Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Climbing knots and ways of teaching how to tie them

         There are hundreds of knots that can be used in climbing and each one serves its purpose to a greater or lesser extent the ones i`m going to focus in in this blog are at the more common end of the spectrum and should be known by many people, I will also describe the different methods I have for teaching each one, some may be familar to you, others may be new.

Figure of eight knot

          This is the first knot that most people learn when climbing and usually for good reason, its a good stopper knot and is the beginning of the retied figure of eight which is used for tying into the harness with, many people pride themselves by being able to tie this knot while blindfolded or behind their backs or for doing tricks where they spin the rope and throw the end through to form a figure of eight. I have found two methods work best for teaching how to tie this knot, the "twist method" and the "floor method" each naturally has its advantages and disadvantages.
          The twist method involves holding the rope in one hand and twisting the rope a half turn twice (a full twist) with the other,
2 half twists
end pushed through

          This forms a loop to put the end of the rope through and this forms the figure of eight...this isn`t quite as easy as it sounds to teach however as you have to take into account left and right handed people meaning you need to work out whether the final "poke" through the loop goes in from the front as your looking at it or from the back, people over twisting and forming a figure of nine or under twisting and forming a overhand knot.
          The floor method involves learning how to tie the knot on the floor, this is a more time and space consuming method and is more suited to walls than rock faces, its advantages though are that every stage of the knot tying is broken down making instruction easier and these stages can be seen clearer by pupils. 

laid on floor with the initial loop  
end crossed over right to left
 end passed underneath left to right and placed into small loop

Retied figure of eight
          This is the usually where people start to go wrong with this knot and the most common way of teaching is to imagine a train or a racecar following its track and this is usually the best method however it can still be frustrating from a clients point of view as they make mistakes time after time until everything finally clicks into place and the best thing I have found is to take each client through each stage of this knot until it finally makes sense.


          This Knot isn`t really taught anymore which is a bit of a shame as it is still a useful knot the reason it isn`t really taught anymore is its major advantage is also its major disadvantage, it unties very easily after being loaded, meaning that a stopper knot is essential when using this knot, (its also required when using the figure of eight but isn`t AS essential) it is also slightly harder to learn to tie than a figure of eight and to this day I can only tie this knot one way. the classic method of teaching this knot is "the rabbit comes out the hole, round the tree and back in the hole" this method is probably still the best way of teaching this knot, first the hole needs to be created, this is done by twisting a small section of rope to form a loop, after this has been done the "rabbit" or the end of the rope can pass through the loop or the "hole" goes around the back of the rope (tree) and goes back through the loop from the same side it came out. 
forming the hole
the rabbit comes out the hole...
round the tree...
and back into the hole.
          the rabbit can go either way round the tree and the only difference is the end of the rope either ends up on the inside or the outside of the big loop.

Stopper knot

          As the name of this knot suggests it stops the main knot coming undone or the end of a rope from slipping out of something, it is very easy to tie this knot and in its simplest form involves turning the rope several times around itself and tucking the end through these twists, a more elegant and neater solution is to use the fishermans bend.

 Fishermans bend

          The next two knots, the Clove hitch and the Italian Hitch, aren`t really knots as they need something to work against, they are also moderately difficult to teach as they can cause confusion especially when forming the two loops and placing on top of or folding together of these loop, fortunately the start of both these hitches begin in exactly the same way, again there are two ways I teach of tying these hitches, both using the floor or ground, these are the floor method and the crossed arms method. The crossed arm method is much easier to teach but can cause problems after in keeping the loops formed whereas the floor method is once again more time consuming but allows clearer illustration of each stage of the hitches being tied.

start of the hitches

          Using the crossed arm method, start by laying out a long piece of rope on the floor, then cross your arms over pick up the rope and uncross you arms, this form the two loops required and the correct over/under sequence for each.

