/ Clove hitch safety question

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alex505c 20 Sep 2019

If I use a clove hitch in the rope to tether myself to a multipitch anchor, is there any danger in adjusting the clove hitch without a backup? In other words, if I were to slip and fall while adjusting my clove hitch (in order to get closer to or farther from the anchor), would the hitch automatically tighten and stop my fall, or is there a risk that I would just keep falling?

I know lots of people use only a clove hitch to tether in to multipitch anchors, but I have always backed up my clove hitch with an additional tether because of this fear. Unwarranted?

1
Oceanrower 20 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

It doesn't matter whether it's needed or not. Just whether you THINK it's needed.

If you're hanging there without it you'll be anxious whatever I put on here. You want a back up,you have one...

27
Webster 20 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

i mean its ultimately going to tighten, but that might not be before you have hurt yourself... but its not going to keep on sliding all the way through, no. if the slack is in the middle loop and you pull the live end, i.e. fall, the live end pulls through the slack untill the knot is tight. there shouldnt be any meaningfull slip in the other end of the rope.

colin struthers 20 Sep 2019
In reply to Webster:

Interesting. I abbed in to Craig y Forwen to do a few routes this week and before our last climb I clove hitched a carabiner and sling bearing about 8 pieces of spare gear onto the ab rope. I didn't tighten the knot, assuming it would do so itself. As I pulled the rope up at the end of the day I felt and heard the gear jangling as it was lifted up the crag and then the rope felt lighter. I pulled it to the top and there was no gear sling attached. So I abbed back in and found the gear sling on the deck - after which I walked round to get out. Evidently the loosely tied clove hitch had allowed at least 25m of rope to pass through until the sling fell off the end of the rope. I must admit I was very surprised at this, but as George, one of my companions, correctly observed, a knot is not a knot until its tightened.

jezb1 20 Sep 2019
In reply to colin struthers:

> a knot is not a knot until its tightened.

... and a clove hitch is never a knot ;)

Was it on a static rope? I guess the kit on the sling wasn't heavy enough for the hitch to tighten.

1
colin struthers 20 Sep 2019
In reply to jezb1:

No, it wasn't a static rope. BTW why isn't a clove hitch a knot?

Alkis 20 Sep 2019
In reply to colin struthers:

Terminology. A knot joins a rope to itself or two ropes. A hitch fixed a rope to an object and falls apart without that object.

jezb1 20 Sep 2019
In reply to colin struthers:

> No, it wasn't a static rope. BTW why isn't a clove hitch a knot?

I’m just being a pedantic bore.

1
PaulJepson 20 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

A hitch doesn't exist without the thing it is hitched on to. A knot is always a knot. 

jimmccall 20 Sep 2019
In reply to colin struthers:

This is good to know and I’m glad I’ve read it. Thanks for posting. UKC at its best. Sharing events that develop better practice. I will keep an eye on this post as I would like to understand more. The community should be very grateful for such posts as they only serve to help us all. 

On a separate note, there may be an opportunity to log this on the BMC near miss log... thought you’ve probably done that already... 

Have a like, have a good weekend! 

Regards 

Jim

rgold 21 Sep 2019
In reply to colin struthers:

>  ...Evidently the loosely tied clove hitch had allowed at least 25m of rope to pass through until the sling fell off the end of the rope. I must admit I was very surprised at this, but as George, one of my companions, correctly observed, a knot is not a knot until its tightened.

Some strange things can happen, but I seriously doubt this.  What is far more plausible, and what is in general a problem with a loosely-tied clove hitch, is that one turn of the rope can shift over the gate and open it, after which the knot can be dumped.

In answer to the OP, falling on a loosely-tied clove hitch is indeed dangerous, because a strand of the knot might open the carabiner.  Even if it doesn't open the carabiner, a loose knot can in some cases slip over the gate and then you have a much weaker link.

jimtitt 21 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

Silent Partner

Misha 21 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

From what I’ve seen, most people are happy attaching to an anchor (including a single power point) using a clove hitch only. I certainly would be. Just need to make sure the live rope is correctly adjusted for length and the clove hitch is tight.

As you say, there’s an element of risk with adjusting a clove hitch. However unless the adjustment required is substantial, it should be easy enough to manage it by getting the person to lean in and perhaps hold on to the anchor. 

1
Andy Say 21 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

> If I use a clove hitch in the rope to tether myself to a multipitch anchor, is there any danger in adjusting the clove hitch without a backup? 

In the real world there is no situation without some danger. However, in this situation, I would say you are safe as houses*. Think it through. Your body isn't going to go through the clove hitch and it is extremely unlikely that 50+m of rope will either.  This assumes you are adjusting the clove hitch without detaching it of course!

So worse case scenario - you have loosened the clove hitch to adjust it at the exact moment that a rock strikes you unconscious!

I don't believe that you will consequently fall the length of the pitch.

*Houses have been known to fall down.

Post edited at 14:53
scope 21 Sep 2019
In reply to Alkis:

Joining two ropes together is a bend not a knot, if we're getting really pedantic.

