Flat Overhand Bend | Climbing Knots

Two ropes tied together with a flat overhand bend and set up for a rappel

A flat overhand bend used to tie two ropes together for rappelling.

Use A Flat Overhand Bend To Tie Two Ropes Together For A Double-Rope Rappel

When I got into climbing longer routes during my college years, I started to also encounter lots of long rappels.

The endless question of how to tie the ropes together never got a simple answer at that time. I saw people use anything from a double fisherman’s to a reverse-threaded figure eight with back up knots. These knots were cumbersome and often got stuck in cracks or under overhangs. Everyone seemed to have a different solution, and none of them were all that practical. I remember being frustrated and unsure.

Enter the flat overhand bend (also known as the offset overhand bend). This is a simple but plenty strong enough knot for joining two ropes together when you need to do a double rope rappel.

The most important part of a flat overhand bend is to leave plenty of tail, at least 12 inches. Also, make sure you dress flat overhand knots very tidily, avoiding any twists. Lastly, make sure to pre-tension flat overhands by pulling all 4 rope threads snugly.

A flat overhand bend

holds a lot of weight (6kN or the equivalent of about 10 climbers hanging with their full bodyweight) before it might fail by rolling—that’s why long tails are important. Long tails will keep your ropes connected even if the knot did start to roll.

It is also worth noting that the flat overhand bend had a bad reputation in the past. But fear not, there was mislabeling and misapplication that caused this “bad” reputation.For example, some people called this knot the European Death Knot or EDK. Meanwhile others used that same name for tying two ropes together using a figure eight instead of an overhand.

(People often think that a figure eight knot is stronger than an overhand knot but in this case, because the running ends are being pulled apart, the opposite is actually true. A few accidents may have resulted from the use of the figure eight in that application, but even that is not entirely proven…)

Use the flat overhand specifically to tie ropes together for rappelling.

If your knot is well-dressed and pre-tensioned with long tails, you are good to go.

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1 reply
  1. Maggie Murray
    Maggie Murray says:

    A guide at Red Rocks Nevada died using this knot to rap- make sure tails are at least one foot long- I have friends that use it but I’ve never had problems with the double fishermans so I haven’t changed-That flat overhand is also called “The European Death Knot” but you probably already know that.

    Reply

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