Why you should NEVER tie in with a bowline

5:08 p.m. on December 11, 2012 (EST)
Bill S
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Even the most experienced masters of climbing can screw it up

Read the article here

6:28 p.m. on December 11, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks for the reminder Bill.  I don't climb but my son does and I'll pass it on to him.

But what's with the fund to cover his unpaid medical expenses?  He needs a better agent for those book deals.

He is the author of over 40 books with over two-million copies in print including the immensely popular How to Rock Climb series and more recently, The Stonemasters, California Rock Climbers in the Seventies and The Valley Climbers, Yosemite's Vertical Revolution. Long is a longtime Senior Contributing Editor to Rock and Ice and author of the popular and long-running column

6:38 p.m. on December 11, 2012 (EST)
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The bowline is a perfectly fine knot... IF you tie it correctly. Complaicency kills, do it right every time or face the consequences. Don't blame a improperly tied knot....it was the bowline knots fault here, because he wasn't using a bowline knot(it wasn't completed/ tied correctly)!

I don't understand how someone can screw it up, i could tie one blind folded hanging upside down with someone punching me in the face lol.

Seriously though, no one can blame an accident on a knot when it was improperly tied. That would be like you getting thrown through your windshield of your car in an accident and blaming the seatbelt even though you wern't wearing it, or just had it draped across you and not buckled.



8:18 p.m. on December 11, 2012 (EST)
Bill S
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If you read through ANAM over the years, you will find a lot of accidents involving bowlines. First problem is that it is easy to make a mistake, second is that it is hard to check on your partner, third is (as I once found myself), it can easily untie itself with modern, slippery ropes. Yes, you can (and should) put a backup on it. However, the follow-through figure 8  (aka trace 8) is much less likely to untie itself, even without a backup, plus reduces rope strength less, and most important is easy to check at a glance on your partner and yourself.

Yeah, I too learned decades ago as a young Boy Scout how to tie a bowline one-handed and blindfolded, plus several other trick ways to tie one (still use those to wow young scouts). But, as I said above, I learned how easily they come undone. Luckily, I was on a ledge and able to catch the end before it swung out of reach. That was at a time when everyone was using and teaching tying in to the end of the rope with a bowline, double bowline, or bowline on a coil.

There are two easy mistakes that you can make with a bowline that look right at a glance, but aren't - one is a mirror image, the other is upside down.

It is a bit ironic that Largo made this mistake, considering that he strongly recommends using the follow-through 8 in his books.

6:33 a.m. on December 12, 2012 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

The bowline is a perfectly fine knot...  

But not for climbing.  The bowline knot places more stress on the rope in the knot than a figure 8, even when tied properly.  They teach that in class;)


2:46 p.m. on December 12, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks for posting, Bill. I wonder why he would bother to tie in with a bowline at all. When I started climbing four decades ago, I always used a figure 8. As Ed mentions, it is a stronger knot. But more than that, it is a symmetrical knot and easy to see and feel if it is tied correctly. And a figure 8 with the bitter end backed out through the last step, is still a knot. A bowline with the bitter end backed out one step, is no knot at all. The figure 8 uses more rope and takes a nano second longer to tie, so it sounds like he was getting complacent...a dangerous thing for a climber.

4:34 p.m. on December 12, 2012 (EST)
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Who ties in with a bowline anymore? I never see anyone use it anymore, or ever come to think of it. Best to keep the bowline where it belongs, on scout and sailor knowledge tests and thats about it.

7:58 p.m. on December 13, 2012 (EST)
Bill S
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There is one place in climbing where a bowline is useful. That is when is is used as a keeper for a tensionless wrap. A rethread 8 is fine, too, but a bowline is a bit faster to tie and as a keeper, it is not in a critical use point.

6:44 p.m. on December 19, 2012 (EST)
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Good point.  Tension-less wrap makes a great rope swing. I still teach the bowline to my kids but I teach the figure eight follow-through first, then the alpine butterfly then clove hitch and double fishermen.

10:35 a.m. on December 20, 2012 (EST)
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oh, and the water knot for webbing.  Knot sure I trust the beer knot for webbing yet.

3:02 p.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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From what I read of the incident He simply got distracted and never finished tying his knot. That's Knot the fault of the not. A figure 8 might work better in a gym if it did not get completed - have rope - will test. Anyway, the dude's an old-timer and prolly like the quickness of the bowline and it's easier to do one-handed I think - you know, lots of climbers lose a hand when they'e out there.....like that guy in Utah.

5:56 p.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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figure 8, doubled up, single, with or without a loop - it's the safest, easiest to check, and doesn't put kink strains on the rope from the knot. Thanks for the thread Bill.

June 1, 2020
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