          Using the floor method. This method takes longer to teach but each step can be taught individually until clients understand the sequencing. starting with a horizontal line, create a loop (the left side from your view) making sure the rope going towards you passes ON TOP of the horizontal rope, create the next loop (right hand from your view) making sure the rope going towards you passes UNDERNEATH the horizontal

Clove Hitch

          To form the Clove hitch the loop that was formed by the rope passing underneath the horizontal is placed on top of the other loop and, in this an HMS karabiner, something then needs to be passed through the two loops, you`ll know instantly whether this has been done correctly as the hitch will either tighten or will just unravel meaning you will have to start again, this is a useful hitch to know as it is almost self tightening yet can still be undone easily once its been loaded.

Italian Hitch

          To create the Italian Hitch, once you have formed the two loops you need to close them together like a book and clip a karabiner through the loops, once again it is very easy to tell whether you`ve tied this knot correctly as it will tighten up around the karabiner although it will continue to move through the karabiner but should stop moving once pressure is applied, or just fall apart meaning you will have to start all over again. This Hitch is especially useful to know as it can be used as a belay, albeit very occasionally as it does wear the rope out, belaying using this method does have one massive advantage over belay devices in that the belayer can be in front of the karabiner and still belay rather than behind the karabiner, making it particularly useful when belaying from the top of a crag or teaching abseiling.

Alpine Butterfly
          This is my favorite knot as its the most practical on this list and looks cool as well, this knot can take a three way pull and can also isolate a section of damaged rope whilst you continue to use it. it is a difficult knot to tie and as usual there are many different ways to tie it. the way I tie this knot and the way I teach it is the wrap round method, this makes it alot simpler to teach but can make it difficult to judge where the isolation loop will eventually end up, another method is the twist method which makes it easier to judge the isolation loop but I find it harder to teach.
          the wrap around method starts by laying the rope over your hand 

wrapping the rope a second time around your hand crossing it over the first strand of rope

then wrapping around a third time following the cross of the second strand

the first of the crossed over strand is then taken passed across the top of the left hand strand and underneath everything else,
the loop is then pulled through and the two ends of the rope pulled out

There are many different knots to learn and many different ways of teaching them this blog very briefly covers just some of them and the best way to find out about more knots is to join a climbing wall. 

P.S there wont be a blog next week as i`m going to a music festival at the weekend...unless you really want to read about the kit i`m taking (and probably leaving) there.

Follow the link below to go to the Lone Wolf Mobile Bushcraft website.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Survival Tins

Survival tins

          Almost every camping store offers some sort of survival tin and what you get in them differs between stores and also on how much you pay, there is of course the option of making your own and the beauty of doing this is you can put exactly what you like in them.
          At it most basic, survival equipment consists of nothing more than a good knife.
RUI knife and Fallkniven S1 

or more appropriately a Machete, which are legal in the UK providing you have a reason to have one (I think running a Mobile Bushcraft Business counts)

and to make life easier an axe or folding saw. 
I had the cover specially made

these of course don`t fit into a survival tin but you shouldn`t really be without them anyway.

          For this weeks blog I have been out and bought 2 different survival tins one from an independent army surplus store in Sudbury (where I buy alot of my bushcraft equipment) and one from Mountain Warehouse to see whats similar and what differs and also what I would include in a tin I would make myself.

          To start with the cases of the tins are completely different in terms of style, shape and material, the Mil-tec case is made from impact resistant plastic which seals tightly to provide extra water resistancy, there are four plastic tabs to seal the unit and rounded corners to avoid snagging, it also says on the packaging that an iPhone will fit inside, not having an iPhone I can`t test this.
          The Mountain Warehouse survival tin is made from aluminium and has 2 locks at the side to hold the lid in place, these provide quite a lot of pressure and this combined with the rubber seal (which unfortunately keeps falling out in my example) provides a fair amount of resistance to water ingress, sharp corners and an overhang from the lid could potentially snag on clothing and other equipment but I can`t see this being too much of a problem.
          Naturally because of the different sizes each tin contains different things, i`ll go through each individually and voice my opinion on each piece, I`ll start with the Mil-tec

          The button compass which is always useful in helping to find north, Providing you don`t need to do any in depth navigation, I would include this in a survival tin but not as priority piece of kit as there are other methods of finding North that don`t require a compass. (sunset and sunrise, analogue watch etc) 

          Mini Fire striker, this particular fire striker would not be included in a survival kit when compared to the other striker in this blog as its use would be limited due to its small size (6cm) but it does not come with anything to strike with so a knife would be required to create sparks.

