Water knot = death. Do you agree? We are all gonna die?


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Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 29, 2018 - 03:56pm PT

check this out, this guy claims water knots have killed lots of climbers by untying on sharp outcropping. I've nver seen it happen, but the video is very convincing.

What say you? are we all going to die?

video is in english

Trad climber
Little Rock and Loving It
Jun 29, 2018 - 04:01pm PT
Used water knotts my whole life. As long as you leave a tail and do a simple loop with the tails and fully tension the knott after it's tied (swami's), worked for me and I'm still here. On slings I never worried about a knott in the tail, just made sure there was about 2" of tail left after tensioning.

Sportbikeville & Yucca brevifolia
Jun 29, 2018 - 04:15pm PT
The guy's "overhand knot" solution suffers from the same exposure, no?
It's the same knot.

"Tventy documented cases" of waterknot failure causing death?

A loaded water knot may fail as any knot may.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
Jun 29, 2018 - 04:15pm PT
I’ve rapped off of hundreds of water knots,
Never a failure.
Just leave some tail and set them hard.

Nice troll though .

Big Wall climber
Denver, CO
Jun 29, 2018 - 04:24pm PT
Ridiculous. Decades with not the slightest problem.

Of course, yer gonna die anyway.
Flip Flop

Earth Planet, Universe
Jun 29, 2018 - 04:40pm PT
Before sewn slings, I always taped the tails solidly. In my experience, they tend to loosen over time

Jingus Newroutaineer
Jun 29, 2018 - 04:47pm PT
Its not remotely convincing and this is an old topic.

Climbers make all kinds of mistakes that get them killed. Perfectly positioning this knot (not tight despite what the video says) over the perfect nubbin and then weighting it would in a one in a 10 million fluke result in this happening. Other times it has failed due to well known "creep" as the tails will shorten in time (check your knots).

Precisely why the water knot is used is because after weighting it, it can be easily untied to tie around a tree, chockstone or replace tat in any number of ways. You do have to check your tails and tightness at the start of any route (like most of us have done for decades), but you then have something with great utility that no other knot, once weighted, can do as well (easily untie).

Tying webbing with a double fisherman's was en vogue for a short time (try untying one of those once weighted)...but everyone I know went back to the water knot with simply an informed sense of caution about its use (never ever tie and forget, always check your tails). It is just too useful.

Trad climber
Polebridge, Montana
Jun 29, 2018 - 05:01pm PT
Hey the deal is, don't tie water knots with dynema. Seriously. I have untied them with one hand easily and flung it back at my partner.

Nylon OK. Dynema no. In my book anyway. flame me away

Trad climber
Little Rock and Loving It
Jun 29, 2018 - 05:03pm PT
Apparently some of you were unaware that trolls live in Norway.

Cracked me up! Thanks

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Jun 29, 2018 - 05:08pm PT
I did see an untied water knot on a buddy's rack once. After that we climbed on mine. lol
the Fet

Jun 29, 2018 - 05:09pm PT
water knøt = deåth
Only ven weighting with A Møøse.
No realli!
A Møøse once bit my sister...
No realli! She was Karving her initials on the møøse with the sharpened end of an interspace tøøthbrush given her by Svenge - her brother-in-law - an Oslo dentist and star of many Norwegian møvies: "The Høt Hands of an Oslo Dentist", "Fillings of Passion", "The Huge Mølars of Horst Nordfink"...
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
Jun 29, 2018 - 05:11pm PT
The dyneema versus nylon differential above actually makes sense

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Jun 29, 2018 - 05:13pm PT
Quote me as a witness for a water knot failing. Back about 1974, my friend Chris placed a wired stopper, with a 1" tubular runner tied with a water knot connecting it to our rope via binners, on our attempt at a new route on The Tusk in Idaho's Sawtooth Range.

Chris fell on steep slab about 8' above the stopper & the water knot pulled through. I caught him on my stich-plate belay & all ended well.

I took this photo of the untied knot.
Credit: Fritz

I have not used one since, including on rappels.


Big Wall climber
Jun 29, 2018 - 07:28pm PT
I've seen several of them work loose, close to coming apart.

You know how some tubular webbing has a completely smooth surface, and some has a ridged surface - pick the ridged version, use 3-4" tails, overhand the tails, set it hard and re-set it often.

