Knot craft is at the core of our work and it is something that we should take seriously. As an assessor for the Australian Rope Access Association (ARAA) and an evaluator for the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), I am regularly asked exactly what I am looking for when considering the knots that candidates tie on their assessment day. Much of this is specified by the associations as follows:
For Level 1 candidates, ARAA requires students to be able to tie the following knots:
- Figure-of-8 on-a-bight
- Rethreaded Figure-of-8
- Alpine Butterfly
- Double Fishermans
- Bunny Ears 8
For Level 1 candidates, SPRAT requires appropriate knots to be tied to achieve 4 rope functions. While there are many options, commonly chosen knots to use in these positions include the following:
- End line – Figure-of-8 on-a-bight
- Mid line – Alpine Butterfly
- Stopper – Barrel Knot
- Joining – Double Fishermans
Ultimately, I am assessing that students know what the different knots are, can choose an appropriate knot for a specific function, and tie it correctly.
To that end, I encourage candidates to know and practice their knots well. To quote Clifford Ashley (from The Ashley Book Of Knots):
A knot is never “nearly right”; it is either exactly right or it is hopelessly wrong, one or the other; there is nothing in between.
Dressing knots is important in that it makes the knots easy to recognise. It will also make the knots easier to untie.
Some may argue the relative efficiencies (preserved strength) of different knots and dressings. My tests have shown that while there may be some variation, if your system is being loaded to the point where ropes and knots are at risk of breaking, there are far bigger issues to consider. What does matter is that we are human and we make mistakes. For this reason alone, my strong preference is that candidates stick to simple knots that are well-known, easy to tie, and easy to recognise and inspect.
The following video discusses the detail of what I am looking for from candidates:
© Richard Delaney, RopeLab 2017