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Pre course ropework
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After each course, we ask clients to complete a feedback form, so that we can improve our service. One aspect that was highlighted by some climbing and ski courses clients, was that it would be useful to be able to practice / revise some basic ropework before the trip. If you are booked on a course and do not understand any of the ropework below, do not worry as one of our instructors / guides can teach you the ropework you during your course. We re-iterate that it does not matter if you do not know any of these knots, especially if you are on a climbing or ski course where no previous skills are required, as you will be taught any ropework required during the week. Below is an overview film of all the knots and ropework, to get you started...
How to use this page

Above is an overview film (10 minutes long) of all the most commonly used knots and basic ropework for climbing and mountaineering. This film has an audio commentary, which talks you through how to tie the various knots, and their uses.
The knots and ropework are divided into 4 sections...

STAGE 1 - Tying onto the rope. Knots; single figure of eight, rethreaded fig 8, stopper knot.

STAGE 2 - Making safe on the mountain. Knots; figure of 8 on a bight, clove hitch.

STAGE 3 - Rope control raising & lowers. Hitch Knots; Italian / Munter, Garda / Alpine Clutch.

STAGE 4 - Safety backup abseils & lines. Prusik Knots; French, Classic, Klemheist, Tress.

After you have watched the full film, you may wish to practise particular knots, especially if you are already familiar with some of the knots. To assist you, to the right on this page are the separate clips (without audio) of each knot, so you can replay them as required, to learn the knots.
Knots for tying onto a climbing rope, and backing up the knot
Single Figure of 8 knot
The figure of 8 knot is the first step of the most popular way of tying onto a climbing rope. As you can see from the diagram on the left, the knot does form an 8 shape when tied correctly. In order to tie the rope onto your harness, you need to tie this knot roughly one metre from the end of the rope.
Doubled Figure of 8 knot
Once you have followed the instructions in the section above, you pass the end of the rope through the leg and waist loops of your harness until the single figure of 8 is close to the harness, and then retrace the knot with the end of the rope until it emerges out of the end by the main length of rope.
Bowline knot
This is an alternative knot for tying onto a rope with, though generally it is not advised for beginners as the knot works loose quite quickly, and can turn into a slip knot unless backed up with a stopper knot (see section below). The bowline is useful in that it can be untied even after heavy loading.
Stopper knot
If you use a bowline, the stopper knot prohibits the bowline reversing. If you are tied on with a doubled figure of 8, the stopper knot is not necessary unless you have misjudged the length needed for tying on. The stopper knot is also called a fishermans knot and two are used for making prussic loops.
Hitches for controlling a climbing rope
Italian Hitch
The italian hitch is used for belaying, and in case you loose your abseil device it can also be used for descending ropes. The only aspects to be aware of are that this hitch kinks the rope and the karabiner it is clipped onto can get warm if the hitch is used for abseiling, and this could harm the rope.
Clove Hitch
This is used for locking the rope off on a karabiner, and classically is used at all the belay anchor points, such as ice screws or rock protection, that a karabiner has been clipped into. Even when the hitch has been put on the karabiner, it can be adjusted without needing to open the karabiner again.
Prussic knots for locking onto a climbing rope
Kleimheist Prussic
The kleimheist is often the most effective prussic for locking on a rope, and is frequently used for a safety back up on an abseil. The only disadvantages to this knot are that it can lock too well, and be hard to undo, and also all the load weight is on one piece of 7mm prussic cord in a fall situation.
French Autoblock Prussic
This prussic looks similar to the kleimheist, apart from both end loops are clipped into the karabiner, so in event of a fall, the weight is distributed better on the prussic. This knot is very useful in a crevasse rescue hoist pulley system as it can be easily loosened, and can lock off automatically.
Tress Prussic
The tress is the best prussic to use on wet or iced up ropes, a it squeezes the rope to create friction when under load, rather than constricting on itself like a normal prussic. This enables it to open more when not loaded, so it can easily be slid over lumps of ice that have formed on the rope.
Crevasse ropework and hoist systems
We do not expect clients to be able to set up crevasse rescue hoist ropework systems before a course, but the two diagrams below of the 1:3 and 1:5 mechanical advantage hoists have been put up on this page by popular demand, so that past clients can refer to them when revising techniques learnt on their courses.
1:3 Hoist System
Anchor Options
1:5 Hoist System
Ice Axes buried in snow

Ice screws if on a dry glacier

Buried rucksack or bag
STAGE 1: Tying onto the rope
Single Figure of 8
Rethreaded Figure of 8
Rethreaded 8 and Stopper
STAGE 2: Making yourself safe
Figure of 8 on a Bight
Clove Hitch using two hands
How to adjust a Clove Hitch
Clove Hitch using one hand
STAGE 3: Rope control hitches
Italian / Munter Hitch
Garda Hitch / Alpine Clutch
STAGE 4: Safety backup knots
French Prusik
Classic Prusik
Klemheist Prusik
Tresse Prusik
Any further questions?
A key part of choosing a company is being able to come and talk about your plans with an experienced course advisor face to face. In an increasingly virtual world, we know our clients value speaking to real people, getting open and honest advice. The vast majority of our clients are British, and our office and outdoor store is based in Windermere in the English Lake District.

Get in contact to arrange a meeting, and come in for a coffee to discuss your course in person with a trip advisor.
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