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Figure 8 vs Double Bowline
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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Nov 23, 2012
El Chorro
rgold wrote:
Climbers using the Yosemite finish on a figure-8 should be aware of a dangerous tendency to capsize under relatively moderate loads (eg twice body weight) if the loop is cross-loaded. What you don't ever want to do is something like this: A bowline that hasn't been properly backed up (for me, Yosemite finish plus barrel knot) is even worse if cross-loaded in this way. The bowline on a bight, or in the context of tying in, the rethreaded bowline, is the best combination of security and untie-ability.


I thought this was a "myth."

I mean I know that a fig 8 can roll and capsize, which is why we don't use it to join two ropes together for a rappel. But I was under the impression that the Yose finish didn't neccessarily increase the chances of it happening. Couldn't you capsize a regular fig eight pretty easily if cross loaded the wrong way?

And since we do agree that a fig 8 can collapse, what do you think about belaying off the rope loop? I know if you are attached to the anchor with the rope then this kind of cross loading is not likely, but in all the literature I've seen about belaying off your rope loop, no one ever mentions that the fig 8 knot will roll if the loop is loaded incorrectly.

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By Malcolm Daly
From Boulder, CO
Nov 23, 2012
Alan Corneau,
As long as we're geeking out on knot nomenclature I'm going to split a very fine hair. The knot you call a bowline on a bight is what I call a retraced bowline. Why? Because you can't tie a bowline on a bight through a closed loop like a harness tie-in. To tie that knot you have to first tie a single bowline through your tie-in points then re-trace it.

To tie a bowline on a bight, you don't need an end; you tie it in a bight of rope.

It's analogous to a re-traced figure-8 tie-in vs a figure-8 on a bight. The knots you end up with are identical but how you got there determines the name.

BTW, I've been climbing since 1968 using a double bowline and it has never even started to come lose, never mind untying itself. I think it's a very safe knot but I don't tie in with it at most climbing gyms. It makes the staff nervous because they're not trained to recognize anything except a fig-8.

I now tie in with a re-traced bowline because it's more complicated to tie and the process of tying it forces me to pay more attention to the process.

Anything that forces me to pay more attention to what I'm doing--especially in a crowded gym or crag--is a good thing. That why I like my weird belay glasses--they force me to keep my eye on the climber rather than the girl in the hot pants next to me.

climb safe,
Mal

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By Gregger Man
Nov 23, 2012
gg
Mal -
It actually is possible....but not convenient :0)


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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Nov 23, 2012
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard
Ryan, I don't think the result is a myth. The report and the diagram I posted can be found at bergundsteigen.at/file.php/arc..., which states, if I understand the German, that, according to tests by Mammut, the figure 8 with Yosemite finish can roll at 160 kg when ring-loaded.

The same article says that this knot is not even close to secure enough for clipping a belay device into directly. An ordinary figure-eight may have similar issues, although the Brits use this clip-in method with some regularity and I don't think there has ever been an incident in which a fall arrest caused the knot to roll. But this is at least partially due to the fact that the belayer's tie-in, if tensioned, causes the knot to reorient and not be ring-loaded.

Here again, the safest knot is probably the rethreaded bowline, celebrated for its relative complexity just above by Malcom.

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Nov 23, 2012
El Chorro
Thanks for the link. I'll have to check that out when I have some time.

I've always sort of wondered how likely it is to crossload the tie in loop if you are belaying a leader. When belaying a follower it isn't much of a concern as long as you have everything set up right. But you're right, everyone does it here and apparently without incident.

Love the retraced bowline for sport climbing, but the fact that it makes it safer to use the rope loop as a belay doesnt really help me. I'd only do that when trad climbing and when I trad climb I use doubles. Retraced bowline doesn't work well with two ropes.

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Nov 23, 2012
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
Mal - It actually is possible....but not convenient :0)
>

Hahaha. +1 smartass.

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By Jim Amidon
Nov 23, 2012
J TREE
I always tie in with a bowline.......

Have for 17 years........

Is there any others reason to climb at the gym than the hotties.....

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By bearbreeder
Nov 23, 2012
i generally whip several times a session, frequently more, when climbing at my limit on trad or sport ... never had an issue untying a fig 8 ... as long as you tie it nicely and know how to take it apart ... it takes no more than a min or two even after the worse whips IME

now i can see it being a bit more troublesome to untie on old stiff fuzzy ropes ... but then you dont want to go whipping on those ropes over and over again do ya now ;)

tie in with whatever you like ... just make sure it wont come undone and you tie it properly ... and if you do a bowline, dont expect yr partner to be able to check every one of those variations that people are confused about here ...

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By Malcolm Daly
From Boulder, CO
Nov 23, 2012
Greg,, Thanks for that! I should have been able to figure it out and, you'r right. It looks like a PITA.
Mal

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By 20 kN
From Hawaii
Nov 23, 2012
Allen Corneau wrote:
This is a bowline on a bight...

