Belay knots

Photo by Brook Anderson on Unsplash

Few skills are as fundamental to climbing as working with rope. Your life literally depends on your mastery of the subject. This section covers the most common knots used in climbing.

For starters, you need to understand the distinction between a “knot” and other key terms related to rope management:

Knots vocabulary

Knot – a knot is tied in a rope or piece of webbing.

Hitch – a hitch connects a rope to another object like a carabiner or even another rope.

Bend – a bend is a knot that joins two ropes together.

Bight – a bight is a section of rope between the ends.

Standing end – the standing end or part of the rope is the side that’s not being used during knot tying. Working end – the working end or part of the rope is the side that is being used during knot tying.

Figure 8 Knot 

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on

(Rewoven Figure 8 Knot/Figure 8 Follow Through Knot) 

What is it: The basic knot for “tying in”—i.e., for tying the rope to your harness.

Why it’s cool: Easy to inspect. Easy (enough) to untie after being loaded in a fall.

Red flags / Rules: Always have at least 15 cm of tail.

Your tie-in knot is the one that connects you to the end of the rope, is the knot to learn first, and is the only knot you’ll use every time you rope up. 

Climbers use various knots to tie in, but the Figure Eight is the easiest to learn and the least likely to untie itself. Unfortunately, it cinches up tight after a hard fall, making it difficult to untie. Consider this a small price to pay for security. Practice this knot until you can tie it, rain or shine, in the dark.

The Figure Eight is easy to tie. Simply tie a figure eight knot in the standing portion of the rope about 60 – 75 cm from the end. 

Then reverse weave the end of the rope backwards through the knot as shown, being certain to leave a 30 cm tail. Secure the tail with half of a Double Fisherman’s knot, or an overhand. Tighten!

Photo by Rockandice

Retracing a Figure 8

1 – Tie a Figure 8 knot about (70 cm) from the end of the rope. Now thread the end through both tie-in points

2 – Retrace the original knot, pulling through completely to cinch the knot close to the harness.

3 – Continue to retrace, being sure not to cross over the strand you are following.

4 – Complete the retrace, tucking any crossed strands back in place.

5 – A properly dressed knot has no gaps and no crossed strands, with at least 6” of tail remaining.

Double overhand stopper knot

What is it: The basic knot for closing the system, placed at the end of the rope to avoid the rope running through the belay device and dropping a climber.

Why it’s cool: Easy to inspect. Red flags / Rules: Always have at least 15 cm of tail. Can be difficult to untie if loaded.


  •                 Being simple can be tied in the dark, one handed and wearing mitts
  •                 Strong even under wet, dry and frozen conditions
  •                 If tied correctly, doesn’t undo easily
  •   Does not jam as easily like other climbing knots as it can slip effortlessly over edges



  •                 Difficult to untie
  • Can jam badly