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The Bowline strikes again!
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By skiclimber
Dec 14, 2012
jibbing at chasm lake
outsideonline.com/outdoor-adve...

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By S.Stelli
From Colorado Springs, CO
Dec 14, 2012
He told Rock and Ice that he didnt finish the knot. That can have dire consequences on any knot. Why is the title of the article bye bye bowline?

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By Gunkiemike
Dec 14, 2012
To me there's a big difference between "finish the knot" as in secure the free end with an overhand or half fishermans, and "complete the knot". Failure to do the latter IIRC is what nearly killed Lynn Hill. I'm not sure what an uncompleted bowline would look like. More importantly, I don't yet know which of these two failures was involved in the JL accident. But my experience says that not finishing i.e. not securing the free end of, a bowline would not be all that deadly. People have tied in with bowlines (waist loops, coils, harnesses) for decades.

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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Dec 14, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!
It has nothing to do with the knot. This is like the number of accidents in which a belayer panics and holds down the brake of their device, and the next thing you hear is "gri gri malfunction!"

Repeat after me... USER ERROR.

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Dec 14, 2012
El Chorro
JL said he "didn't take the rabbit out of the hole and around the tree". Seems to me then that he basically just had a rope through his harness with a few twists in the end. If you do that with a figure 8 you're still gonna deck when you go to weight the knot.

All of this talk lately makes no sense. If JL had forgotten to finish his fig 8 knot and broke his ankle in the resulting fall, we wouldn't be seeing articles about how dangerous the fig 8 knot is - we'd be reading about how important it is to double check your system.

It's a shame that people like this Adam Roy character are even allowed to publish articles like the one above. The original article gave the impression that the included picture was a bowline knot that is used for climbing when in fact the knot in that picture wouldn't even pass standard on a sail boat. And he contradicts himself at least once in the first few paragraphs. What a joke.

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By Gregger Man
Dec 14, 2012
gg
I saw a climber deck in the gym on Tuesday night: Unfinished figure 8 on the top rope 15' off the mat.
Check yer knots.

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By Buff Johnson
Dec 14, 2012
smiley face
Not to mention the importance of taking a quick look at your buddy's setup, or at least asking about it, but that's just gumby talk....

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By ian watson
From Albuquerque, NM
Dec 14, 2012
Its the little things that will get you, (done this a 1000 times)take a a little extra time and check your partner Be safe folks.

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Dec 14, 2012
Bocan
ian watson wrote:
Its the little things that will get you, (done this a 1000 times)take a a little extra time and check your partner Be safe folks.


Exactly...and even if my partner and I are distanced, we make the out loud verbalization and spot check on the knot and double back.

If it can happen to Lyn and Long, it can happen to a slacker like me. Always double and triple check.

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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Dec 14, 2012
tanuki
The article linked above had as much in common with journalism as Rosie O'Donnell has with Eva Mendes. Let me put it another way so everyone can understand; it sucks!

I find it interesting that the opponents of the bowline always conveniently overlook all the accidents caused by the figure eight being incorrectly tied or people forgetting to complete the knot. It happens a lot.

Both knots have their pros and cons. Both knots, tied correctly, function perfectly and will not come undone. Both knots are easy to learn and can be easily checked by a partner.

You don't like the bowline, cool. Don't use it.

FWIW, I use a figure eight with a Yosemite finish 90% of the time.

Now, here is a nice picture for everyone to enjoy.


--- Invalid image id: 107931133 ---

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By Jason Halladay
Administrator
From Los Alamos, NM
Dec 14, 2012
Climbing at the Belvedere crag near Nago with a great view of the northern end of Lake Garda and the town of Torbole sul Garda below. June 2013.
Ryan Williams wrote:
If you do that with a figure 8 you're still gonna deck when you go to weight the knot. All of this talk lately makes no sense. If JL had forgotten to finish his fig 8 knot and broke his ankle in the resulting fall, we wouldn't be seeing articles about how dangerous the fig 8 knot is - we'd be reading about how important it is to double check your system.


It seems to me an unfinished (untraced) fig-8 is super obvious and the rope is not likely to stay in your harness as one climbs up 30 feet as, apparently, JL's unfinished bowline did. So I don't think we're as likely to see an article about someone not finishing their fig-8 and decking.