Except that when the knot is retraced through your harness, it's no longer a bowline on a bight. Most knots on a bight cannot be tied through the harness because the term bight references knots tied mid rope (even if close to the end) with two stands of rope as opposed to one. That is the problem with the knot I use, it does not really have a name. I call it the retraced bowline on a bight to make it easier to understand what knot I am talking about, but technically it is not a bowline on a bight because it has been retraced and it has been tied with a single strand of rope. It just creates the effective equivalent of a bowline on a bight. It is like the difference between the retraced figure eight and the figure eight on a bight. They are the exact same knot, but the way in which you tie them determines if they are on bight or not.

As far as single vs double bowline goes. The version I use is technically a single blowline because only one strand of rope pinches the rope leaving the turn. There are two strands of rope making the turn because the bowline on a bight is two bowlines tied in series. If I wanted to convert that knot to a double bowline, there would need to be four turns pinching the strands leaving the bend. But that would be pointless as the knot is already sufficiently secure in its original form.

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By Allen Corneau
From Houston, TX
Nov 23, 2012
Ryan Williams wrote:
I thought this was a "myth." I mean I know that a fig 8 can roll and capsize, which is why we don't use it to join two ropes together for a rappel.



Ryan: to clarify what you've said:

A flat figure-8 isn't used to join two ropes because of it's potential to capsize, but a figure-8 bend (a.k.a. Flemish Bend) is viable and commonly used by some people.


Mal: Very true (and I do like geeking out about knots on occasion). Gregger Man posted what I was immediately thinking about not being able to "tie in" mid-rope. Thanks Gregger.

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By Allen Corneau
From Houston, TX
Nov 23, 2012
Ok, just had a thought...

If we call a "figure-8 on a bight" being tied on the harness a "figure-8 follow-through" we should follow the convention and call the "bowline on a bight" tied on the harness a "bowline follow-through".

Hmm?!?

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By Jon Marek
From SLC
Nov 23, 2012
gossamer
For added confusion I thought I would include the knot that I have been using regularly for years. If I remember correctly this knot was featured as a "tech tip" in climbing magazine perhaps a decade ago. I'm not sure I have any real justification for using this knot over any others except that I like it.

Now for your pleasure the Double Bowline with a Bowline Backup (DBBB).

DBBB top view
DBBB top view


DBBB side view
DBBB side view


Clearly, when using this knot, most people are going to have no clue what you are doing...so take the time to practice it (alot) before embarrassing yourself at the crag. Also, know that if you don't tighten this knot (or any other bowline for that matter) YER GONNA DIE!!!!

P.S. for those of you who claim to use the fig-8 because double-checking knot is too much work...in my experience the more common error is not tying the rope incorrectly at all, but in fact it is accidentally tieing into the wrong point on the harness i.e. dopes who tie their fig-8 into a leg loop.

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By dsmit
From Flagstaff, Az
Nov 23, 2012
Climbing the edge.
Jon Marek wrote:
...in my experience the more common error is not tying the rope incorrectly at all, but in fact it is accidentally tieing into the wrong point on the harness i.e. dopes who tie their fig-8 into a leg loop.


Smoke dope, check yer rope! How do I tie a figure 8 again????? Same way one would tie a shoe right?

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By Nate Flink
From Minneapolis, MN
Nov 23, 2012
Nate Flink this is me, 2012 on Beckey's Wall, Little Cottonwood Canyon
This is an interesting discussion.

I would be curious to see a photo of the retraced bowline tied into a harness. How to tie the fisherman's backup to be threaded back down through the knot? -As John Wilder mentioned. I would like to learn this knot.

I like to tie a double bowline for gym climbing and sport climbing. I can usually untie faster than folks I climb with using a figure eight that's been loaded, the advantage being not having to fight with the knot every 2 minutes. However, I always use a figure eight with a yosemite finish for multi-pitch trad climbing, which feels more secure when tied in for a longer time.

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By Superclimber
Nov 23, 2012
I didn't read the whole thread, but just in case nobody else mentioned it... you sir are gonna die. Carry on.

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By 20 kN
From Hawaii
Nov 23, 2012
For those interested, this topic has been covered heavily on rc.com:

rockclimbing.com/cgi-bin/forum...

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By M LaViolette Jr.
From The Past
Nov 24, 2012
Wolverine on Predator (5.13b) Rumney.
Gregger Man, I think it's time to post the Soooooper 8 again.

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By Gregger Man
Nov 24, 2012
gg
Shhhh!

The Sooooper Eight is triple-top secret (for secrecy redundancy, of course. )

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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Nov 24, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!
20 kN wrote:
I have taken over 1,000 lead falls ...


So THAT'S why we never hear about you sending anything!

