Learn These Knots Before You Go Ski Mountaineering
Knots are an essential component for safe backcountry travel. With the right knots and gear you can tie into the rope, set up anchors, join ropes for rappels, ascend the rope, stop falls, and do many other things. Knots are something that you will rely on. Learn to tie your knots accurately and use them appropriately. They will save your life.
It’s up to you to know when to rope up in the mountains. Certain terrain like rock climbs, alpine routes, and glaciated terrain require a rope to ensure your safety. Carry a rope when you need it and use it whenever it is necessary. We highly recommend taking a course from a trained professional.
Add a rope to your kit. It’s an essential tool that can allow you to explore the mountains safely when used appropriately. Learn to tie the following knots and be able to tie them with your gloves on and your eyes closed.
There are plenty of knots and hitches to learn, but start with these:
Prusik Knot – The Prusik is a multi-directional, self tightening knot that can be used to climb a rope, set up a rescue system, or back up a rappel. When weighted the Prusik tightens and won’t slide down the rope – although you may have issues when the rope is icy. When unweighted it is easy to slide up or down the rope as needed. Prusiks are made by tying approximately 1 meter of 6 to 8 mm accessory cord in a loop with a double fisherman’s knot. Other friction knots include the autoblock and the klemheist.
Munter Hitch – The munter hitch is an easy to manage, reversible hitch that is tied around a locking, pear-shaped carabiner. It’s an essential component for a rescue system and can be used for belays, lowers, and rappels. It does twist the rope, but is a knot you need to know in case you forget your rappel device! A Super Munter can be used to create more friction in the rope. You can also secure a munter so you can go hands-free by adding a mule to create a munter mule.
Figure 8 Follow Through – The perfect knot to tie into a harness. Be sure to dress it correctly and tie it correctly. It’s easy to inspect and easy to untie.
Girth Hitch – The girth hitch looks familiar because pretty much everyone has tied one at some point whether they know it or not. It’s a great way to tie slings and webbing for making anchors.
Clove Hitch – The clove hitch is a great way to tie into a anchor belay or around an object like a piton. This hitch cinches the rope down on itself to prevent slipping. It’s very easy to adjust and untie, even after being weighted.
Double Fisherman’s Knot – If you need to join two ropes together or create a prusik loop, this is the knot for you. The double fisherman’s can join ropes of the same or different diameters. Be sure the tails stick out at least a fist length to ensure it doesn’t unravel. Once loaded, it’s hard to untie. You can also use the flat overhand, which is less likely to catch on a ledge, to join ropes.
Overhand Knot – A simple knot you know from tying your shoes. This knot is used to add a stopper at the end of your rope when rappelling or as a safety knot after another knot is tied.
Bowline – Used to create a secure loop that does not slip. It’s easy to untie without any load. Use two bowlines to join two ropes or use one to create an anchor. You may have heard the old saying, “the rabbit comes out of the hole, goes around the tree, and then back into the hole” – that’s the bowline.
Tape Knot – AKA the Ring Bend or Water Knot – This knot is used to join two pieces of webbing together. Be sure to leave long tails as it can easily untie.
Alpine Butterfly – Creates a loop in the middle of a piece of rope that is strong in all directions. It’s a great knot to tie into the middle of a rope with for glacier travel, tie out a damaged section of rope, or to add friction to the rope in case of a fall in glaciated terrain.
Practice tying your knots. It’s an essential skill to have in the mountains. You should be able to tie the above knots quickly, efficiently, and accurately. Once you have the basic knots mastered, explore different and functional variations, but try to keep your rope systems as simple as possible.
Learn to tie these knots and hundreds more at AnimatedKnots.com for free. There are plenty of knot tying books on the market. Knots & Ropes For Climbers by Duane Raleigh, Free Skiing by Jimmy Oden, or Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills are all excellent resources.