Ropes and Knots


Key Terms

  • Braided rope
  • Braid on braid rope
  • Kern mantel rope
  • Laid rope
  • Life safety rope (rescue rope)
  • Utility rope
  • Lifeline
  • Bight, loop, round turn
  • Half hitch
  • Running end
  • Standing end
  • Dynamic
  • Standing part
  • Working load
  • Working end
  • Static

Equipment for Training

  • 3’ or 3/8” nylon or polyester rope to practice knot tying
  • 100’ of ½” nylon or polyester rope to raise and lower equipment
  • Tools and equipment to raise and lower
    • Axe
    • Pike pole
    • Hose line
    • Salvage cover
    • Ladder
    • Helmet
    • Lights
    • Reels
    • Jon line
    • Knee pads

The Rescue Harness

A body harness is safer than a rope tied around an rescuer’s waist. When coupled with link locks and D-rings, it becomes convenient, reliable, and even safer. The harness is worn over the suit but under all other equipment. Often Harnesses are integrated into bunker gear or other gear. (see my lecture notes for details and pictures)

The Rescue Line

  • In many situations, rescuers must use a life line.
  • In some rescue situations, a tender is required.
  • The rescue line should fasten to the harness by a wrench lockable link lock through a thimble spliced onto the rope — not tied.

Types of Lines

Polypropylene lines are useful for utility ropes because they are:

  • widely available,
  • inexpensive,
  • available in several bright colours for visibility,
  • and they float creating less of an entanglement problem with objects underwater — unlike nylon ropes,
  • less susceptible to deterioration than natural fiber ropes.
  • All link locks, rings, and other metal hardware should be of non-corroding materials such as stainless steel, heavy duty aluminum, brass, or galvanized steel.

Strength of Life Lines

A minimum tensile strength of 545 Kg (1200 lbs) is suggested and this is usually achievable in 6.35mm (1/4") diameter polypropylene rope; however, a 9.5mm (3/8") diameter polypropylene rope is the minimum recommended because the thicker rope will be easier to handle when it and/or hands are cold and wet and wearing gloves.

Length of Life Lines

  • The life line used by a RIT team should be at least twice the length of the Entry Team’s line
  • Markers should be placed at 6 meter (20 foot) intervals on the life lines.

Attachment of Life Lines

  • Secure all life lines to a fixed point either using a convenient tree, vehicle, ice screw, or other suitable method to prevent the rescuer accidentally pulling the entire rope into the situation.
  • Ropes may also be looped through two small holes cut in ice (or other solid material) and tied back onto itself.

Care and Storage of the Line

  • Never Step on the Lines,
  • Wash the Lines if they become dirty,
  • Carrying and Storing Lines,
  • Inspect Lines for wear and abrasion.

Coiling a Rope

See my lecture notes and participate in the practical classroom session for coiling a rope.

  • Wrap and square knot
  • Mountaineer's Coil
  • Chain Stitching
  • Reels
  • Bagging a Rope

Rope Handling Considerations

  • Avoid sudden jerks or strains
  • Avoid dragging rope on the ground or over rough edges
  • Throw out ropes with kinks
  • Avoid sharp bends
  • Use a safety knot after tying the knot is complete
  • Always leave 12”-16” of rope on the working end after the knot has been tied.

Line and Reel Usage

  • The primary tie-off
  • The secondary tie-off
  • Line wraps
  • Laying the Line

Line Etiquette

  • Guide lines should be laid as low as possible.
    The guide line must always be in sight and never more than an arm-length away from the rescuer.
  • Guide lines should not be laid over openings.
    The Guide line should never be laid over another guide line.
  • Always stay above guide lines to prevent becoming snagged.
  • Guide lines should be placed so that they are easy to follow—even in a complete black-out.

Moving With a Line

  • Crawling
  • Keep tension on the line at all times
  • Perform line wraps often and any time direction changes
  • Ensure that lines do not pass under objects
  • Follower should keep on hand on the line and the other on the ankle of the leader
  • If the contact is broken, both rescuers will stop

Knots and Knot Tying

See my lecture notes for knot-tying diagrams and more details.

All of the following knots must be tied with gloves on and using a blindfold:

  • The Clove Hitch Knot (around method)
  • The Clove Hitch Knot (dropped method)
  • The Bowline Knot
  • The Becket Bend (Sheet Bend) Knot
  • The Figure Eight Knot (Rescue Knot)
  • The Rewoven Figure Eight Knot (or follow through)
  • The Figure Eight on a Bight
  • The Half Hitch Knot
  • The Reef Knot (Overhand Knot)
  • The Butterfly Knot (twist method)
  • The Butterfly Knot (over-the-hand method)
  • One-Handed Bowline

The Reef Knot

Also referred to as the square knot, the reef knot is used to finish off a coiled rope.

The Bowline Knot

The bowline knot will make a loop at the end of a rope. This knot will not slip and it can secure the rope around a tree or other anchor. The loose end should be tied off with an overhand knot. The rope’s free end should come out on the inside of the loop; otherwise, the knot will be much weaker. The bowline knot must be set tight otherwise it can distort and turn into a slip knot.

The Figure Eight Knot

The figure eight knot is one of the best end of line knots. It is strong, easy to tie, and easy to untie after it has been loaded. The figure eight knot is best used in its rewoven configuration so that it can be attached to something.

The Rewoven Figure Eight Knot

This knot is an an excellent knot for end-line rigging around an anchor such as a tree, emergency vehicle, ice screws, or through two holes in the ice. A simple figure eight knot is tied, the end is looped around the anchor and rethreaded back into the knot following it in reverse. This knot will need to be dressed and set tight to be secure. It should also be finished off by tying one or two overhand knots in the loose end.

The Butterfly Knot

This is a somewhat complicated, compact, mid-line rigging knot - probable the best mid-line rigging knot there is. It provides for multi-directional pulling. Also, due to its symmetry, it is very easy to inspect. Again, it is important to dress and set this knot.

Useful Knot Links

Animated Knots

Scouting Resources