Ascender Safety 101

       Ascending Rappel Ropes 101

       Autoblock Misuse (ATC-Guide)

       Avalanche Safety

       Belay School - Why Dynamic Matters

       Can A Hot Belay Device Melt My Slings?

       Carabiner Off-Axis and Tri/Quad-Axial Loading

       Choosing the Right Carabiner

       Common Belay Screw-ups

       Connecting Two Slings Together

       Daisy Chain Dangers

       Dangers of Rope Worn Carabiners

       Dangers of Worn Lowering Anchors

       Do Ropes Need to Rest Between Falls

       Draws in a Gym

       Extending a Cam Sling

       Fall Factors Explained

       Full Strength Haul Loops

       Gear Doesn't Last Forever—Crampons

       Gear Doesn't Last Forever—Ice Tool Picks

       Gear Doesn't Last Forever—Slings & Draws

       Girth Hitching a Stopper

       How Sketchy Is a Sharp-Edged Carabiner?

       How Strong are Himalayan Fixed Lines?

       How Strong is the Spinner Leash?

       How To Belay, Part 1

       How To Extend a Rappel Device

       Knot Passing 101

       Rappelling - Climbing's Diciest Business

       Re-Slinging Cams

       Rethinking the Double-Loop Bowline

       Retiring Old Ropes

       Sharpie for Marking the Middle of a Rope?

       Sling Strength In Three Anchor Configurations

       Spectra versus Nylon

       Spotting for Bouldering

       Surviving Bad Weather on El Cap

       The Dangers of Modifying Your Gear

       The Dangers of Short Static Falls

       The Electric Harness Acid Test

       The Skinny on Super Light Ropes

       Top Roping is Not So Safe

       To Screamer Or Not To Screamer

       Via Ferrata

       Weakness of Nose-hooked Carabiners

       What is the Safest Rappel Knot?

       Worn Belay Loops and Retiring a Harness

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Climb Safe: Rethinking the Double-Loop Bowline

By Duane Raleigh

You&#39;ve got the moves dialed, but when was the last time you considered your most critical linkage, your tie-in knot? Photo by <a target="_blank" href="">Keith Ladzinski</a>Pity the double-loop bowline—it’s getting a terrible rap. We bagged on the knot because in 1989 Lynn Hill took a 70-foot groundfall when her partly tied bowline pulled free of her harness.

Sacrilege! Or not? In its defense, the double-loop bowline—the only knot that is truly easy to untie after a fall—has worked flawlessly millions of times for climbers and sailors worldwide. Yet, if the knot is causing accidents, maybe we should rethink it. Let’s examine. 


According to Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, a bowline will reduce a rope’s strength 25 to 30 percent, compared to 20 to 25 percent for the trace-8. Considering that the typical tensile strength of a lead rope is upwards of 5,000 foot-pounds, either knot, even after it has weakened the rope, is plenty strong.


The double-loop bowline and the trace-8 are complicated knots that require practice. As Clifford Ashley noted in his 620-page The Ashley Book of Knots, “A knot is never ‘nearly right,’ it is either exactly right, or hopelessly wrong … ” Since tying both knots requires an equal skill level, a better measuring stick is to consider how the knots fare when you tie them the wrong way.

Typically, people screw up the bowline because they tuck the end of the rope down through the loops to begin, instead of out through the loops (Step 1). Make this mistake, and the bowline looks obviously wrong and tends to fall apart in your hands—but not always. In every documented case of double-loop bowline failure, the knot either wasn’t tied properly, or wasn’t cinched tight and not backed up.

Typically, people screw up the bowline because they tuck the end of the rope down through the loops to begin, instead of out through the loops.The common way to incorrectly tie the trace-8 is to not completely rethread the 8, stopping the knot short of actually being tied. Then, the trace-8 looks almost right and holds itself together, giving the illusion that it’s been properly tied. In some cases, a partly tied trace-8 has even held weight, and the unsuspecting climber didn’t know he’d blown it until he was back on the ground untying.

Lesson: If you are going to tie a knot wrong, the trace-8 is the one to botch.


Assuming you’ve learned the knot, you can test its security by jiggling it to simulate the action of a rope as it’s repeatedly pulled taut, then slacked off. Do this test and you’ll find that the trace-8 is the least likely of the knots to untie itself.

In this sense, the trace-8 is safer, but only because you are not using a back-up knot—a dangerous but common practice, especially among high-end climbers. Finish either knot with a back-up and they are equally reliable.

Numerous back-up options exist, such as the popular overhand and half-hitch, but the half-fisherman’s (aka grapevine)  is superior. Although the half-fisherman’s eats up some rope and is bulky, it is unlikely to work loose, making the double-loop bowline and trace-8 blast proof. Best, the half-fisherman’s can, in the event you do incorrectly tie your main knot, even hold weight by itself.

In the end, both tie-in knots have merit. If you are going to tie in sloppily and not use a back-up, the trace-8 is king, being the least likely of the knots to come untied, especially in a stiff rope. But, tie in carefully, draw the knot tight and use a back-up, and the double-loop bowline remains a sure bet.


 READ: When Your Ropes Falls Off - and 5 Ways to Prevent the Nightmare


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