Knotting rope ends is a key safeguard for climbers lowering a partner or when abseiling. We hope you find this top tip useful and please do spread the word about this vital safety step.
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. They had just finished a sport route and all was going well until I suddenly heard him gasp. I turned to see him holding the 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, his partner had then easily swung into the crag and clipped into a nearby bolt. They had averted a potentially serious fall and were able to pull the rope through. The leader then abseiled down the last few metres. They stood on the ground laughing nervously and shaking their heads for quite a while afterwards.
We got chatting to the pair and it turned out one of them had accidentally brought out their wall rope. Inconveniently, it was the same colour as their outdoor rope, but 10 metres shorter! An easy mistake, but one that could have caused a serious accident. It was very fortunate that the belayer had quick reactions and felt the end running through his hand.
So, after this recent reminder we thought it worth making this a Peak Mountaineering Top Tip and it’s simple enough. Always tie a knot in the end of the rope whether planning to lower a partner or setting an abseil. This simple 10 second step will stop any risk if the rope isn’t long enough.
In the case of the climbers I witnessed this happened because the rope was mistakenly the wrong length. 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! Of course, an extension could also 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. Fair enough, but I would suggest developing a habit of ALWAYS tying a knot. This means you will never mistake a costly mistake. Knotting rope ends is a potentially life saving Top Tip.
If you don’t know what this article is talking about you might want to consider one of our our climbing courses.