Tech Tip- Tying a Clove Hitch on to the Carabiner (and $200 Gift Certificate Giveaway!)

I originally posted this tech tip back in 2017 but with any climbing skill a bit of repetition can’t hurt. Here’s the original YouTube video and a new one I posted this morning.

CONTEST- $200 Gift Card to IME, North Conway NH

rock climbing tech tips

I’m giving away a $200 gift certificate to International Mountain Equipment in North Conway, NH to a randomly selected YouTube subscriber on November 30th, 2021! This gift certificate can be used on anything in their retail shop like a new climbing rope, ice axes, crampons, clothing, etc, or on a climbing lesson or avalanche course with the International Mountain Climbing School! No purchase necessary, just hit that subscribe button on my YouTube channel to be sure you will be entered in the drawing!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

One of These Knots Can Kill You

It seems every year we lose climbers to a simple user error that can occur when joining two ropes together for a rappel. Compounding the issue is some media outlets refer to the knots (or bends) in question with various misnomers that create further confusion within the climbing community. There needs to be more widespread standardization of the options available for joining two ropes together and it starts with referring to them with the correct nomenclature.

The first thing to understand is any knot used to join two ropes together is technically referred to as a “bend knot” or simply “bend”. While there are quite a few bends that are appropriate for joining two ropes together it is the Flat Overhand Bend that has largely gained popularity for multiple reasons.

Flat Overhand Bend (FOB)

Flat Overhand Bend
Flat Overhand Bend

Like any option this one comes with advantages and considerations.


  1. Fast and easy to tie, especially with thick winter gloves on
  2. Low profile so less likely to get caught in cracks and on features while pulling the ropes
  3. Easy to untie even after a dozen high angle rappels
  4. Pull tests indicate a properly tied Flat Overhand Bend will not capsize unless loads exceed at least 1400 pounds, far more than any climber can generate on a rappel.


  1. Like any knot this one needs to be “dressed and stressed” to be safe. After forming the knot tighten all 4 strands separately.
  2. Leave 12 inches (30cms of tail). This is more than sufficient in the unlikely event of the knot capsizing. There has been at least one fatality when a cautious climber left 3+ foot tails and then threaded a tail through their belay device ending in catastrophic failure of the system. Twelve inches is sufficient.
  3. Use ropes of similar diameter. UIAA recommends within 3mm of each other, which with today’s modern (often skinny) ropes is usually easy to stay within. If using a thin tag line consider adding either an overhand tied with the thinner rope over the thicker rope and cinched tight to the flat overhand bend. The idea here is it will help prevent the knot from capsizing but in reality should not be needed. The practice of tying a 2nd flat overhand bend a few inches down from the first seems to negate most of the advantages (fast to tie and less likely to get stuck while pulling) so this author feels that practice is not needed.

I’ve made it this far without calling this bend knot by its more common name. I’ve decided to leave the common name out. It serves no educational purpose and its use should be considered archaic in nature.

Now we get into the two options that really exacerbate this issue. One of the two knots below can kill you.

Reverse Traced Figure of Eight Bend (Flemish Bend)

Reverse Traced Figure of Eight Bend
Reverse Traced Figure of Eight Bend

Like any option this one comes with advantages and considerations.


  1. Low profile so less likely to get caught in cracks and on features while pulling the ropes
  2. Super strong. If you look closely you realize this is the same option we use to tie into our harnesses. We can not generate enough force to get this knot to fail.


  1. Like any knot this one needs to be “dressed and stressed” to be safe. After forming the knot tighten all 4 strands separately.
  2. Leave 6 inches (15cms of tail). Since this knot can not capsize by design it is logical to follow the same guidelines as using the knot to tie into a harness. Six inches of tail on a dressed and stressed knot is sufficient.
  3. Adding “back-up” knots to both tails greatly increases the likely hood of a stuck rope and is completely unnecessary given the strength of the main knot.
  4. Can be very difficult to untie after heavy load, especially with gloves on and slick new ropes.
  5. While tecnhically called the “Flemish Bend” adding the METHOD one uses to create it (reverse traced) to the common name will help differientate between the two.

Flat Figure of Eight Bend

Figure of Eight Bend aka FATAL MISTAKE!

The above knot has a proven track record of killing climbers. It routinely capsizes and fails at loads easily generated in rappelling. So why is it still being used after years of accidents showing it’s not sufficient?

New Climber Perception

I’ve had hundreds of new clients look at the FOB (first knot pictured) and say “That’s it?” Having confidence that such a simple and quick to tie bend could be sufficient for joining two ropes together and committing our full body weight out over the abyss is not so easily won. Let’s be honest, its simplicity and small volume make people nervous regardless of its more than adequate strength.

So what does the new climber do? Well if one twist around the ropes forms a Flat Overhand Bend then two twists around the ropes must be safer right? That mindset creates the deadly Figure of Eight Bend pictured above… and kills people.


The common name I’ve heard used to describe both the Reverse Traced Figure of Eight (Flemish Bend) and the Figure of Eight Bend is the “Flat Eight”.

This needs to stop. One is a strong and suitable bend for rappelling. The other keeps killing people. We should not use the term “Flat Eight” as most climbers, especially new climbers, do not easily see the difference between the two. They tie a Figure of Eight Bend, thinking it is a “Flat Eight”.


In order to reduce or eliminate the amount of fatalities the confusion these options create, we, the climbing community at large, especially the widely read climbing magazines, need to step up and standardize our definitions of these knots and not use mis-leading negative sounding catchy names to describe safe practices. Using misnomers can encourage a new climber to switch to a different, and potentially much more dangerous option for joining two ropes together.

If every guide, mentor, instructor, and tenured climber starts referring to these knots with the correct terminology we will see a reduction in unnecessary loss of life.

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