The retied Figure of 8 knot
The figure of 8 is easy to tie and easy to recognise if you have tied it wrong.
Here’s a quick explanation (and a couple of videos)
A length of rope is measured from its end to your shoulder (and this length will vary, so trial and error will give you the exact length you need). You will need a longer length of rope if it thicker and/or older and a shorter length of rope if it is thinner and/or newer.
A loop is made, then the rope is taken back around and through the loop you just made to create the figure of 8.
The end of the rope is then pushed through the waist rope guide and the leg loop rope guide.The end of the rope then follows the original figure of 8 and the whole knot is pulled tight. If you are wearing a group harness there will be a single loop at the top of the harness like a handle and the rope is tied through this.
It is best to finish it with a stopper knot, which is actually half a knot that is called a double fisherman’s. You tie a stopper knot for 3 reasons:
- If you get into climbing and use other knots it is essential you use the correct stopper knot with a bowline.
- It ensures you have enough tail coming from the knot.
- It is called good practice.
Originally there were no belay devices and climbers belayed each other by passing the rope around their waist or shoulder and putting a turn in the rope around the wrist of the arm holding the dead rope.
If the climber fell, the arm holding the dead rope was brought across the front of the body to hold the fall. The live rope is that going to the climber and the dead rope is the other side.
The first belay device that came out was a flat, round piece of metal with a hole in it that was attached via a bend or bite of rope to a karabiner clipped to the belay loop on the harness.
Since then the device has progressed to a small basket shaped piece of smooth metal with 2 holes (although there are devices out now with only 1 hole for using single ropes for sport climbing).
The reason for 2 holes in the device is for traditional or adventure climbing where two skinny ropes called half or double ropes are used.
There are several two hole belay devices on the market, for example the Bug, the ATC and the Variable Controller, all of which are excellent for beginners to use for bottom roping, but which as the climber develops, enable them to be used for lead climbing – sport and trad, multi-pitch climbing and abseiling.
It is only if the climber becomes more specialised that he/she may choose a more technical trad device like the Guide Plate for instructional use with double/half ropes, or the auto locking devices such as the Gri Gri, the Cinch, the Click-Up and the Eddy which are specifically used for single rope use on sport routes. The Alpine Up is an auto locking device for use with half/double ropes. There are other less known examples of these devices that are equally expensive but not necessarily as effective.
There are several new HMS type karabiners on the market that lock the karabiner in place on the harness either with an extra clip, a different shape or a plastic clasp called The Belay Master that locks once the screwgate karabiner has been closed. These stop the karabiner rotating whilst belaying but another option is to use an oval karabiner which is the same either way.