When to use a prusik knot to rappel

In rock climbing, there are many knots which you will undoubtedly use. Specific knots tend to be better for specific purposes. One of the most useful knots is known as the prusik knot. You can use the prusik knot to rappel, however, the effectiveness does depend on the situation. In this article, we will go through what exactly the prusik knot is, and explain the best times to use the prusik knot to rappel.

This Article Will Cover:

What is a Prusik Knot?
Uses of Prusik Knots
How Do You Tie a Prusik Knot?
Where to Tie a prusik knot on a rappel?
Best Type of a Rope for a Prusik Knot
Minizming Prusik Knot Slippage
Advantages of using a Prusik Knot to Rappel
Risks of using a Prusik Knot to Rappel
Is the Klemheist Better Than the Prusik knot?
What are Pre-Sewn Prusik Knots?
Closing Thoughts

What is a Prusik Knot?

The prusik knot is a type of ‘friction hitch’ that has many purposes. This knot can be used for rock climbing, mountaineering, rescuing, and many other activities. It’s a popular knot due to its flexibility and ease of use and is heavily used by professionals and novices alike because of how quickly it can be made. Additionally, you can use the prusik knot to rappel.

Uses of Prusik Knots

The primary purpose of the prusik knot is for use in emergency situations.  As mentioned above, it can be used for a wide variety of activities. This includes rappelling, and other rock climbing activities. It is a favored emergency knot for these activities because it is quick and relatively simple to make. You can use a prusik knot to rappel. For rappelling, the use of the knot allows it to act as an ‘autoblock’. This allows a climber to remain in place during an emergency. Additionally, the knot moves freely as you climb or descend. The easy sliding motion when not under load alongside the bidirectional capability of the knot makes it a highly convenient knot. Not all knots can go up and down with ease, which is why a prusik knot is preferred for its enhanced flexibility.

How Do You Tie a Prusik Knot?

The knot is fairly easy to tie if you have the right type of rope and follow these 5 simple steps:

  1. Firstly create a loop by tying the ends of the rope together; the ends should be parallel. They should be pointing in opposite directions.
  2. Next, you should coil the end of the rope around the other piece.
  3. Carefully pull the long sides of the rope next to the knot. You will then have two x shapes beside each other. This is your ‘static loop’.
  4. The next step involves making this loop into a prusik knot to rappel. To do this, you put the loop behind the line and gently start to pull the knot through the loop.
  5. Finally, you should wrap the inside of the loop three times and then pull through tightly. The appearance of the knot will resemble three lines from the front and six vertical lines on the back.

Practice tying a prusik knot on a carabiner

Where to Tie a prusik knot on a rappel?

You should know where to tie the knot on a rappel when looking at the use of a prusik knot to rappel. A carabiner is attached to the loop of the knot which can be connected either to your harness or to another person in an emergency situation. It is crucial to attach the carabiner to the actual rope rather than the knot. Additionally, the position of the rope may need to be changed a bit to ensure that the barrel knot is not placed directly in the centre.

Best Heavy Duty Climbing Carabiners

Best Type of a Rope for a Prusik Knot

Not all ropes will be suitable for a prusik knot. It is important to make sure that the material of your rope is suitable for a prusik knot to rappel. As detailed above, the main objective for a prusik knot is to create tension and friction. This cannot be achieved if the rope is too stiff. Therefore, you should always properly test the rope before trying to tie a prusik knot. The rope cannot be too thin otherwise the movement will be heavily restricted. Conversely, it cannot be too thick as then it may lack the required friction needed to properly lock.

Ideal Length

Alongside the material, the length is also an important factor to consider when using a prusik knot to rappel. The diameter of the prusik loop material should be around 60-75% of the standing line diameter. This will ensure that the length is optimal for a prusik knot.

Minizming Prusik Knot Slippage

There is a risk of a prusik knot slipping, and this can occur either due to a problem with the rope itself or a human error. There are ways to minimize the risk of slippage. The first step is to always check every point before starting to ascend or descend. It seems like simple advice, however many slippages occur due to a loose point somewhere. Additionally, you should give the prusik knot a few tugs to ensure that it can grip and ungrip properly.

Minimise slippage by using a prusik knot to rappel
Probably want to make sure all your knots are working correctly if you’re in this rappelling situation.

Advantages of using a Prusik Knot to Rappel

There are many situations in which a prusik knot can be life-saving. One of the key advantages of using a prusik knot is that you can quickly change from a rappel situation to one that ascends and vice versa. This added flexibility can make the prusik knot maneuver appear more viable. The knot has been a reliable method for many decades, and even though newer devices have become more popular, it still remains as effective as ever when used properly.

Risks of using a Prusik Knot to Rappel

It is important to understand the real risks of using a prusik knot. There are many things that can potentially go wrong. Since a prusik knot is often used in emergency systems or as a failsafe, it is the last measure. Most of the risks stem from inexperience, and the use of incorrect materials. One of the biggest risks is referred to as the ‘death grip’. This is where someone grasps the knot out of sheer panic and prevents it from functioning. The risks of using a prusik knot to rappel can be managed by understanding the knot and having some experience with creating the knot. It is only recommended as a last measure/backup option. Alternatively, you can also use auto block devices instead of a prusik knot, and they have their own considerations that need to be considered. It is crucial to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of every particular system. No system will suit every single climber, and this is something to discuss with your climbing partner. The best combination is the well that is well understood by both people.

Is the Klemheist Better Than the Prusik knot?

Other than an autoblock backup system, there is the option to go with a klemheist knot. This is fairly similar to a prusik knot. Both work effectively for emergency situations, and they can be used as back-up rappel devices. The difference with the Klemheist is that the loop is wrapped around the rope, rather than passing the loop through itself. Some people prefer the grip of the Klemheist, whilst others say it can be easier to loosen. These are just personal experiences. We recommend trying both knots to see which one is more suitable for you. An instructor or expert can help you to understand both types of knots, and also give you some experience in creating backup systems while climbing.

Klemheist knot to rappel
The klemheist knot (above), when used to rappel, can also be effective in emergency situations.

What are Pre-Sewn Prusik Knots?

A prusik knot can become undone for many reasons which include human error. Inexperienced climbers may not feel as though they are skilled enough to tie the knot properly. In situations involving a very high cliff or a person stuck in an emergency, it is crucial to be confident in the knot. If you are worried about the knot becoming undone, then there is an alternative available. When using a prusik knot to rappel, there is the option of using a pre-sewn knot. This has a number of advantages and considerations to take into account. Some of the risks of tying the knot can also be mitigated by using a pre-sewn prusik knot. These knots are already tied and therefore you can rely on them to be sturdy. The stitching is also covered by plastic sleeves to protect from any abrasion. If you are considering using prusik knots a lot then purchasing pre-sewn ones can be viable. There are different types available which means you can buy the ones suited to your specific activity.

Best Pre-Sewn Prusik Knot Ropes

Closing Thoughts

You will now have a much better understanding of when to use a Prusik knot to rappel. All climbing setups need a backup. You should use a prusik knot to rappel either in an emergency or as a backup. These knots have a variety of purposes and can be used in a number of emergency situations. However, you will now also be aware of the risks and considerations that you must take into account when tying a prusik knot to rappel. It is vital to get some practice with the knots and to be fully aware of everything that needs to be taken into account.

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