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Because a number of accidents have occurred when a climber was lowered or rappelled off the end of a rope, it is wise to tie a stopper knot in the end(s) of the rope. My question is what stopper knot do you prefer and why?

It seems to me that the desirable features of a stopper knot are that it should be secure as well as quick and easy to tie. According to animatedknots.com, a figure eight can work free (though I would have thought that with sufficient tail, this would not be a problem).

Though not strictly necessary, if you're aware of any empirical tests comparing the effectiveness of different stopper knots, that would be great. I would also be interested in hearing about any accidents in which failure of a stopper knot (e.g. rolling off the end of the rope due to poor knot choice) was a factor.

I personally always use a barrel knot (triple overhand) with 12-18" of tail but some of my climbing partners have different preferences so I am interested in knowing how much difference the choice of stopper knot makes. In particular, are some stopper knots dangerous to use? I would imagine that a single overhand could be a risky choice (particularly with a short tail).

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What you are looking for is a knot that,

  1. Is easy to tie and check that you did it properly.
  2. Big enough it won't go through the belay device.
  3. Won't come undone.

That gives you a number of options which depending on the person you may remember one knot more than the next.

  • Double overhand (classic stopper knot).
  • Triple overhand (classic stopper knot).
  • Figure eight on a bight (easy to remember and tie).
  • Overhand on a bight (easy to remember and tie, harder to untie than a figure eight on a bight).

Depending on the day I may use any of the above, the only thing with the on a bight knots is that because they are bigger it has a batter chance of getting stuck in a crack on the descent and the double and triple overhands are the classic stopper knots and probably the most commonly used.

  • I wonder if a figure eight on a bight could roll under some circumstances. As I imagine you know, a number of rappelling accidents have occurred when a flat figure eight was used instead of a flat overhand to join two ropes. – Qudit Jun 27 at 21:54
  • @Qudit I don't think so, the European Death knot fails on a pull, while if you did need the stopper knot you would be pushing on it. – Charlie Brumbaugh Jun 27 at 22:12
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    It doesn't warrant a full answer, but the importance of a long tail can't be overstated. Leaving a meter after the knot means that a) if the knot does slip/roll, it won't come completely undone and b) you have space to hold the rope comfortably in brake position even with the knot at the belay device. – jhch Jun 28 at 18:36
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    @Qudit The NKBV (Sets standards for Dutch climbing courses, works closely with its German, Belgian and Austrian counterparts.) recommends 10x the rope thickness or two fistfulls of rope on the end of a double figure eight, or an eight-on-a-bight. When properly tied and tightened it does not roll. Improperly tied and loose* rolls a litte, but 'two fists' provides more than enough margin. They recommend the double overhand for semi-permanent end knots, and eight-on-a-bight for temporary knots. *Top part of the knot in this video, at 2 min 50s. youtu.be/_2aDACKbRbs?t=170 – TvZ Jun 29 at 13:58
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    @SambalMinion Interesting. Feel free to turn your comment into an answer if you like. I'd be especially interested in hearing their reasoning for those recommendations if you know it. – Qudit Jun 29 at 15:51

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