Webster 21 Sep 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

dont know why you got so many dislikes, thats probably the most sensible answer anyone can give!

1
Oceanrower 21 Sep 2019
In reply to Webster:

What do I know...

jkarran 21 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

It certainly seems plausible the rope could run loosely hitched to a krab if a bit unlikely in reality. If you keep hold of the tail while adjusting the hitch you'll pull it tight as you fall anyway. I'm sure there's still some way to kill yourself doing this but certainly with the added precaution of keeping hold of the rope tail I can't say it'd worry me.

Jk

rgold 21 Sep 2019
In reply to jimtitt:

> Silent Partner

Haha, yes, but that's a clove hitch on a pulley wheel, and once the clutch activates, no more slipping.

I still vote for the loose knot opening the carabiner gate

C Witter 21 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

There is a very easy test that I believe would answer your query quite definitively:

Tie a clove hitch to a carabiner. Loosen it, as though you were going to adjust it. Then pull one strand of rope very hard and as far as you can downwards. Does the knot tighten or stay loose?

Really, I don't know why you would ask a forum of random strangers rather than do this simple and logical experiment with the gear you have at hand. 

I'm sure I risk getting some dislikes for this, but surely climbers' first instinct should be to use their own logic and trust their own experiences.

4
Hyphin 22 Sep 2019
In reply to scope:

So are you suggesting that in truth there are knot really any nots.

Alkis 22 Sep 2019
In reply to scope:

You are of course correct! 😳

jimtitt 22 Sep 2019
In reply to rgold:

> Haha, yes, but that's a clove hitch on a pulley wheel, and once the clutch activates, no more slipping.

> I still vote for the loose knot opening the carabiner gate


So it's a loose clove hitch that rolls around an object that's free to rotate but the moment the object is fixed it tightens, bit like round a karabiner really

phil456 22 Sep 2019
In reply to colin struthers:

I have copied the following intending to ask the author for an explanation, unfortunately when I asked , he was not the author and now am unable to find the original

”” 

I can definitively say tha one place NOT to reverse a clove hitch is on a krab.

I've got some tasty pictures showing what happens when a 'reversed' clove hitch 'opens' and one loop goes up the gate whilst the other flips up the spine and the knot turns into a really slick sort of friction hitch and you plummet towards the ground.........

””

The only time I might “ reverse a clove hitch “ is to position at the back of a stake, however my simple test with a large locker and a stiff rope, it’s reasonably easy to replicate the above ignoring the reversed bit whatever that means.

Now I always set my clove hitch, in practice the clove hitch would have to be very loose.

Ratfeeder 22 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

This potential problem is less of an issue if you use double ropes and always attach to (at least) two anchor points at the belay; then you are always safeguarded by one tightened clove hitch while you adjust the other.

Rick Graham 22 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

> If I use a clove hitch in the rope to tether myself to a multipitch anchor, is there any danger in adjusting the clove hitch without a backup? In other words, if I were to slip and fall while adjusting my clove hitch (in order to get closer to or farther from the anchor), would the hitch automatically tighten and stop my fall, or is there a risk that I would just keep falling?

> I know lots of people use only a clove hitch to tether in to multipitch anchors, but I have always backed up my clove hitch with an additional tether because of this fear. Unwarranted?

Assuming you have just lead a pitch and are setting up a belay, you should still be belayed by your second. 

Climb past the stance,  place some gear, clip it as a runner, move down to the stance, tie the ropes into your harness turning the runners above into a belay. 

Do not shout "safe " until you have sorted the belay.

jon 22 Sep 2019
In reply to phil456:

I'm not sure what you mean by a reversed clove hitch?

Ratfeeder 22 Sep 2019
In reply to rgold:

> ...What is far more plausible, and what is in general a problem with a loosely-tied clove hitch, is that one turn of the rope can shift over the gate and open it, after which the knot can be dumped.

> In answer to the OP, falling on a loosely-tied clove hitch is indeed dangerous, because a strand of the knot might open the carabiner.  Even if it doesn't open the carabiner, a loose knot can in some cases slip over the gate and then you have a much weaker link.

Indeed, but that's a very good reason for using a screwgate carabiner to tie the clove hitch to. I thought that was standard practice when setting up belays. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned?

bpmclimb 22 Sep 2019
In reply to Oceanrower:

> It doesn't matter whether it's needed or not. Just whether you THINK it's needed.

> If you're hanging there without it you'll be anxious whatever I put on here. You want a back up,you have one...

I don't entirely agree with this; I don't think it's good to indulge irrational fears. Sometimes things which make climbers feel safer are actually more dangerous.

GrahamD 22 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

There are times when you are climbing when you just have to tell yourself "probably best not to fall here".  Bit like crossing the road or walking down stairs.

tlouth7 23 Sep 2019
In reply to jon:

> I'm not sure what you mean by a reversed clove hitch?

Not OP but in this case a reversed clove hitch is one where the section with three strands is inside the carabiner. It's a bit hard to describe but normally the crossing strand is outside and there are just two strands inside.

