Prusik hitch

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The prusik hitch is the friction hitch that every rope guerrilla should know.  It’s tied with a loop of accessory cord and serves as a “soft” rope grab, gripping when under tension but able to slide when the load is released.  It grabs in either direction and makes a great point of connection when working on a horizontal safety or restraint line.

Use the prusik hitch in a variety of applications; hauling, rescue, banner rigging, ascent/descent – the list goes on.  The prusik hitch (developed in 1931) remains a tried and true alternative to the mechanical rope grabs to which it gave origin.  It’s simplicity, many functions, low weight, and low cost make it irreplaceable.

One method for using a prusik hitch as an autoblock or backup to a rappel.

One method for using a prusik hitch as an autoblock or backup for a rappel.

Benefits:

  • Simple
  • Easy to tie
  • Multi-directional
  • Multi-purpose

Learn to tie the prusik hitch here.

Water knot

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The water knot, sometimes referred to as a ring bend, is used to join two pieces of webbing together.  Tying_waterknotGreat for making your own webbing slings or tying off wrapped webbing anchors.

1. Start with a neatly tied overhand.

2. Thread the 2nd end in reverse – make sure to take out any twists!

3. Nest the 2nd end along the path of the overhand.

4. Follow it thru until you’re able to pull the tail from the opposite end of the overhand.

5. Keep the knot loose and adjust as needed to for adequate tail length.

6. Snug up neatly and compact.  The water knot should have no less than 4 inches of tail remaining once tied and pulled snug.  If creating a sling step into it and weight the knot before use.  This will set the knot (leaving closer to 3 inches of tail).

Warning:  Apply weight and secure all water knots prior to use for life support (standing and bouncing on a freshly tied sling is a good way to do this).  Short tails have the potential to slip under tension and a loose water knot is dangerously susceptible to snagging so be sure to keep water knots clear of any edges or snag points – video here.

Knotty word basics

Tying knots and hitches requires the manipulation of rope in a variety of ways. Use these basic terms when describing the process of knot building and avoid getting lost in the language of rope shapes.

rope_partsWorking end: The active end of the rope used to tie the knot.

Bight: Created by grabbing the rope and forming a tight U-turn shape.

Loop: A circle formed in a rope by crossing a bight over itself.

Twist: A loop that is rotated once more.

Standing End: The end of the rope not active in knot tying.  A rope system may have multiple standing sections/ends depending on your focus at any given time.

 

What’s the difference between a knot and a hitch?

A knot is used to join two ropes together or a rope to itself.  If done correctly a knot will hold shape regardless of it being fixed to something else.  A hitch is used to fix a rope to another object, such as a carabiner or pole, and relies on that object to hold.  You can see this easily by tying an eight follow-thru onto a carabiner.  Do the same with a clove hitch.  Now take the carabiner away and see what happens – it will fall apart.  Some sources classify a hitch as a class of knot but the general distinction remains the same.