Long & Gaines Climbing Anchors says:

Jim Bridwell, one of the most experienced climbers in the history of the sport, uses only four knots for any and all climbing situations. Better to learn a few knots well, than a multitude of knots poorly.


It then goes on to describe 6 different knots. Which are the 4 that Bridwell used? Is there really a set of 4 that work in every situation?


2 Answers 2


But is there really a set of 4 that work in every situation?

I'm a reasonably experienced climber (I currently lead HVS outdoors, about 6b indoors/sport), I can tie 7 knots (counting 3 variations on the figure eight as one) (from memory anyway). This covers pretty much every situation I've ever encountered. The knots I know are:

With these knots you should be able to cover every situation you need, from hauling to setting up a belay. Here's some of them (clove hitch,figure eight and double overhand(stopper)) in action: enter image description here

Can anyone spot the mistake in the above photo? I posted this photo on Facebook and a climbing instructor friend pulled me up on it! Said it's safe but could be safer.

  • How do you escape the belay without a knowing the munter and mule knots? I always use a water knot to make a loop in webbing, what do you use? Do you really never use a girth hitch? While I have only used a barrel hitch a couple of times, how would you haul a keg of beer to the top of the climb?
    – StrongBad
    Mar 21, 2019 at 18:03
  • @StrongBad And I thought I was a not very good, but quite complete all-around climber except for bigwalling - I apparently am not, I haven't hauled a keg of beer to the top of a climb yet. Then again that might be a bigwall thing? - I'd say if you know the double fisherman, you don't need to list the double overhand as a separate knot, as it's basically a requirement of the former. And while both have their places alpine butterfly and flat overhands are replaceable in my use. With that you'd be down to four. Then again I agree with StrongBad that a Munter is essential - so 5 again.
    – imsodin
    Mar 21, 2019 at 19:42
  • 1
    Girth hitch I wouldn't count as a "knot", It's just a loop. I know a munter but never use it. To shorten webbing an overhand is fine. Getting a keg to the climb would involve carrying a keg to the climb, so I'd rather go the pub. :)
    – user2766
    Mar 22, 2019 at 9:08
  • No one spotted the mistake then? I'm off work for a week now, if no one guesses I might add a question with a bounty! :)
    – user2766
    Mar 22, 2019 at 9:10
  • 1
    @Liam The only thing I see is slight multi-directional loading of the carabiner? I don't know what all these ropes are connected to, though. I would love to take quizzes on this stuff. "Spot the mistake in this rig" is a better instructional tool than just reading a book about how to do things right.
    – endolith
    Mar 22, 2019 at 14:13

I doubt he only knew 4 knots. Looking at online photos, is difficult, but in this photo

enter image description here

I think I can see a double fisherman's on the cord on the back of his harness, a figure eight on a bight on the blue haul line, a girth hitch on the last pin and possibly a water knot. I have also found pictures of him at an anchor with a bunch of clove hitches, but it is unclear who tied them. Maybe he never used them, but I doubt that.

I would also expect him to know the Prussik, or some other friction knot for hauling and a Munter hitch for belaying, but cannot find them in photos. He probably also knew a square knot (and hence a granny knot) as well as a simple overhand knot for backing up his eight on a bight, because most people know these knots. Finally, even if he used a swami belt, I would be surprised if he couldn't tie a bowline on a coil.

This is still a relatively small number of knots.

  • 2
    It says "used" not "knew"
    – endolith
    Mar 20, 2019 at 18:54
  • @endolith I am pretty sure he setup a haul system and belay at least once.
    – StrongBad
    Mar 20, 2019 at 19:09

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