Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Climbing: My Favorite Rappel Knot — Figure 9 (video)

Figure 9 is my favorite rappel knot because I believe it offers following advantages:

  • low profile (maybe arguable depending on what you compare it with)
  • quick to tie,
  • stands flat when pulled over a rock,
  • easy to untie when loaded,
  • works well with ropes of different diameters.

Some of these traits are shared by other knots, but no other seems to have ’em all.  I won’t try to convince you to go with it, but it won’t hurt to give it a try, at least at home, right?

People on a climbers’ mailing list I’m on asked about Figure 9 knot, so I made this video (1 minute 55 seconds). If, for whatever reason, you hate Figure 9 knot, please don’t kill the messenger.

About the making of this video:

There was a long discussion on rappel knots on the mailing list. I didn’t follow the whole thread, but noticed that many people expressed difficulties in visualizing a Figure 9 knot. Out of fondness of this knot, I decided to make a video. So while driving home from work, I laid out a plan in my head and visualized every “move”. When I got home, it took me 5 minutes to prepare, 2 minutes to on-sight the shooting, and 3 minutes to cleanup. Inserting the texts using Windows Movie Maker was a 15 minute effort, but it took me most of the evening waiting for the video file to upload. But now I’m getting the system down. It’s so easy to make a video and put it up. That is pretty cool.

Animated Knots (119 knots, but missing Figure 9)

10 Responses

  1. Kenton 25 Feb 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Nice. Thanks for making this. I was following the discussion on Rock Rendezvous, but wasn’t familiar with this knot. I’d heard that the tie-in knot that I use is called a Figure-9, or a “Yosemite finish” to a Figure-8.

  2. mudwormon 25 Feb 2009 at 10:25 pm

    You are welcome. But are you sure the tie-in know is a figure 9??? I’ve never heard such thing! In my understanding, Figure 9 is not about the “finish”, it’s about 8+1=9. :biggrin:

  3. Kenton 25 Feb 2009 at 10:31 pm

    No, not sure about the name of the tie-in knot… Just what someone told me somewhere along the way… Based on the RR discussion, I’d say it’s likely that my source was wrong and that this is the actual Figure-9 :biggrin: .

  4. Allenon 26 Feb 2009 at 9:37 am

    ah…the student, has become….the teacher!

    nice job!

  5. mudwormon 26 Feb 2009 at 11:00 am

    I have to reply to this one just to make sure the new threaded-comment plugin works well. It seems to be because it allows me to get to the 3rd level. Cool, we can just keep going… :mrgreen:

    Okay, back to the knot. Now that I think about it, it is not impossible to tie a figure 9 as a tie in knot and then do the follow through just like what you do with figure 8. I do not personally know anyone who does it. One argument against it that I can think of is: with figure 8, it’s very easy to visually check the integrity and correctness (10-point check?), but with figure 9, Hmmm… most people probably will pull their hair out trying to figure out if you did it right or not.

  6. Kenton 26 Feb 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Did you just add that plugin?

    The tie in I use is essentially a figure-8, but instead of tying a double-fisherman’s with the end of the rope, I take the end around the standing part and then tuck the end back into the figure-8…

    Someone told me that’s called a figure-9, but it’s looking like that information was incorrect.

  7. mudwormon 26 Feb 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I just upgraded the plugin. 🙂 Oh, I see what you are saying. Yes, many people do that and prefer it over double fisherman’s finish. I sometimes do it too depending on the mood (and how much tail I happen to have to work with). Thanks for clarifying for me that it was not “knot on a bite” but rather “bight” and a bight was not what I thought it was. I didn’t want to say that on the mailing list, but I got misled on the terminology and spelling by someone sitting near me last night. 😉 Anyhow, it was a good discussion. Thanks!

  8. mudwormon 26 Feb 2009 at 3:45 pm

    More of a teaching assistant. Others do the teaching, and I do the demonstrations. 🙂

  9. Prestonon 20 May 2012 at 7:57 pm

    So, I have researched the figure 9 and it always seems to come out on top compared to most knots, even the figure 8, but I noticed in your example you actually tied the two ropes and formed what would be considered an abnormal figure 9. I have never seen it tested in this configuration. I’ve read about the figure 8 abnormal failing, due to the stress points causing the knot to unravel, yes you could tie off the ends to secure them and prevent the unraveling, which is a good habit. Also, why not tie it as a figure 9 follow through? this woud put the ropes in-line and the stress would be distributed through the knot and not on two single points as in your example.

  10. mudwormon 21 May 2012 at 10:20 am

    Hi Preston, thanks for the discussion. To clarify, the Figure 9 knot shown in my video is used for rappel. I like it, but personally feel very comfortable with the Euro Death knot as well for its simplicity. On a long multi-pitch rappel, speed is important, and follow-through knots have a tendency to catch on ledges due to their profiles. I can’t see how any of these knots would fail in a rappel if the climbers pay attention and exercise due diligence. In the end, it all boils down to what you and your partner feel most comfortable with out there on the cliff.