Top Tip #31 - Knotting a Rope End

22nd Jul 2018

Knotting the end of a rope

I witnessed a very near miss last week.  The belayer of a climbing pair on a sport route near to us was lowering his partner from the top of a sport climb.  All was going well until I suddenly heard him gasp.  I turned to see him holding the very tail end of the rope just before it ran through his belay plate - he literally had just the last few centimetres in his hand.  The problem with this was that his partner was still hanging on the rope about 5 metres up the crag.  

Luckily, before anyone could step in to help, his partner had swung into the crag and clipped into a nearby bolt.  A potentially serious fall was averted and they were able to pull the rope through and the leader abseiled down the last few metres.  They stood on the ground laughing nervously and shaking their heads for quite a while afterwards.

Once our climb was finished we got chatting to the pair and it turned out the rope one of them had brought out was actually their wall rope (which was the same colour and pattern!) and was actually 10 metres shorter than their normal lead rope.  An easy mistake, but one that could have caused a serious accident.  It was very fortunate that the belayer had quick reactions and grabbed the rope when he felt the end running through his hand.

So, after this recent reminder I thought it worth making this a new Peak Mountaineering Top Tip - always tie a knot in the end of the rope when you are planning to lower a partner.  This simple step will stop any risk of you dropping your partner if the rope isn’t long enough and the rope end tries to run through your belay plate.   

In the case of the climbers I witnessed this happened because the rope was mistakenly the wrong length but there are also times when the route is longer than planned and your rope length calculations are wrong.  After all, guidebooks aren’t always correct or an extension could have been added to the route which you weren’t aware of.  

Some people say to just tie a knot if you aren’t sure there is enough length but I would suggest developing a habit of ALWAYS tying a knot.  This means you will never mistake a costly mistake.  A simple, but potentially life saving Top Tip.

Posted by Paul