The point is it's way easier (and apparently more common) to screw up a bowline tie-in knot compared to the retraced fig-8. Further, a bowline, not backed up, has a chance of coming undone if it's not weighted or pulled tightly. You don't get that with the fig-8.

The joke here is how much defense the bowline gets as a tie-in knot. After the numerous bowline-as-a-tie-in-knot-related accidents I've read about over the years, it just amazes me how much vocal support the knot still gets. So a bowline is easier to untie if you've fallen on it. That's not a convincing enough argument for the knot. I've fallen a lot on fig-8s and sure, it can be a PITA to untie every now and then but I'll take that minor inconvenience for the added security any day.

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By Jason Halladay
Administrator
From Los Alamos, NM
Dec 14, 2012
Climbing at the Belvedere crag near Nago with a great view of the northern end of Lake Garda and the town of Torbole sul Garda below. June 2013.
NC Rock Climber wrote:
I always find it interesting that the opponents of the bowline always conveniently overlook all the accidents caused by the figure eight being incorrectly tied or people forgetting to complete the knot. It happens a lot.

Perhaps because of my prejudice against the bowline as a tie-in knot I've missed the reports of many figure-8 related accidents. Can you cite a couple? I'm not being a jerk, I really want to know.

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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Dec 14, 2012
tanuki
Hey Jason, that is a valid question. In the gym where I workout there have been two incidents where the climber did not tie the follow through part of their figure eight. In both cases the climber got to the top of the climb, leaned back and fell. One was an experienced teenager and the other was relatively inexperienced adult. This is just one gym in a year. Neither event was talked about on this forum or in any magazine.

My assumption is that most gyms teach and encourage the figure eight. It is also my assumption that most gym accidents that only result in injury are not widely talked about. However, due to the "controversy" regarding the bowline, any accident where a bowline is involved is sprayed all over the internet and used to strengthen the "bowline is bad" position.

John Long's accident was about one thing; user error. From the brief description he gave of what happened, his choice of knot had nothing to do with it. Not retracing the eight would have had the same result.

For the record, I am not a proponent of either knot. Folks should tie in with the knot that they know and with which they are confident. They should have a ritual for tying in that involves multiple checks and follow it EVERY TIME.

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By Derek Lawrence
From Bailey
Dec 14, 2012
Cocaine Corner
Jason Halladay wrote:
So I don't think we're as likely to see an article about someone not finishing their fig-8 and decking.


See Greg's comment above. It happened at the gym we both climb at this past tuesday. Good thing for padded floors...

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By csproul
From Davis, CA
Dec 14, 2012
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background
Jason Halladay wrote:
It seems to me an unfinished (untraced) fig-8 is super obvious and the rope is not likely to stay in your harness as one climbs up 30 feet as, apparently, JL's unfinished bowline did. So I don't think we're as likely to see an article about someone not finishing their fig-8 and decking. The point is it's way easier (and apparently more common) to screw up a bowline tie-in knot compared to the retraced fig-8. Further, a bowline, not backed up, has a chance of coming undone if it's not weighted or pulled tightly. You don't get that with the fig-8. The joke here is how much defense the bowline gets as a tie-in knot. After the numerous bowline-as-a-tie-in-knot-related accidents I've read about over the years, it just amazes me how much vocal support the knot still gets. So a bowline is easier to untie if you've fallen on it. That's not a convincing enough argument for the knot. I've fallen a lot on fig-8s and sure, it can be a PITA to untie every now and then but I'll take that minor inconvenience for the added security any day.

The bolded points are pure conjecture. You have no data to tell me that either is more commonly "screwed up" or that one is "easier" to screw up. I would be willing to bet that more people are injurred by unfinished 8's than are injured by mis-tied (or correctly tied!) bowlines...but unlike you, I'll admit that this is pure conjecture.

I have definitely seen people tie half of their 8, thread it through the harness, and start to re-trace it...only to get distracted and not finish the knot. And this has certainly (witnessed by me) resulted in the rope going up the route with a climber only to have him realize his knot was not finished...so no, unfinished 8 will not necessarily just fall out of the harness before you start climbing.

