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Knots, Bends & Hitches

The following knots, bends and hitches are the bare minimum to know in a Canyoneering environment. While one may prefer certain knots to others, it is important to learn all of these because different situations require different knots. Understanding how to utilize the knot properly is just as important as tying it correctly.  It is far more important to learn a few knots well, than to half-learn a whole bunch of them!

Relevant Definitions:

  • Knots:  Knots will not untie when object is removed (unclipping).
  • Bends:  Making a loop or joining two ropes together: “Bends Join Ends”
  • Hitches:  A hitch will dissolve/untie when the object to which it is attached is removed: “A Hitch Needs a Host”
  • Bight:  A bight of rope is an unclosed loop; the rope does not cross itself.
  • Twist:  A twist of rope is a closed loop; the rope DOES cross itself.
  • Dressed/Set:  Dressing/Tightening the knot helps ensure the knot is tied right as well as gives the knot the maximum strength: as much fabric-touching-fabric as possible. It’s also easier to recognize when it’s dressed. “A not neat knot is a knot not needed.”

Knots for Rope or Cord

Overhand:  Nothing by itself, but is the base knot for the European Death Knot (EDK) in rope/cord, the Water Knot (Ring Bend) in webbing, and the Overhand on a Bight in webbing. Overhand
Double Overhand (Stopper):  A large-ish knot tied toward the ropes’ end to keep from rappelling off the end. Looks like the Double Fisherman’s Bend, but is constructed differently. Stopper Knot
Figure of 8:  Nothing by itself, but it is the first 1/2 of the Figure 8 Follow-Through. Figure 8
Figure of 8 Follow-Through:  A tie-in for climbers; used to tie onto/around an object.  Looks like the Figure of 8 on a Bight when finished but is constructed by an end following back through the knots’ bends/curves and exiting the opposite side. Figure 8 On A Bight
Figure of 8 on a Bight:  For making a loop which can only be loaded in-line; moderately difficult to untie after loading.  Cannot be loaded from tail to tail; only from loop to tail. Figure 8 On A Bight
Alpine Butterfly:  For making a loop in a rope, cord or webbing which can be loaded in any direction. Easy to untie, even after loading.  This knot can also be used to isolate a damaged portion of rope (the damage would be at the loop). Butterfly


Bends for Joining Rope/Cord (Bends Join Ends)

Bend Use with Different Size Rope Ease of Untying after Loading Likelihood  of getting Stuck during Pull Reduction in Rope Strength Image
EuropeanDeathKnot(EDK) No!! Moderate Lowest 32-42% EDK
Figure 8 Follow-Through Yes Moderate Highest 19-34% Figure 8 follow thru
Double Fisherman Yes Difficult Medium 20-35% Double Fisherman's Bend
Square Fisherman Yes Easiest High 45% Square Fisherman



Munter Hitch (aka Italian Hitch):  A simple hitch that is often used for belaying, lowering and emergency rappelling without a mechanical device. Also known as an Italian Hitch or a traveling friction hitch. Munter Hitch
Clove Hitch:  In Canyoneering primarily used on spine or ‘working end’ of a carabiner to make a ‘biner block’.  Caveat:  Sometimes becomes moderately difficult to untie after multiple or continuous loading. CloveHitch
Girth Hitch (aka Lark’s Foot):  Used to attach a rope/cord/webbing to an object (rope, harness, carabiner, rock chock, etc).  Caveat:  Can fail unless equal tension is applied to both ends of the rope/cord. Girth Hitch
Prusik Hitch:  Used to put a moveable loop of cord around a rope (a rope grab), often used for ascending and for ‘progress capture’ in mechanical advantage systems.  The term Prusik is a name for both the loops of cord and the hitch. Prusik Hitch
Heddon Hitch:  In Canyoneering this hitch is interchangeable with the Prusik hitch.  It is used to attach a loop of cord or webbing to a rope (often for a clip-in point or a foot-loop for ascending/self-rescue).  Much easier to tie than a Prusik hitch. Heddon Hitch

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