Clove hitch

This is an extremely useful knot, and it is used throughout all areas of mountaineering. Its simplicity of tying, allied with its ease of adjustment, make it ideal to secure yourself to an anchor system. It can also be tied with one hand, a useful property when needing to arrange an anchor whilst holding on to the rock or an ice axe for security.

Starting a clove hitch

Uncross your hands

Place one loop behind the other without twisting

The completed clove hitch


















It will be best clipped in to an HMS karabiner. It can be put into a D shape but, if so, make sure that the knot is sitting in the correct manner and hasn’t crossed over itself, making it harder to adjust and not being quite as secure.

The load rope of a clove hitch should, in theory, be on the side of the rope that is closest to the back bar of the karabiner, as this is obviously where the strength of the karabiner lies. In practice, don’t worry too much about this, as you will be hard pushed to create enough force under normal conditions to make a big difference to the strength of the system. However, do bear this in mind if you are tempted to clip more than one clove hitch into the same karabiner, as the load rope could now be quite some distance from the back bar, resulting in a levering effect on the gate side of the karabiner in some circumstances.

Inverting a clove hitch is a common way of getting it to grip tightly in situations where it is not tied in to a karabiner, such as around the shaft of an ice axe in the winter, or on an in-situ anchor such as a metal stake. Once the hitch has been placed around the object, simply take one side of it and wrap it once around the back, swivelling the hitch away from the load side.

Tying it with one hand takes a few moments of practice, but can be useful. It is all in the twist of your hand, and the photographs below show the sequence.

1. Rotate your hand and grasp the rope 2. Straighten your hand to make a loop 3. Clip the loop in to make the clove hitch

Adjusting a clove hitch is quite simple. Decide which section of rope needs to be taken in, trace it through the karabiner, and, using the karabiner as a pulley, pull on the rope on the opposite side. Once you are tight on the anchor, pull the slack through on the dead rope side to make it all tight.

Words and images: Pete Hill

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