How (and why) To Tie Climbing Prusik Knots
Using a prusik knot or friction hitch to hold your ascent and descent on a rope is a common practice in tree climbing. Prussik use dates back from sailing and boating use up to modern mountaineering.
The concept is simple: the prusik knot is tied around a climbing rope, called the host rope or main line, and when it is loaded it tightens down and grabs the main line. While it’s likely that sailors discovered the utility of tying one rope to another– some dude from the 1800s named Karl Prusik is credited with inventing the modern prusik hitch that we think of today. Our money is still on sailors having figured it out on fixed ropes first.
How do you make a Prusik Knot?
The most basic example would be to take a loop of cord, essentially any closed loop of rope, and tie a girth hitch around another rope. In some cases this might hold. If it doesn’t, you can simply pass the loop around the rope again and back through the center of your girth hitch. This will leave you with what we refer to as a 4-wrap prusik. This knot is also called an English prusik and a French prusik.
This type of 4 wrap prusik is the basis of most other hitch knots including the klemheist knot, distel hitch, and the scwabisch prusik.
While rock climbers and mountaineers pioneered many of the uses of these types knots, including as an autoblock for belay or rappelling, arborists have taken using prusiks for personal safety to a new level of specialization. In many cases, tree climbers are able to completely replace the use of mechanical ascenders or descenders, with nothing more than a length of cord or a spare end of the rope.
Types of Prusik Cords
Prusik cords comes in a variety of types, you can purchase spliced eye and eyes, or even fashion your own using bulk by the foot and creating the eyes to clip a carabiner into with double fisherman’s knot at each end.
Not all accessory cord is rated for use as a life support prusik, so if you are creating your own slings or prusik loops be careful to check the rating on any material you use.
When you select which prusik hitch to use, consider what you need from the knot. Do you want the knot to hold in both directions, release easily, bite very quickly? In addition to which knot you pick these factors will determine if you want to use a thinner diameter prusik cord like an 8mm eye to eye or something thicker like a 10mm prusik loop, or even how long of a prusik to start with.
Progressing Your Prusik Knot
After you have learned and mastered the basic 4 wrap prusik, we suggest learning the Distel and Swabisch knots, then the Valdotain Trusse. All of these knots are shown in our How to Tie Climbing Prusik Video.
In our Tree Climbing Systems Video we also show how to advance a prusik using a pulley and other techniques. This can make it considerably easier when you are using a prusik for work positioning or self belay.
People use prusiks for a really wide variety of uses other than climbing trees– rock climbing, theatre rigging, caving, rappel backup for abseil, and more. Whoever you meet in these communities usually has a favorite knot, what’s yours?
Hi, I'm Nick Bonner from treestuff.com. Today we're going to talk about prusiks, a couple different types of knots that I've always found to be my go-tos, and the differences between some of the options and cordage. First thing we have here is a sewn eye and eye, this is an eight millimeter prusik cord, and I've got it tied in what I know as the simplest type of prusik, you'll see this called in English prusik, or French prusik. But to me, this is a four wrap prusik. It's totally symmetrical, and it's going to work in both directions. This one's easy to tie, you're simply just going to take a couple of loops like so, girth hitch through once, take this back around, and then send it through this loop again. Make sure that it's all nice and neat in there, and then tighten it down, taking care to make sure that these legs stay The same length for wrap prussik eight millimeter against this 11 millimeter rope is going to grab pretty well.
