An important part of any rope access job is being able to tie knots in the right way, for the right purpose, and in the right circumstances. Each different type of knot (and there are quite a few) is suited to a specific task or manoeuvre, so it’s important to have a good working knowledge of which knots are required in which situations. Not only does this make your work more effective, it also ensures the safety of yourself and others around you. In this post, we’ll be outlining some of the most essential knots that you need to know before undergoing rope access work.

Note: when learning to tie each of these knots, it’s always best to just practice and practice until it becomes second nature to you. Undergoing a training course would give you a great opportunity to put these knots to work in a controlled environment. After all, alongside undertaking rescues and performing manoeuvres, being able to properly tie knots is one of the requirements for gaining an IRATA qualification.

Figure of eight

The figure of eight is one of the strongest knots for creating loops at the end of ropes, and the most commonly used knot for rope rigging. The knot is tied directly into a harness or anchor, and is able to withstand heavy loads for sustained periods of time. For the safest and most secure results, the knot should be loaded end to end with as small a loop as possible – this will prevent slippage and cross-loading. If done correctly, the knot will be easy to untie and have at least 10cm of excess on the tail.

Bunny knot

The bunny knot is also known as the ‘double figure of eight’ because it’s essentially the same knot as described above but with two loops instead of one. It’s kind of like tying your shoelaces, although it’s a bit more complex and way more important. This knot comes in handy when there are two anchors in close proximity to which each loop can be attached (but you should never attach both loops to a single anchor point).

Figure of nine

The figure of nine knot is similar to the figure of eight, but it is even stronger and easier to untie (even after it has been loaded for a while). As well as having the same applications and requirements as described for the figure of eight, the knot is tied in much the same way only with an extra turn toward the end. As with any knot, the figure of nine should end up being uniform and easily identifiable in practice.

Alpine butterfly

The alpine butterfly is a knot that is tied in the middle of a rope to provide an extra point of attachment (often with a figure of eight knot tied at the end of the rope). This knot is integral to the rigging of a Y-hang, which helps when sharing a load between two anchor points that are far apart. It can also be used to temporarily ‘remove’ damaged sections of a rope by taking away the pressure that is being exerted on undamaged sections of the rope.

Overhand knot

The overhand knot is a small and tight loop at the end of a rope that acts as a basic form of anchor point. It is mainly used to attach cowstails to a harness, but it can also be used to attach tools to your harness via lanyards, preventing them from falling and putting those below at risk. The overhand knot also enjoys the added benefit of being among the easiest to tie; it is therefore an essential knot for beginner rope access technicians!

Stopper knot

A stopper knot is tied at the end of a rope in order to prevent it from pulling through a belay when a technician is abseiling, making it an integral part of their safety. As such, these knots should be tied at the end of each rope that is being used in a given rig. Unlike other knots covered in this list, the stopper knot cannot be used as an anchor point – rather, it simply acts as a barrier through which a technician cannot pass. They are very easy to tie, so there’s no excuse for overlooking these important little knots.


Here at Martin Castle Ltd, we pride ourselves on sharing our vast array of knowledge about all aspects of the rope access industry. Whether you’re looking for training, consultations, services, or just a bit of friendly advice, we’re here to help. Get in touch!