In my experience, a bowline falls apart when I tie it wrong...ie there is no knot and nothing that even resembles a knot. I'd say that it is more obvious to me when I mis-tie a bowline, but I can't remember ever mis-tying a figure 8 so I can't really say that (there might be a good argument for the 8). My major complaint with the bowline is that are many variations, a lack of consensus on the terminology of those variations, and a lack of consensus on which of those variations are more/less likely to work loose should you not put a finishing knot on the rope.

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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Dec 14, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!
Jason Halladay wrote:
Perhaps because of my prejudice against the bowline as a tie-in knot I've missed the reports of many figure-8 related accidents. Can you cite a couple? I'm not being a jerk, I really want to know.


The one up-thread, and of course, Lynn Hill's accident in the late 80s, which every climber should know about.

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By ian watson
From Albuquerque, NM
Dec 14, 2012
Its a simple case of use a bowline wrong YGD!!! use a 8 wrong and YGD!! whatever you use double check before climbing and before lowering for yourself and your partner. Also this is a good time to check your harness (double backed leg and waist?) and your partners.

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Dec 14, 2012
El Chorro
Jason Halladay wrote:
Perhaps because of my prejudice against the bowline as a tie-in knot I've missed the reports of many figure-8 related accidents. Can you cite a couple? I'm not being a jerk, I really want to know.


I witnessed two different people deck in Thailand because they had not finished their figure of eight knot. I know they were climbing on fig 8's because in both instances I was close enough to see half of the knot still tied in the end of the rope. Obviously I offered to help both times, which is why I was able to take a good look at the set up. Thankfully both climbers were on the beginning parts of short cave projects above a nice sandy beach, and both fell when they took on one of the first few bolts.

I have also seen two more climbers realize mid-pitch that they had not finished their fig 8 knot. Both of them went in direct, retied the knot, and lowered off. One of them was a good friend of mine. I asked her if she thought the half tied knot would have held and she said "absolutely not."

I won't argue that we hear about bowline failures more often than fig 8 failures, but I think everyone needs to realize that there is no way to really know how often this happens (with either knot). I am not going to change my system based on hearing about a few accidents on the internet, and no one else should either.

Say what you want about either knot, but no one can dispute the following: The accidents are occurring because of user error. It's not about the knots we use or don't use. JL fell because he fucked up - he'd be the first one to tell you that.

I usually tie in w/ an 8 because it is natural for me. I can tie it when I am hungry, delusional, blind, in the dark in a blizzard on the side of a mountain. AND many of my partners use it, making it easy for them to check me out. I like this and it is a perfectly good reason to use an 8.

Saying that you like an 8 for the reasons above is just offering good information and advice. Saying that bowlines are unsafe because they come undone is spreading bad and false information.

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By TWK
Dec 14, 2012
I don't even know the name of the knot I've tied in with for >30 years. Some european climber showed it to me at the Gunks, and I liked the way it looked, so I kept using it. Yes, I've also used bowlines (rarely) and eights (commonly), but I like the simplicity and apparent security of this knot, as follows:

1. Before threading the end of the rope through my harness tie-in points, I loosely tie a simple overhand in it about three and a half feet from the end.

2. After threading the rope end through the harness, and leaving the overhand beyond the harness (not passing it through the harness), I slip the working end through the "hole" in the overhand, in a direction away from the harness, and snug up the overhand a little. This leaves the free or working end running away from me and lying parallel to the rope.

3. Using the working end of the rope that has been passed through the overhand, I tie (what I call) a fisherman's knot around the rope above the overhand, leaving enough of the end to tie a couple of half-hitches to prevent the fisherman's knot from spontaneously backing out. Done.

Simple, easy to see if tied incorrectly, seems secure.

What do you all think? Does anyone else use this knot or know what it's called? Maybe a one-and-a-half fisherman's? three-fourths of a grapevine?

I know, "Yer gonna die!" But I haven't yet, after using it for >30 years.

