If you tie a figure-8 knot while rock climbing and fall a few times (especially if they're dynamic lead falls), the knots will become so difficult to untie that you sometimes have to use a carabiner to help you untangle it.

Are there any techniques one can use to make this easier?

  • This question is close to a duplicate. Does it answer your question? outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/1126/…
    – Guran
    Dec 17 '19 at 9:27
  • 2
    This is not a duplicate. There are multiple specific things to do when tying a figure eight follow through that makes it easier to untie after taking a fall. The linked question does not even attempt to address this specific question. Dec 19 '19 at 19:02
  • I would be more comfortable with not calling it a duplicate if it was about techniques to make a figure-8 easier to untie after a fall, and didn't include options for other knots (which is reasonably well covered at the proposed duplicate) Dec 27 '19 at 15:51
  • Regardless of whether the question should/not be closed, I think the OP and others interested might benefit from reading about what are called "non-jamming knots" revolvy.com/folder/Non-jamming-knots/889763 There are a good number of those An example I am personally familiar with is the Tarbuck knot en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarbuck_knot
    – Yogesch
    Dec 28 '19 at 8:33
  • If you dress it correctly it is easier to untie because it doesn't just tighten at one strand
    – endolith
    Dec 29 '19 at 3:17

The figure-8 knot is characteristically hard to untie after falls. What many climbers do is, once the knot is done, to come back with the end of the rope inside the last bight - this is a sort of Yosemite finish. It makes the knot easier to untie, since after removing the extra strand, a lot of room is left for the rope to be untied (picture here). Andy Kirkpatrick, in his book "1001 Climbing Tips", says that using a rock or an aid-climbing hammer to smash the knot can make it easier to untie, too.

My personal opinion is: a knot that is so hard to be untied is a bad knot. The figure-8 was OK when climbers very rarely fell, and ropes where made out of hemp and whatnot. Nowadays, with sport climbing and falls becoming so normal, the age of such antique knots has come to an end. The double bowline or, better yet, the end-bound single bowline (EBSB), are easy to tie and inspect and can be untied with minimum effort. I have used the EBSB for the past 3 years both in multipitch and sport climbing (convincing a dozen other climbers to use it in the meantime), and I'm extremely happy with it.


I’ve experimented with this a bit. We tried pulling the knot really tight or leaving it really loose. It turned out that pulling it relatively tight (but not too tight) works best.

It also makes a huge difference how you start untying. Start with wiggling/folding the parallel loops where the end of the rope comes out. Once you get a tiny bit of room you can undo the knot.

It’s still hard and finicky, which is why I’m mostly using the bowline on a bight knot (it’s the alternative common knot aside from the figure eight, here in the German speaking area) now. It’s a bit harder to tie at first but always easy to untie after a fall.

  • The way I teach the wiggling/untying of a tight figure eight is to fold the working part of the rope down tight behind the parallel loops and then push them one-by-one over the folded part. (It works for regular figure eights, bowlines and carrick bends as well)
    – Dave X
    Jan 30 '20 at 17:56

This is what a marlin spike is for. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marlinspike

It's not special purpose just for figure 8 knots, but is a general tool for tight knots.

Dates back to the age of sail, when natural cordage would get pulled tight then got wet and would swell.

  • That is what a marlinspike is for, but climbing ropes are more sensitive things than old hemp ropes and a marlinspike would do damage if used incorrectly. Hence I don't feel this is good advice for the situation.
    – Separatrix
    Jan 9 '20 at 11:42
  • @Separatrix I assume the marlinspike can cause damage owing to its relatively sharp edges.. instead of a marlin spike, can one use a spare carabiner instead? Perhaps an oval type carabiner where the metal has a round cross section (as opposed to some D types where the cross section is flatter)..
    – Yogesch
    Jan 10 '20 at 11:02
  • 2
    Every marlin spike I've seen was a smooth cone with a rounded tip. Typically the tip was barely sharp enough to unlay a 3 ply rope for splicing. Jan 10 '20 at 23:11

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