If I want to ascend a rope with minimal equipment, I use 2 Prusiks: one tied to my harness, and the second one for my foot.

However, there are two ways to arrange the Prusiks on the rope - the foot below the chest, and the opposite way. The first arrangement is most intuitive and described and in all places on the Internet I looked, e.g. here. Also, this site tells that it's the right arrangement:

Notice that the waist Prusik (E) is above the foot Prusik (F)

but doesn't explain why.

When we practiced crevasse self-rescue, I noticed that my friend used the second "counter-intuitive" way; he said that he always used it, while I always used the "normal" arrangement. I tried the "opposite" arrangement, and it worked marginally better: I could ascend a bit higher each time I extended my leg (this might have been by luck). One difference I noticed is that you have to choose the length of the Prusiks carefully (use a long one for the foot) in order to avoid getting stuck. Otherwise, the arrangements seemed pretty similar.

Is there any reason to choose one arrangement or the other? Should my choice be different in different situations? (assuming I have Prusiks of any length)

P.S. I am not talking specifically about crevasse rescue.

4 Answers 4


In case of ascending on a rockface it does not really matter which way round you use it. I put the chest-prusik above the foot-prusik, but this is only because of personal taste. By adjusting the lengths of the slings you can do huge steps in this configuration too. Even though this may not be desirable, as shorter steps can be more efficient (also up to personal taste, try it, find what suits you best).

In case of self rescue out of a crevasse, this is different. The main problem here is getting over the edge, where the rope has most likely cut into the snow/ice. To get over it you have to bring your foot-prusik as high as possible.
Put the foot-prusik above the chest-prusik. Then get as high as possible until the prusik is stuck because of the snow. Then try to get the rope loose by pushing away from the side of the crevasse to get the foot-prusik higher. Then step into it, get the chest-prusik higher. Repeat until you can get over the edge.

In reality I do not think this will be needed very often, as may have crampons and/or axes to help you ascend or in most cases your partner can help you get out. But for the worst case scenario its always well to know a way.


Small remark concerning ascending knots: If you have a biner, I always recommend using the "Prohaska" knot, which does not seem to be known in the english-speaking part of the world, at least I do not find any online reference. The advantage is, that it does not get stuck after being loaded, so no fiddling around the prusik to get it sliding along the rope again. And it is very reliable, not influenced by rope diameters.

The Prohaska knot. Image by alpintech.at (http://www.alpintech.at/wichtige_kletterknot.html)
The Prohaska knot. Image by alpintech.at (http://www.alpintech.at/wichtige_kletterknot.html)

  • @Imsodin, Isn't it safer to use the "Backmann knot" ? I Think ik wll have less slippage and the same advantage. (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bachmann_knot)
    – Nick
    Aug 8, 2014 at 9:02
  • @Nick, I consider the Bachmann knot much more clumsy to do, so I do not use it and therefore have no experience with it. But the Prohaska can be adjusted to any combination of rope diameters by adjusting the amount of turns in the knot, so there is no slippage or safety concern.
    – imsodin
    Aug 8, 2014 at 9:30
  • @Imsodin, I see your pount. The above knot is indeed more adjustable to diameter (bigger diameter more turns, right ?). I've used the Bachmann knot on a 10,4mm rope with a weight of 120 kgs (bag, material etc) and it worked fine. Just to give a reference.
    – Nick
    Aug 8, 2014 at 9:37
  • @Nick I am sure it did, I never wanted to say that the Bachmann knot was bad. I am in no position to as I do not use it and I never heard anything bad about it. And yes, more turns = more friction.
    – imsodin
    Aug 8, 2014 at 9:43

I always ascend the other way around (foot-prusik above the chest prusik). This allows for a bigger movement with your foot and hence a bigger climb during your ascend.

Note: I actually use bloqueurs, but basically the methods should remain the same.


The advantage to having the waist prussik above is that you can sit in your harness and use both hands to loosen the foot prussik and move it up the slack rope below you. Whereas moving the waist prussik (which needs to be done with one hand while you stand in the foot prussik) is easier on the weighted strand of rope, above the foot prussik. How much this matters depends on your exact prussik knot, rope and setup details (eg having a heavy length of rope below makes the 'slack' end tighter).

Moving an ascender or other progress capture device on a slack rope is much easier than a prussik knot so the order doesn't really matter if using ascenders (as in one of the other answers).


I just finished a class using both the Prohaska and Bachmann. If you have the hardware, the carabiner does mind the cord well. The Bachmann can slip through a carabiner if used as a catchment hitch in a mechanical advantage system, such as a "Z"

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