Tying into a Climbing Harness: Long Tail or Backup Knot?

Mikepowers Small

by Michael Powers, IFMGA
AAI Senior Guide & Director for Staff Development


From the May 2006 edition of AAI's E-newsletter

I have a question regarding standard for the tie-in knot: Is it acceptable to simply leave a 6" tail, or is a backup knot (grapevine bend) necessary?

- Greg German


Dear Greg,

Thanks for your question.

It is acceptable to have a 6" tail without a backup knot. In fact, I prefer a 4" tail (leaving more rope available for the leader) and it keeps the tie-in system cleaner and less bulky.

What I do insist upon is that the tie in knot (generally a figure-eight follow through) is tied perfectly - that is, with no twists and all four strands pulled independently and tightened carefully.

A backup knot isn't necessarily a bad thing, in fact I suggest to my clients that they add a back-up knot if they aren't used to always tying the figure-eight perfectly. After all, a poorly tied figure-eight knot (with a short tail and not tightened up) is much worse than having a sloppily tied tie-in knot with an extra long tail). Therefore, for some novices I suggest a back up so that it allows for some error. However, the best is a perfectly constructed tie-in knot, pre-tightened and with a minimal tail.

- Mike Powers

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