What Backup Should I Use When Tying In?

For as long as I've climbed, I've heard different views on what backup to use when tying in: Yosemite finish, double-barrel knot, overhand, or 18 inches of tail. Help us bring the controversy to an end. —Hector Martinez, Chihuahua, Mexico

I’m going to assume that, as a tie-in knot, you are referring to the figure-eight follow-through. This knot is so strong and unlikely to come undone that a backup is simply unnecessary. In pull tests, even when the final follow-through in the eight is not completed, the knot holds a tremendous load. As for the Yosemite finish (tucking the tail of the rope back through the knot), this makes the knot much more difficult to visually inspect from a distance. The bottom line is I do not teach nor use such a backup. I simply encourage good knotting techniques, including a well-dressed knot that is snugged up tight, with six to eight inches of tail. If you tie in this way, a backup is not needed.

—Rob Hess, a licensed IFMGA/UIAGM mountain guide, is owner and chief guide of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (jhmg.com). He served as technical director for the AMGA for eight years.

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