Friday, March 25, 2011

The Bowline

The Canadian Guide Mike Barter is getting funnier and more creative with every video he makes. In one of his most recent videos, he covered the bowline and the bowline on a bite. And he did it all dressed like a cowboy...

Perhaps the best line of this video is when he says that a bowline is "strong enough to pull a snowboarder off his sister."



There are a couple of things that I'd like to add to this excellent video.

In addition to what Mike demonstrated, we are now teaching the double-bowline in the curriculum for the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor course. This knot is quite a bit stronger than a single bowline and not as easily untied due to cyclic loading.

Mike repeatedly states that he doesn't want to see people tie-in with a bowline. You may be aware that there is a trend in the sport climbing community wherein people tie in with a double-bowline. There are two big problems with this. The first is that many climbers don't use this technique to tie-in and will not be able to check their partner adequately. And second, if there is a problem in the knot, it is far more likely to fail than a figure-eight follow-through.

There have been a few high-profile accidents with people using a double-bowline for their tie-in. These accidents could have been avoided if the individuals simply used the industry standard figure-eight and checked each other out...

The bowline is a very important knot. And as Mike said in the video, it could even be considered a king of the knots. But when all is said and done, it really should only be used for anchoring to boulders and trees.

--Jason D. Martin

1 comment:

Mitchell Ebbott said...

FYI, the ExpertVillage video you link to in the text for "double-bowline" is incorrect. What he shows is not a double bowline. It's a left-hand double bowline, with the bitter end on the outside of the knot. That's usually considered a less secure variant of the bowline knot.

Either way, a single or double bowline is not secure without some sort of end dressing—either a lock (like the End Bound Double Bowline or any other number of variations) or a backup knot. But if it's locked, I'm personally quite comfortable with it as a tie-in knot.