Rappelling Fatality near Mazama

Sad news out of Washington this week. A Seattle man has passed away while rappelling off of Prime Rib of Goat. It is not entirely known at this point what the cause of the accident was, but the article states that he had tied a figure 8 knot while tying two ropes together for a full length rappel. Regardless of the cause, it is a good time to point out the dangers of using a figure 8 in this situation, as opposed to an overhand knot aka Euro Death Knot(EDK). Common sense would lead you to believe that a figure 8 would be far stronger than an overhand knot,  but it tends to roll and untie itself when the tensioned bilaterally on each strand.

From the article above:

While the figure-8 version of the EDK, the one used in this accident, might seem safer than the standard overhand EDK, it is in fact more, not less, likely to roll and untie itself.

A Double Fishman’s Knot used to be the standard for joining two ropes and is notably stronger than alternatives. However, it has some significant disadvantages, most notably, that it is basically a giant stopper knot ready to jam into the nearest crack when the ropes are pulled. The EDK, while technically weaker, is still plenty strong for rappelling and is faster and easier to tie and untie. It also ‘self rights’ under tension which hopefully lifts it off the rock and away from cracks and lips. Eventually the EDK slowly spread to America and is now by far the most common rappel knot (this is a purely anecdotal and unsubstantiated). Just remember to leave 12″ tails.

Here is the Black Diamond’s QC lab take on rappel knots: BD QC Lab: Rappel Knots.

Mike Barter has a great and always entertaining video on the knot and repel safety: