Reading the description for a clove hitch on animated knots by Grog (the go to bible of knots IMO) I was surprised to read:

Caution: The Clove Hitch was, originally, included here with the intention of condemning it. It does have two giant faults: it slips and, paradoxically, can also bind. It should be deeply distrusted when used by itself.

Every climber I know relies heavily on this knot and I've seen it used on countless tutorials yet it seems to be marked as "deeply distrusted when used by itself" on Grog.

Should the clove hitch(with a good length tail) be deeply distrusted ? Why/why not? What alternatives are there?

This seems to come from a sailing point of view, why (if this is the answer) is it not trusted in sailing but it is in climbing?

  • 4
    Have a look at where its used - universally in climbing both ends of the rope are captured where a clove hitch is recommend. If a clove hitch is used with a flying lead it can loosen itself, you should use a different knot, or tie of the loose end.
    – user5330
    Jun 20 '17 at 4:42

As noted in the last sentence of the question: Animated Knots is not (mainly?) addressing knots in the context of climbing/mountaineering. There is significant difference in types of knot used and purposes between different disciplines (as well as a lot of overlap of course).

In this specific case two problems are listed:

  • slipping
    This isn't a major problem for the typical use-cases in climbing: Self-securing at belay and temporary fixation of a rope (certainly not exhaustive). A use case where slipping is fatal would be fixing the end of a rope. I have never seen any instruction to do this or anyone doing this in the field, that's usually done with a figure-eight.
    Also, I never personally observed slipping (doesn't mean there is any in all circumstances). Maybe this is due to it being used on thick poles in sailing and thin biners in climbing (small radius usually means higher forces and thus friction).

  • binding
    Certainly true, but again easily solved when done on a biner by moving the knot repeatedly in opposite directions. I guess that's not possible when it is done on a big pole (too much friction).

So in the end this is a very versatile knot that is used ubiquitously in climbing and these two downsides are apparently not relevant (enough) for climbing to make it unsuitable.

  • 1
    I see people (eg Scouts) using the clove hitch to securely attach a rope to a pole (/ring/object) with the load on one end pulling sideways and the other being free. In that context, Grog is right that it can be unreliable (it can slip, and especially can unwind if the load is moving eg a tethered animal). From what I see in climbing usage, it is used in a completely different mode with a load and counter-load on the two ends, generating variable friction and managed slipping, to great effect. I don't think either is right or wrong, but Grog could be clearer that the criticism is of use case 1
    – AdamV
    Dec 3 '18 at 15:43

How well this knot is slipping should be dependent on the proportion of the diameter of the rope in relation to the diameter of the pole on which is used (nautical) or the carabiner (in climbing). If you tie a clove hitch around a very big diameter, it slips more easily. A diameter similiar to the rope or even smaller introduces way more friction between the strands of the rope.

Second is, how well is it tightened. A non-tightened clove hitch will slip under moderate tension. (OK, edit: one can carefully craft a non-tightened clove hitch which will slip if drawn carefully)

Third is whether it is under continous load, or rapidly unloaded and loaded (thrashing wind).

I do fully trust this knot, as it sometimes being the only knot which holds me, e.g. when belaying my second.

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