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Climbing knots

In order to climb safely, it is crucial to know how to tie specific knots. Depending on the situation, the basic ones are sufficient, but sometimes you need a few more. For sport climbing in crags, one or two knots are enough, whereas if you go alpine climbing, you need more. The perfect handling of the knots is an absolute prerequisite for climbing, as you should be able to tie the knots with ease during emergencies, when tired, under time pressure, or in the dark. Frequent practice is the name of the game. In the following, we present you with 11 of the most common and useful knots.

Important considerations

  1. Practice makes perfect and provides safety.
  2. Knots must be tied neatly and not twisted.
  3. Knots must be tightened firmly.
  4. Knot ends must always be long enough.
  5. Before you start climbing, always do a partner check to verify if the knots have been tied correctly by everyone.

Overhand Bend

The overhand bend is a connecting knot and connects two rope or accessory cord ends with one another. It is mainly used for rappelling and prusiking up a rope and to attach cord to rock tunnels. It is easy to inspect and easy to tighten with your hands so that it can no longer come off by itself. This can be a disadvantage after a heavy load, because it is then difficult to untie. Overall, it has a lower knot strength than other knots, but is completely sufficient for low loads such as your own body weight if you leave long enough tails.

Please note: Open webbing material may only be connected with an overhand bend if the material is made of polyamide, but not if it is made of polyethylene or Dyneema.


  1. You take both rope ends in your hand.
  2. Hold the rope ends with one hand and slide approx. 20 cm down the rope with the other hand.
  3. Hold the two ropes at this point, take the rope ends with the other hand and lead them through a loop.
  4. There should be about 20 cm of space between the rope ends and the overhand bend.
  5. Tighten the knot on all 4 strands of rope.
Overhand bend climbing knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive

Figure eight

The rewoven figure eight (also figure 8) is easy to learn and check by yourself and your climbing partner. It is used as a hitch for sport and alpine climbing. It is recommended for alpine climbing, as the figure eight will not come loose once all ends have been well tightened.


  1. Take up about 50 cm of rope (about an arm's length).
  2. After the 50 cm, form a loop.
  3. Go around the loop once with the rope.
  4. Pass the rope through the loop from the front, creating a figure eight.
  5. Thread the rope through both tie-in loops and pull the figure eight knot close to the harness.
  6. Follow the figure eight with the free end of the rope so that a double figure eight knot is formed.
  7. The end of the rope should protrude at least a hand's width from the knot.
  8. Tighten the figure eight on all strands so that it is well-tightened.
Figure eight climbing knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive

Figure eight loop

The figure eight loop (also figure eight on a bight) is used to rope up in top-rope climbing or on glaciers. The knot is connected to the harness with a ball-lock carabiner. Alternatively, use two locking carabiners (attached with their gates facing opposite directions).


  1. Pinch off a bight in the section where you want to have your knot.
  2. Form a loop with both strands by crossing the rope sections over each other.
  3. Bring the upper strands behind the rope ends, wrapping them around the loop.
  4. Pass through the loop from the front.
  5. Make sure all strands are nicely lined and parallel (not twisted). Tighten the figure eight knot well.
Video: Outdooractive

Bowline knot

The bowline knot is mainly used as a hitch in sport climbing. A significant advantage is that it is much easier to untie than the figure eight, even if you have fallen into the rope several times. Of course, this is very convenient, because in sport climbing you are constantly tying and untying. However, it is not easy for beginners to check whether it has been tied correctly because the figure eight is more common and much easier to recognize.


  1. Pass the end of the rope through the two tie-in loops on the harness from bottom to top.
  2. Pull the rope out to about an arm's length.
  3. Take the rope below the harness with your left hand and make a small loop with the rope running to the back.
  4. Put the back rope from front to back through the loop a bit, forming another loop.
  5. Take the end of the rope sticking out of the top of the harness and put it through the second loop until the knot slips onto the harness.
  6. Pull the other end of the rope until the knot is pulled over (if the rope is used, it often doesn't slip well, so you have to help it pull over).
  7. Put the end of the rope back, first through the upper loop, then through the lower loop.
  8. Trace the strands of the knot parallel.
  9. The end of the rope should protrude from the knot by at least a hand's width, as in the figure-eight knot.
  10. Tighten well on all strands.
Bowline climbing knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive

Bowline on a bight using a sling / ‘Soft Eye’

The bowline on a bight or ‘soft eye’ is the central point in alpine climbing when belaying yourself and your climbing partner. The knot is placed in a webbing sling. This knot, if it runs nicely parallel, puts a slight strain on the material and at the same time has very high strength. In addition, it does not tighten under load. The webbing sling should have a length of 120 cm (at least 10 mm wide) and preferably be made of polyamide or hybrid material (polyamide + Dyneema). It makes sense to prepare the belay sling with the 'soft eye' before the tour. Connect it with a snap gate carabiner and a locking carabiner and tie it around your shoulders so that you have it ready to hand at all times.


