Choke the Rope: Tying a Climber to a Figure 8 Knot

Knots are like a wild horse; they might be scary to first approach them, but can be powerful once you’ve tamed them. Ok, maybe its not an amazing analogy, but its worth considering.

“Choking the Rope”

Some climbing regulars might notice that I changed the image that is used to remember how to tie the figure 8 knot. The mnemonic device that first learned to remember how to tie the figure 8 was “Choke the chicken and poke it through the eye.” Though my friends might chuckle as I use this memory tool, I wan’t interested in getting a letter from PETA about my allusion to the unethical treatment of animals.

I remember chatting about this with a guide and they offered another memory trick. the phrase he uses is “put a scarf around the alien and give it a kiss.” I’m not too sure if kissing an alien feels better than choking a chicken, but I felt that choking the rope would be slightly less offensive.

Swiper No Swiping!

I have a confession to make. In the part of the video where I counted the figure 8 to make sure it was tied correctly, I kinda felt like Dora the Explorer (“Two, four, six, eight, ten. Good job kids”). A piece of me wished that I followed up the counting by saying “Did you understand how to make the knot” followed by five seconds of me looking at the camera awkwardly waiting for you to respond.

I remember when I was introduced to the counting method for checking your knot. I had been a regular climber and then went to an indoor gym. I tied in and the worker asked me how I knew if my knot was tied correctly. After looking over my knot and seeing that it looked perfect, I said “because it looks right.” It wasn’t the answer they were looking for. After a thorough teaching on the counting method I was given my small green pass saying that I could climb for the day.

Safety Knot

On a separate occasion, I went to another gym and tied myself in as usual, awaiting inspection. After the young lady inspected my knot, she noticed that I didn’t tie my overhand knot (I didn’t need to tie it off because the extra rope wasn’t in my way). When then told me “don’t forget your safety knot.”

I couldn’t help chuckling. That little overhand knot is not a safety knot. The figure 8 is my safety knot.


Whether you’re choking chickens or kissing aliens, being connected to the rope is important. Do you have any strange ways to remember how to tie yourself to the rope? Have any other knots you like using while climbing? Comment below to share your thoughts and experiences.


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