always been trained the FO8 is a lead climb knot and bowline is for fixed bolts on a climbing wall.

Dont know how the bowline slipped unless it was tied incorrect or the stopper wasnt close enough to the bowline. It is something that I will definately check myself and get my second to check (Buddy Buddy check and stay safe).
38) Anonymous User
11/01/2013
After reading a string of comments like these from confused climbers, I feel it might be time to re-introduce the Tarbuck knot.
39) Anonymous User
17/01/2013
use a re-threaded figure of eight.
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