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By bearbreeder
Dec 14, 2012
one thing that is pretty true in north american anyways is that almost every partner recognizes and can check a fig 8 ...

hell even MPer experts cant really tell sometimes about which personal favorite bowline variation is what and whether everyones different finish is good ... as witnessed by almost every bowline thread turning into "heres my favorrite personal vairation, "oh is that really safe?"

good luck finding a lot of partners who can recognize your pet bunny and the personalized hole it goes through everytime at a glance ;)

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Dec 14, 2012
El Chorro
TWK wrote:
I don't even know the name of the knot I've tied in with for >30 years. Some european climber showed it to me at the Gunks, and I liked the way it looked, so I kept using it. Yes, I've also used bowlines (rarely) and eights (commonly), but I like the simplicity and apparent security of this knot, as follows: 1. Before threading the end of the rope through my harness tie-in points, I loosely tie a simple overhand in it about three and a half feet from the end. 2. After threading the rope end through the harness, and leaving the overhand beyond the harness (not passing it through the harness), I slip the working end through the "hole" in the overhand, in a direction away from the harness, and snug up the overhand a little. This leaves the free or working end running away from me and lying parallel to the rope. 3. Using the working end of the rope that has been passed through the overhand, I tie (what I call) a fisherman's knot around the rope above the overhand, leaving enough of the end to tie a couple of half-hitches to prevent the fisherman's knot from spontaneously backing out. Done. Simple, easy to see if tied incorrectly, seems secure. What do you all think? Does anyone else use this knot or know what it's called? Maybe a one-and-a-half fisherman's? three-fourths of a grapevine? I know, "Yer gonna die!" But I haven't yet, after using it for >30 years.


I dont know what that's called but I've used that for something, I don't remember what. There certainly wasn't anyone's life depending on it. Do you really tie in this way? I'm not sure what I'd say if my partner wanted to tie in that way. I guess I have no reason to argue but...

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By wivanoff
Dec 14, 2012
High Exposure
TWK wrote:
I don't even know the name of the knot I've tied in with for >30 years.


I don't know the name either. Maybe a "swami knot". But, what he showed you was a standard way of tying into a swami or Whillins, BITD. I remember using it before I switched to the double bowline.

See the GPIW 1975 page 31 figure 19.

home.comcast.net/~e.hartouni/G...

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By Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Dec 14, 2012
Big Boulder, just a bit downhill from Temple of Kali. Alabama Hills, CA.
Check your knot....

I have had a partner anchor a rope in with what I call a 6.5 ....

to tie this start a figure 8 but do not fully follow the first 8.. only go 1/2 way back.

The beauty of this knot is that it will hold... for a little while, I was able to start jumaring and got about 15 feet up, when I started going the wrong way! I yelled 'WTF'... and stopped going down. Partner said OK come on up. This knot slipps some, but its easy to hold the tail and stop it from sliding.... thats what they did for me.
When I got to the anchor, He showed me what had happened and what he did to stop me.... I said "lets bail"


I always tied into a swami belt with a figure eight. .... BITD
Climbing is pretty simple, no.

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By Jason Halladay
Administrator
From Los Alamos, NM
Dec 14, 2012
Climbing at the Belvedere crag near Nago with a great view of the northern end of Lake Garda and the town of Torbole sul Garda below. June 2013.
Thanks a lot for the examples of incidents involving figure 8 tie-in knots. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that the cause of JL's accident was not user error. I completely agree with that as the root cause of the accident.

My point, and yes csproul it is conjecture and my opinion (this is a discussion forum!), is that it's easier to screw up a bowline than it is a fig-8. The best knot is the one both you and your partner are comfortable with, know how to recognize and finish it.

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By TWK
Dec 14, 2012
Ryan Williams wrote:
Do you really tie in this way? I'm not sure what I'd say if my partner wanted to tie in that way. I guess I have no reason to argue but...


Yeah, I have to agree with you, but, yes, I really tie in that way. My reaction when I first saw it was similar to yours. Then the guy took the knot apart, showed me how to tie it, and demonstrated its reliability by taking a limited deliberate fall.

I don't really see how this knot can cause problems, but . . .

Famous last words.

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By TWK
Dec 14, 2012
wivanoff wrote:
I don't know the name either. Maybe a "swami knot". But, what he showed you was a standard way of tying into a swami or Whillins, BITD. I remember using it before I switched to the double bowline. See the GPIW 1975 page 31 figure 19.


Yep, that's it--the Swami Knot or the One-and-a-Half-Fisherman's Bend.

I've never seen failure tests on it, but it must have been pretty popular after the "best knot" endorsement in the '75 GPIW catalog. Can't say I've ever heard of it failing . . . but I never knew what it was called before today.

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