4 Corners Area
Jun 29, 2018 - 09:37pm PT
oooh, I like the beer knot!

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jun 29, 2018 - 10:03pm PT
I'm skeptical about a flake catching the knot and opening it, but there is no question that water knot tails can creep over time and if not caught the knot can fail. The worst situation for this is in-situ rappel slings, which are subjected to intermittent loading and used over and over by people who don't always inspect them. I've found two or three rap slings over the years that had almost no end left outside a water knot.

Not many people use knotted slings for protection or tethers any more, so experience with the water knot has declined precipitously. As someone who used knotted slings and knotted quickdraws for years BBT (before bar-tacking) I've seen the tail creep in water-knotted protection slings a number of times. Usually, but not always, the tails of my slings were long enough to keep things safe anyway.

An odd thing about this is that a double fisherman's knot is bombproof in nylon webbing. It is a tad bigger (which is to say longer) and doesn't look as pretty. Given the uncertainty of water knots, there is no good reason not to use a double fisherman's instead. (Ok, one possible reason is that water knots are easier to untie. Well duh, that's exactly the problem!)

But "no good reason" isn't really strong enough when it comes to rap slings left in place. If you want to use a water knot for some personal slingage, keep the tails long and inspect the slings every time you use them and things will be fine. But if you use a water knot in a rap sling, you could be leaving a booby trap for the next party, something I don't think anyone wants on their conscience.

The admonition to keep the tails long and inspect every time is, sadly, not a theoretical imprecation. The Exum guide Gary Falk (IFMGA certified) died two years ago when he leaned out on his water-knotted tether, which (according to a subsequent Teton Ranger analysis) came undone, plunging him 2,400 feet of feet down the West Face of the Grand Teton. Here is a shot of the sling found on his body

Untied water knot on Gary Falk's tether sling
Untied water knot on Gary Falk's tether sling
Credit: Teton rangers

Here, for comparison, is an over-the-shoulder sling I retired but kept as a reminder of what can happen with a water knot when you don't pay attention.

Water knot in an over the shoulder sling that is near to coming undone...
Water knot in an over the shoulder sling that is near to coming undone.
Credit: rgold

As has been said above, a water knot in a dyneema sling is an accident waiting to happen; nothing but a triple fisherman's will do there.

PS: I think the beer knot is even worse, because the tail inside isn't visible. (Yeah, you can feel for it, but that requires a rather more deliberate process than just looking at the sling.)

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jun 29, 2018 - 11:06pm PT
I never had a problem with water knots in 1" tubular webbing either, so it isn't clear whether the beer knot has any advantage there, although it is cleaner, as there are no ends flapping around. I've used the beer knot in 1" tubular webbing and, as with the ordinary water knot, it was fine in my experience.

I think the 9/16" webbing used by Gary Falk and in my shot as well is more likely to slip. This is what Bill Moyer tested for repeated cyclic loading in http://caves.org/section/vertical/nh/46/waterknot.html. He found it took 860 cyclic loadings to pull one three-inch tail into the knot. A personal sling probably would never get this many loadings before retirement, but a rap sling in a popular area could.

Trad climber
Jun 30, 2018 - 12:03am PT
When I was young and no mentor with the water knot we would soak them in water for some time (an hour?) and weighted them wet (it was our logic). Even bounced on them. When they dry its damn near impossible to untie. I think back and chuckle but we didn't even know how to get a date. I'm alive after tying thousands of these knots DRY on the spot.

Anyway my 2 cents. Carry on.


Social climber
Jun 30, 2018 - 09:01am PT
Interesting topic, as I also use water knots on 1" nylon tubular webbing. The Bill Moyers analysis is tight, logical, and convincing for me at least, so thanks for posting that link up. Bottom line is same as it always was for me; check the tails every time prior to use.

That beer knot is a pretty slick variation that I never heard of, and is supposed to be stronger. Thanks you all for throwing down some info on that.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Jun 30, 2018 - 12:50pm PT
Good to know!

Always best to know what can go wrong.

People want easy solutions that they don't have to think about. Just about any knot can slip so always inspect them before leaving the ground.

Grapevine knots (double fisherman's) can slip too.

But I haven't used that kind of gear for decades and I think all the youngsters coming up the line wouldn't even recognize it.

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