On to the more important topic: I like the Figure 8, because it instills a very dark, self-loathing form of Puritanical guilt into my climbing. When I take a big fall, lower down, and am pumped out of my goard, the welded figure 8 reminds me that I should not have fallen, and that I climbed terribly. As I struggle to undo it, millimeter by millimeter, I chant the dark sermon, "You are a BAD climber. A BAD climber."

But then again, I have not taken 1,000 lead falls, so I may not know what I am talking about :)

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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Nov 24, 2012
Epic free solo with a pack on
For the ultimate in climbing convenience (because cmon, safety is the number 2 worry in climbing), there is an ipad app that ties the rope for you!

But really, if tying and untying a fig 8 is too much work for someone to do, then maybe climbing isn't the right sport. Doing things the right way isn't always quick, but accidents start where laziness creeps in. Being lazy on your tax forms is one thing, but when it comes to safety and preservation of your own life, why not try to make climbing as safe as possible with such a little thing? Now i'm not trying to start a discussion on soloing and its inherent risks, but when tying in to a rope, why not be as safe as you can? What's next, is it gonna be too much of a pain in the ass to double back the harness?

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By tenpins
Nov 24, 2012
just a comment relevant to this; my foreman just last week told me "its a bowline" in response to my query what type of knot is that? We were setting up rigging for structural ironworking.

"Im left handed so it's backwards" he said. My boss has had a 20 year hiatus from his caving and climbing days, during which he was fully competent.

What he had tied was not, in fact a bowline. Identified from a quick visual inspection. Bowline is easier to mess up than the 8 IMO, but if you are actually good at your knots, you can spot it a mile away.

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By Arnold Braker
From golden, co
Nov 24, 2012
Ben Brotelho wrote:
For the ultimate in climbing convenience (because cmon, safety is the number 2 worry in climbing), there is an ipad app that ties the rope for you! But really, if tying and untying a fig 8 is too much work for someone to do, then maybe climbing isn't the right sport. Doing things the right way isn't always quick, but accidents start where laziness creeps in. Being lazy on your tax forms is one thing, but when it comes to safety and preservation of your own life, why not try to make climbing as safe as possible with such a little thing? Now i'm not trying to start a discussion on soloing and its inherent risks, but when tying in to a rope, why not be as safe as you can? What's next, is it gonna be too much of a pain in the ass to double back the harness?



There is nothing unsafe about a bowline. Over 75% of my partners use a bowline and are whipping on it all day long. You can fuck up any knot if you're retarded.

And actually, it IS too much of a pain in the ass to double back a harness. That's why I and most non-gumbies bought one where you don't need to.

If you can be lazy and safe why not? Just because something is a PITA doesn't make it inherently better.

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Nov 24, 2012
El Chorro
Ben Brotelho wrote:
For the ultimate in climbing convenience (because cmon, safety is the number 2 worry in climbing), there is an ipad app that ties the rope for you! But really, if tying and untying a fig 8 is too much work for someone to do, then maybe climbing isn't the right sport. Doing things the right way isn't always quick, but accidents start where laziness creeps in. Being lazy on your tax forms is one thing, but when it comes to safety and preservation of your own life, why not try to make climbing as safe as possible with such a little thing? Now i'm not trying to start a discussion on soloing and its inherent risks, but when tying in to a rope, why not be as safe as you can? What's next, is it gonna be too much of a pain in the ass to double back the harness?


No one is making the argument that being able to easily untie a knot is more important than safety. But I know plenty of people (I am one of them) who would argue that climbing on any form of a bowline can be just as safe as climbing on a fig 8. So if it is possible to have both safety and convenience, then why not have both?

It is a fact that people have died while climbing with a bowline knot, but it is also a fact that people have died from their rope being cut. But we don't see everyone running out and buying double ropes now do we?

You said "if trying to untie a fig 8 is too much work... maybe climbing isn't the right sport."

I don't disagree with that statement at all. I'd also add this:

If making sure that your own knot is tied correctly is too difficult, then maybe climbing is not the right sport for you.

Now, to be clear, I nearly always tie a figure 8. I guided and taught climbing for a long time, and I always thought it was dumb to teach people the fig 8 and then go and tie in w/ a bowline. And yes, for the average climber, spotting an incorrectly tied 8 is easier than spotting an incorrectly tied bowline. There are a lot of ways to tie a bowline but there is only one Figure 8 Follow Through. It is a standard.

For these reasons I used the fig 8 and asked even my experienced clients to use a fig 8. It became so normal for me to tie in with this knot that I just never thought about changing.

But now that I don't work in the guiding industry anymore, I will tie in w/ a retraced bowline if I know I'm about to whip on my skinny rope a bunch of times. It's now normal practice for me to use different knots and I don' have to think about which one I will use.

In any case I absolutely ALWAYS double and triple check my own knot. If my partner wants to check it that's fine, but I never ask or expect them to do so. Staying safe is MY responsibility.

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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Nov 24, 2012
Epic free solo with a pack on
Eh. To me any knot that relies on a backup to be safe is NOT as safe as a knot that works on its own.

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