The consensus seems to be that a loose clove hitch will not run, but that it could open the gate as it tightens. Therefore I would personally avoid adjusting a clove hitch on a snap gate without backup, which is easy as I would not build an anchor that relied on a single snap gate.

pass and peak 23 Sep 2019
In reply to jon:

A reversed clove hitch is when you pass one strand of the rope/sling back around the anchor. Think using a sling on a stake belay at the top of crag, this is a situation where you should use a reversed clove hitch, remember a clove hitch will not tighten if you pull both strands in the same direction, as in a sling belay around a stake. Indeed some dynamic loading and unloading on the sling can actually loosen your clove hitch enough so it could flip off the top of the stake. Placing one strand back around the stake solves this problem by creating a reversed hitch which tightens under load when both strands are pulled. However it's not so good if only one of the stands is loaded, as in the OP's post which is why you shouldn't use it in that situation!

jon 23 Sep 2019
In reply to pass and peak:

That's what I thought he meant  but I've only used it as you describe with a sling around a stake or an ice axe. I couldn't see a reason to use it with your rope in a krab, especially when only one strand is loaded.

French Erick 23 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

Assuming you are climbing with double rope. If you adjust one at a time by incremental steps you should never have any risks? Or Have I been missing something all these years.

I have never backed up a clove hitch and probably never will as nothing so far made me feel I needed to.

A good question though. Ta for asking.

agent_smith 24 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

> If I use a clove hitch in the rope to tether myself to a multipitch anchor, is there any danger in adjusting the clove hitch without a backup? In other words, if I were to slip and fall while adjusting my clove hitch (in order to get closer to or farther from the anchor), would the hitch automatically tighten and stop my fall, or is there a risk that I would just keep falling?

> I know lots of people use only a clove hitch to tether in to multipitch anchors, but I have always backed up my clove hitch with an additional tether because of this fear. Unwarranted?

If your Clove hitch exists within a closed system - the answer is 'yes' it is fit for its intended purpose.
This means that there is no free/loose end to eject from the hitch.
A Clove hitch is a type of 'binder' - it is related to the Constrictor hitch.
The riding turn of the Clove hitch acts to immobilize rope movement. Under certain special conditions, a Clove hitch can slip - and this is exploited in the 'Silent Partner' gadget.
In your particular case, where the Clove hitch is formed around the host carabiner - with no free/loose end, and provided you tied and set it correctly, it will immobilize the rope. In fact, Clove hitches can bind to the host quite firmly and after significant loading, can be very difficult to loosen.

A Clove hitch is very useful to climbers because it is 'TIB' (Tiable In the Bight). This means you can tie this structure without access to a free end. Same applies in reverse - you can untie it without access to a free end.

Some of the definitions given in this thread aren't quite correct.
You can think of term 'knots' as a noun given to encompass all types of geometric rope entanglements.
For ease of understanding, we divide knots into various sub-categories:
[ ] Knot: a self supporting structure - does not require a host or another (separate) rope to exist.

[ ] Bend: unites 2 ends to form a join. There are symmetric bends, asymmetric bends and offset bends.

[ ] Hitch: forms around a host object and has further sub-categories of; slide and grip hitches and load control hitches and binders. An example of a load control hitch is a Munter hitch. An example of a binder is a Clove hitch...

Toerag 24 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

If there is little friction around the thing you're clove-hitching to it will 'roll' around the object and slip through itself. Example - try tying one around a polished large diameter handrail or round wooden playground timber then pulling one end of the hitch.  A clove hitch tied to a karabiner may not slip in the same way, however you have to watch for flipping problems and gate undoing.

Post edited at 11:41
springfall2008 24 Sep 2019
In reply to alex505c:

Don't you normally have two hitches (one for each half rope) and hence can adjust one at a time?

If it were a hanging belay I'm not sure I'd adjust the clove hitch in this way, but if your standing on a ledge I really doubt your going to fall to your death, but I guess you can never be too careful!

agent_smith 27 Sep 2019
In reply to Toerag:

> [QUOTE] If there is little friction around the thing you're clove-hitching to it will 'roll' around the object and slip through itself. [/QUOTE]

That's not quite correct - because it depends on how you choose to orient the Clove hitch.
Here is an image to illustrate loading profile:
Link: https://s1255.photobucket.com/user/agent_smith61/media/Clove%20hitch%20loading%20profile_zpsgxa9qlke.jpg.html?sort=3&o=0

> [QUOTE] Example - try tying one around a polished large diameter handrail or round wooden playground timber [/QUOTE]

Fortunately, it is unusual to find a polished handrail or round wooden object while lead climbing on a trad route (multi-pitch). The host object to which the Clove hitch is formed is normally a carabiner.

Post edited at 03:52
pass and peak 27 Sep 2019
In reply to springfall2008:

When I'm lead climbing on doubles on a multi-pitch route and have used a rope to make part or all of the belay, I'll often tie in with only one rope and leave the other running loose through the crab. This way when I become the second, the leader can get me tight on that rope, thereby stopping any fall by me while I undo all the rope involved in the belay. Of course it's rather situation dependent, if you on a big ledge it's not that important, but on a near hanging belay, it can be quite useful.


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