Learn best practices for joinng two ropes together to rappel or top rope, and which knots are safest...
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Dale Remsberg is an internationally licensed Mountain Guide (IFMGA) and Technical Director of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA). Never one to focus on a single aspect of climbing, Dale is an accomplished all-around climber with high-end skills that cover all disciplines of climbing including; sport, trad, mixed, ice and alpine. Here, Dale shares some tips for tying two ropes together for rappelling or top roping.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion on what knots are good for joining two ropes together and there is no one answer. It depends on the application but the most common time climbers are tying their ropes together is for long rappels.
1. The Flat Overhand is the knot that the American Mountain Guides Association recommends for tying two ropes together. It is strong enough and has a low profile, making it less likely to get stuck when pulling it down over edges. Make sure there are no twists in the knot and the tails are at least 30cm (apprx. 12in.) long. Once the knot is inspected for no twists, make sure to tighten each strand individually.
Above: A poorly tied flat overhand knot.
Above: A well-dressed flat overhand knot.
If you are joining two ropes that are significantly different in diameter then a Flat Overhand is not the best choice. See Tip #2 for a better knot for this situation.
2. Another knot option for use when rappelling is the Double Fisherman Knot. While much stronger than the Flat Overhand, it is more difficult to pull over edges and harder to untie after being loaded.
As with all things in climbing, precision is important. When you place a cam, or try to stand on a small edge, the more precise you are the better it works. Treat your climbing knots the same way and learn to tie them correctly and with precision.
1. The Double Fisherman Knot is the preferred knot for setting up long top ropes as it is an in-line knot meaning the more you pull on it, the more it wants to tighten. The tails should be 10-15cm (apprx. 6in.) long and knot should be neat with the crosses on the same side. The Double Fisherman takes a little more practice to learn to tie correctly but once mastered, is a good knot for several climbing applications.
2. Depending on the cirumstances, you may also use the Flemish Bend for joining two ropes together while top roping. The Flemish Bend should be simple to add to your skills repetoire, as it’s a knot that most climbers already know. Simply a Re-Woven Figure Eight Knot but using two ends of the ropes, this knot is easier to untie than the Double Fisherman but is also an in-line knot making it want to tighten when loaded.
Words and Photos: Dale Remsberg