If I needed more staying power or potentially wanted the knot to break loose or one of these legs to be shorter, I can modify this prussik by taking another set of wraps. Now, you see this is starting to get a little bulky here so I've got to kind of adjust it and this is going to hold even easier or better, excuse me, but it may be more difficult to break. Definitely takes a little longer to tie. This is the basis for all prusik. It can be adapted or changed by adding a leg going a different direction being less symmetrical. And what we'll do is we'll start to look at what that looks like here. So this is a swabisch prusik. This is not bi directional anymore. The last one you could pull in either direction, this one is going to be pretty much focused on pulling in a single direction. And what we have here is three wraps up and one wrap down. So that is going to tighten this way, but not this way. And it's also going to be a little bit easier to break after it's been loaded. When you have an arborist micro pulley underneath here, popping this up as you tend slack and a climbing system, or for using this as like a progress capture in a rigging system. That's where that starts to become useful. It's not as you see, just like the last one stays in the rope when it's not held together with the carabiner, and also you'll notice that both legs come down on one side of the rope right the knot itself. In relation to the rope is asymmetrical. When you tie the swabisch you're going to start by taking your wraps up with a single end. And to do a three one when you get the three here you're going to cross over the standard line and then take this around the rope and in the same direction, pop it out there, a little bit of effort into dressing it and setting it can get it equalize, same amount of tension on each leg
Notice that this is a spliced cord versus the sewn that we looked at first big difference that you'll see between these is the usable length. This is stiff from the bury, you know all the way up to here. Whereas this is flexible immediately following the termination. So in certain applications, it's going to be beneficial to have one of these. In others it will be like this, this will be the better choice for both of these knots. I think I would rather have had an eight millimeter cord with the sewing nine. So and I simply because you get more usable length, which allows you to really shorten this distance by using the right size board or a different off. So that's the swabisch, this can again be modified as a platform to go off of additional wraps can be taken, you could take two down here at the bottom or four at the top. And then ultimately, you know, eventually you can switch the direction of this lower one. And that's what we'll look at here.
This is a distel knot. And it is essentially the same as the slavish except that the end this last wrap goes the different direction, the brings the eyes down on either side of the road. So when you're starting to integrate micro pulley or some other piece of hardware down here, you get a nice cleaner system that lays in Well, a lot of people prefer that this not also you start to get where it'll break itself as it's going up. So this is a 10 millimeter cord on an 11 millimeter line. Again, with the smaller diameter prusik line versus host you're not always going to be able to just break this and push it up. It will when you load it pretty heavily, you know, get so where these legs come up like this with a pulley underneath, it's going to break really easily. And be nice knot for slack tending like the climbing system or something like that. When you go to the distal, you'll start just as if you were trying to swabisch or any of the prusiks that you were tying with a single end here, we'll go four wraps up, we'll cross we'll come around to the opposite side of the rope, twist and then just pop out like this. And you can see there's really nice symmetry to the way that these legs pop out here, and that's going to be a four, one distel climbing knot.
Now, you could again add two twists here, or you know three and two or two and two and these arborist knots all go back to that same platform. At the beginning, the swabisch hitch was one of the first knots that I learned the distle hitch shortly after that, and I think these are both really good choices to experiment with different types of cords and terminations with your tree climbing line and find what's good for you, you know, down here on the ground like I am today, but definitely good choices.
When I started tree climbing, I was told that I had to learn those arborist knots first and then I could eventually learn the VT or, you know, the the Corvette of knots and this is an example of a valdotain tresse or vt. There are a lot of names and variations on this knot, especially like the other one, because I think this one really lends itself to doing differently each time. It's comprised of a series of wraps and coils, right, so here I have four racks 1-2-3 coils, this knots gonna break up very easily, especially when you use a hand spliced tree climbing line to do that last coil it's going to break super easily, it's going to tend the smoothest through a pulley. The downsides of something like this are that it can be finicky in the performance can vary a lot from rope to prusik cord and I think this one requires the most careful attention and effort to tune it in versus some of these other knots, but they either work really well or they don't work at all and it's easier to get them going, but you lose some of the performance that you get out of a knot like this and even with no micro pulley putting my whole weight on it, I'm very easily able to break it, push it back up again.
So this is an eight millimeter hand splice arborist prusik cord on this 11 millimeter rope. This is the type of knot maybe a little bit shorter that I would use with a rope wrench or something more advanced on a single SRS Climbing line like this, but these knots are also really great for DRT where you can get just the smoothest performance. So when you tie the VT, you're going to start farther away from the AI than with the traditional process. Because as you take your wrap, so go up, you say I'll take four here. And then I'm going to cross slice to note here that you're generally aligned and that equalizes the same length. So I'm going to keep going this one was on top, so I'll go to on bottom. And now here, I could stop there or I can take another set of wraps and flip that side again, slider but it also works like this as well. So that's the four basic prusiks that I recommend every arborist know. And by mastering the fundamentals required to tie these four knots I think that you can really learn and adapt to tie any of the different arborists prusiks that are out there and use in mainstream work today. So, hope you enjoyed this video and that it was helpful. Thanks for watching.