  1. From the end of the loop you go about 20 cm with your hand down to just before the sewing and make a neat overhand band.
  2. Pull the loop back over the knot.
  3. Tighten the loop by pulling the upper leg of the knot.
  4. If the ‘soft eye’ is correct, the ring can no longer be pulled tighter. 
Soft eye climbing knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive

Prusik knot

The prusik knot is a friction hitch which blocks in both directions but can be shifted when unloaded. It is mainly used as a back-up for rappelling in alpine walls and is easy to learn. The used cord should be 5-6 mm thick, preferably made of Dyneema or Kevlar. The prusik knot is simply pushed down during rappelling and serves as a supportive braking hand. In case you lose control, the prusik knot grips the rope and avoids further uncontrolled rappelling. The cord mustn't be too long so that the prusik knot doesn't get too close to the rappel device, as the rope could still slip through due to the angle. Alternatively, the prusik knot is also used as a climbing aid on the rope, as it can be moved and only blocks when loaded. Depending on the rope thickness, you have to wrap the cord around the rope two or three times.


  1. Take the cord and connect the two ends with an overhand. Ideally, you have already prepared a short cord to have it ready to hand, hanging on the harness at all times.
  2. Place the cord behind the rope(s).
  3. Thread the knot of the cord two or three times through the loop.
  4. All turns must be clean and parallel.
  5. If you want to move the tightened prusik knot again, you simply have to loosen the top loop a little.
  6. When rappelling, take a snap carabiner and attach the prusik knot to the tie-in leg loop of your climbing harness.
Prusik climbing knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive

Klemheist knot

As an alternative to the Prusik knot, the klemheist knot also blocks very well, even with thin webbing slings. Unlike the Prusik knot, the Klemheist knot only grips in one direction, although it can be shifted easily in the other direction. It is crucial to ensure that the wrapped strings are neatly arranged.


  1. Take the sling approximately in the middle and wrap it around the rope(s) upwards at least three times.
  2. Take the other end of the sling and pass it through the loop at the end of the loopings.
  3. If you now pull down the sling end that has been threaded through, the knot will grip the rope.
Klemheist climbing knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive

Munter hitch

The munter hitch is a belay knot and used for partner belaying in alpine climbing. Strictly speaking, it is not an actual knot, but rather a brake loop. In sport climbing, semi-automatic belay devices are used for belaying. In contrast, in alpine climbing, the munter hitch system (HMS) is usually used for belaying both the leader and the follower, as well as for rappelling. The munter hitch must only be used with an HMS carabiner (pear-shaped locking carabiner).


  1. The HMS carabiner is clipped into the 'soft eye'-knot during alpine climbing.
  2. Make sure the spine of the carabiner (its long, closed side) faces the rock.
  3. Clip the rope into the carabiner.
  4. Take the front rope, make a loop and clip it into the carabiner.
  5. Close the carabiner and check if the munter hitch is correct. This can be easily done by alternately pulling the rope at each end. The munter hitch should then bounce back and forth.
  6. The brake hand must never be released when using this technique.
Munter hitch climbing knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive

Clove hitch

Like the Munter hitch and the Prusik knot, the clove hitch is a friction knot. It is used to tie yourself into the anchor in alpine climbing. It can be individually adjusted in length at any time without having to untie the knot. Furthermore, it is also easy to untie even after a heavy load. In alpine climbing, you should also be able to use it one-handed, especially at hanging belays or in rescue techniques.


  1. Clip the rope in the locking carabiner in the same way you would clip a quickdraw.
  2. Take the rear rope, make a loop and clip it into the front of the locking carabiner.
  3. Adjust the length of the knot and tighten it.
  4. Close the locking carabiner.
Clove hitch climbing knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive

Girth hitch

The girth hitch is a practical and simple auxiliary knot. It is used to connect slings, tie off pitons, attach slings to trees or attach the personal anchor system to the harness. In the past, it was also used in crevasse rescue techniques with a T-anchor (here, a sling was attached to the ice axe using a girth hitch). Today, however, the clove hitch is more common since it allows less room for movement. The Girth hitch is also used on via ferratas to attach the via ferrata set to the harness. The knot tightens under load and can be easily loosened.


  1. Thread the sling through the belay loop on the climbing harness.
  2. Take the other end of the sling and pass it through the sling loop.
  3. Pull it tight.
Girth hitch climbing knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive

Butterfly knot

The butterfly knot is used as a brake knot on alpine routes. About 6 butterfly knots are tied into the rope of a two-man rope team, starting from the middle. The butterfly knots provide more braking friction during a potential fall into a crevasse and makes it easier for the follower to hold the load. In general, it is safer to be at least in a three-man rope team on glaciers. The rope should always be kept as tight as possible. Other knots such as overhands or the figure eight loop knot can also serve as brake knots. The big advantage of the butterfly knot is that it provides a larger braking surface as proven by tests. It is also easy to untie after a heavy load.


  1. Take the rope and wrap it around your left hand three times.
  2. Then take the wrap on the far left and place it in between the other two wraps.
  3. Take the strand that is now on the far left and lead it all the way to the front right.
  4. Pull this strand now to make it a little larger, and pass it under the other two strands to the left.
  5. Pull the formed loop to the top and tighten the rope ends, holding the loop in place to shape the butterfly.

There is also a second way of tying the butterfly knot.


  1. Take a loop in the rope.
  2. Twist the loop around twice, holding the loop at the top with one hand and the two strands of rope under the twists with the other hand.
  3. Take the end of the loop and pull it under the two strands of rope.
  4. As you do this, another loop develops between the two twists, and you have to pull it apart a little and hold it.
  5. Take the end of the loop and pass it through the new loop.
  6. Tighten the knot on all sides and strands
Butterfly knot - tutorial
Video: Outdooractive