Film: Tying a figure of eight knot

Posted by Jonathan Garside on 27/07/2007

The figure of eight is commonly used to attach a rope to a climbing harness.

Being able to tie a figure of eight knot properly is an essential climbing skill. If the climbing rope is attached incorrectly to the harness, the consequences could be fatal.

One of the BMC's first good practice posters was titled 'Check or Deck'. Produced in 1998, it featured a climber falling from high on a cliff, the rope unattached to his harness. The eponymous title was conjured up by Dave Turnbull, the BMC CEO. Another one in the running at the time was 'Tie or Die', but that was maybe a bit too blunt!

The Check or Deck poster is available from the BMC shop.

Also available in the BMC Shop are check your knot and check your harness signs for climbing walls, all free of charge.

A figure of eight is not a complicated knot, and the web film below will help if you're unsure how best to tie one.

WATCH: How to tie a figure of eight knot on BMC TV

Whenever tying a figure of eight avoid being distracted by other climbers. Lynn Hill, one of the world's most talented climbers, almost ended her career when she forgot to tie her knot correctly. Read more about her experiences here.

Lynn survived a 25 metre ground fall and went on to make the first free ascent of The Nose on El Capitan in 1993. A feat not repeated by another climber until 2005.

WATCH our Trad climbing skills playlist on BMC TV:


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Anonymous User
09/02/2016
An important observation, taken from P.49 of Life on a Line version 2 (LOAL2) the caving rescue manual: "The Figure-8 is simple at first impression, and tying it is trivial – simply an overhand knot with a half-turn before passing the rope through the twist. The problem is that the Figure-8 can be tied backwards, resulting in a loss of up to 10% of the strength. Surprisingly few people know this, so you can guarantee that at least 50% of the knots you will encounter are incorrect."

The correct way to tie the knot, when used as a harness tie-in, is that the standing part of the rope (the bit that leads away to your anchor and is going to take your weight) should make the lower of the two loops - i.e. the one closest to the climber. The reason for this is that the other loop (the one made by the working, or free, end of the rope) then acts as a cushion between the most heavily loaded loop and the main body of the knot - stopping it biting into the diagonally crossing strands and generally jamming tight. You can easily prove by experimenting that the knot is massively easier to untie after heavy loading when tied this way :
Daniel Middleton(staff comment)
17/02/2016
For climbing use, either form of the figure-8 is correct. The relatively small differences in knot strength don't become significant in normal use, because the belay system is designed to reduce forces to prevent injury to the climber and stop protection from failing. Rope failure at the knot because of tensile overload isn't an issue in climbing - failing to tie a knot at all, or not finishing it, most definitely are!

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