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Need-to-Know Climbing Knots: Figure-8 Retraced

If you’re going to be a rock climber, you don’t necessarily need to know how to tie your shoes (as long as you wear Velcro slippers), but there are seven essential knots you’ll want to know. There are dozens of knots that might be worth learning as a climber, but for the most part, you can get up and down any climb on Earth with just these basic, essential knots—The Figure-8 Retraced, Girth Hitch, Clove Hitch, Munter Hitch, Double Fisherman’s, Prusik and Euro Death Knot.

Know them, learn them, and practice them until you can tie them in your sleep.

Figure-8 Retraced

What is it: The basic knot for “tying in”—i.e., for tying the rope to your harness.

Why it’s cool: Easy to inspect. Easy (enough) to untie after being loaded in a fall.

Red flags/Rules: Always have at least six inches of tail

How to Tie it

  • About 30 inches from the rope end, take a bite of rope, twist it twice in your hand.
  • Take the rope end, wrap it around and thread it through the “loop” made by the bite/twist from the back side, pulling it all the way through. You should have an “8” shape in the rope. (Note: to tie a Figure-8 on a bite, simply perform these last steps using a bite of rope as if it were a single strand.)
  • Now take the rope end and thread it through your harness tie-in points—bottom tie-in point first; top tie-in point second. Pull the rope so the “8” is close (about 2 inches) to your harness.
  • Take the rope end and follow/retrace the “8,” following the other side of the rope exactly. When properly tied, it looks like there are two strands of rope making that distinctive “8” shape.
  • Cinch the “8” tight from both ends. Make sure you have at least 6 inches of tail, and tuck it back into the knot to keep it out of the way.


Learn How to Tie the 6 Other Essential Knots

Figure-8 Retraced

Girth Hitch

Clove Hitch

Munter Hitch

Double Fisherman’s


Euro Death Knot


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