Speedy Bowline Tie-in Trick

| March 19, 2009 | 8 Comments

I took a skiing time-out yesterday to go crack climbing at Indian Creek, Utah with Brad Barlage. While we were roping up, Brad showed me this cool little trick for tying a Bowline knot around your harness. 

Bowlines are the King-of-Knots as they strong, simple and easy to untie after they have been loaded.  Because of this, they are the knot of choice for sailing, but for climbing the “easy to untie” part can be problematic if it happens when you don’t want it to.  For this reason, many climbers back them up with a securing overhand knot. 

Bowline connoisseurs might notice that in this demo the tail is outside the legs, instead of inside.  This can be fixed by feeding the tail through the hole in the other direction.

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Category: Tips & Technique

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (8)

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  1. Clyde says:

    I show that as technique #2 (slipping the bow) in The Outdoor Knot Book (pg 98 – 101). I prefer technique #1 (aka hand flick or scratch the belly) since it’s even easier. And ALWAYS back up with an overhand, snugged tight.

    BTW the inside vs outside bowline only makes a difference on laid ropes (goldline for us old-timers). With kernmantle ropes there is no strength difference.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks Clyde. Here’s a link to the book:
    http://www.clydesoles.com/Front/Knots.html

    I always thought the inside vs. outside leg had more to do with the tail end being protected from accidental accidental bumping more than strength. Learn something new every day, eh?

  3. Charlie says:

    Neato. Thanks.

  4. Brad Barlage says:

    I don’t recommend this knot for everyday climbing as:

    1) Accidents can happen if you mess it up. Are you 100% sure that it is tied correctly? You are betting your life on it.

    2) It is hard to tell if it is tied correctly. A Figure 8 is super easy to see if it is tied correctly by you or your partner.

    3) Bowlines have a way of coming undone. It has never happened to me but I have heard of it. Stiff ropes are more prone to this.

    4) The bowline doesn’t absorb much impact of a fall like the figure 8 does.

    5) Do you really want to be worrying about your knot instead of what it takes to climb the route?

    That said, be a grown up and make your own decision on which knot you choose.

  5. Neat trick, I use it all the time when I need to tie the knot from an uncomfortable or unusual position. Not for climbing, though. For climbing I prefer the good old “belly scratching” method: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vy-ZYg1uoWs

    Brad, what do you base you point #4 on? As far as I know, bowline is just as strong as figure eight (see the above-mentioned “The Outdoor Knots Book” by Clyde Soles, for example).

    Anyway, the most frequent knot-related cause of accidents is not finishing the knot properly. And I’ve seen people mess up figure eight. So, I’ll agree with your point #5 – use whatever knot you know and trust the best. To me, it happens to be Double Bowline with the backup (shown in the video above).

  6. jed says:

    i tie in with a bowline exclusively. i can tie it with gloves on and when i fall and the rope is frozen i can get it untied. i think the best knot is the one you are most familiar and comfortable with.

  7. Wolf says:

    I really don’t think this is safe. Their’s also the double-bowlin, which may be safer if you still want a bowlin untie. Figure 8 is obviously the safest hardest to untie knot. What was that one climber video on youtube where the guy said something about Darwin with reference to people that don’t use a figure 8? :P

  8. FieldRatt says:

    Well all I did was practice the knot a little and I got it down pat. I did the standard way and then this way side by side and the knots looked the same. I teach my troops this as an alternative. Either way…always perform a safety check before you climb.

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