          Small candle, I would include this in a survival kit as an easier although not foolproof method of creating a fire and I would probably trim the edges to make it fit into a smaller area.

          small mirror, (shown upside down to prevent glare) this would definitely go into a survival tin that I created as this would be a way of communicating across distances, there are of course limitations, cloud cover and jungle/ rain forests would prevent the use of this.
          wire saw, I would probably think twice before adding this to a survival tin, it has a practical use and is safer than an axe but there is a limit as to what this can do and the way it can be used,

          Fishing hook and line, depending on where you are will depend on how useful these are as there are alternatives, if for example if you have paracord (essential on any expedition) you can pull one of the nylon threads out for line and certain thorns can and have been used by various tribes for hundreds of years as fishing hooks but being small and light they probably would go into a kit I made.

          needle and thread, again I would probably just take a needle as the nylon threads from paracord are stonger and more durable than the cotton supplied (and if your thinking you really don`t want your clothes to clash, why? you`ve got more important things to think about!)

           Snare wire, perhaps controversially, given what I teach, I don`t condone snaring, being brought up in an area active in all sorts of country pursuits I have seen what happens when snaring goes wrong, (skip ahead to* if your squeamish) from pet cats and dogs being caught, to suffocating rabbits and rabbits where skin and fur has been stripped and the rabbit still alive, *however if I was in a situation where I needed to I would set up a snare so I would put this in.

           whistle, this would go in however I would try to find a smaller one. the international signal for distress is 6 blasts every minute on a whistle and the response is 3 blasts or flashes from a torch every minute.

          cotton wool, this would go in but I would use it sparingly and as a last resort if I couldn`t find any birch bark or similar to use.

          match book, I would put these in but only half the amount as I would have a fire striker with me as well, I would also waterproof these by dipping the heads in candle wax before leaving.

          Razor blade, if I had a knife on me then probably not

          Not really sure who would benefit from an accident report form if your the only person...

          Basic survival guide, as an aide memoir this would probably go in.
          And so onto the Mountain Warehouse survival tin, many things are replicated as above so no explanation will be given.

button compass

small penknife, this could be used instead of a main knife for things like creating a spark with the fire striker and the scissors are useful for cutting bandages.

whistle/ emergency medical information capsule, this is the right size for a whistle but theres a problem with it...its metal not good in a cold environment.

 Fire striker, this would be the better choice between the two fire strikers as it comes with a steel to create sparks meaning you don`t have to rely on your knife and is the same size as the other striker.

mirror, this is glued to the inside of the lid I wouldn`t have much of a choice but to take this if I used the Mountain Warehouse tin  

wire saw

  safety pins for clothing or bandages, or body piercings if you really want although again why? these probably would find there way into my survival tin.

bandage roll, this would go into a tin but probably not as much as you see here.

snare wire

plasters / band aid, one or two may find there way in but not as many as you see here.

cotton wool

          salt, mmmm now to find some chips (fries) obviously not for chips but for drying out and closing wounds, hurts like f**k, personal experience speaking there! no need to use on leeches either as this may cause more harm than good. this probably wouldn`t go into my kit.

          survival tins can be made as personal as you need, I knew a person who`s kit consisted of a penkife and a fire striker wrapped in duct tape and he had an explanation as to how to use just these items. As I always say personal preference is key to the equipment you buy.

as a final picture I`ve had the tin customized with the company logo and name

Follow the link below to go to the Lone Wolf Mobile Bushcraft website.