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Stopping a knotted sling from tightening – Tip #70

By 22nd February 2022June 9th, 2023Resources, Rock Climbing, Summer, Tips, Winter, Winter Climbing


A common technique used in climbing is to equalise a sling at a belay and this quick tip is about stopping a knotted sling from tightening.

The problem – Knotted slings getting over-tightened

In climbing, very often we want to link two anchors or pieces of protection together. A common way of doing this is by using a sling, equalising the load on each anchor. This turns them into a single point of attachment.

There are various ways of equalising a sling. One of the simplest involves tying either an overhand knot or a Figure of Eight knot on a bight. This technique is simple and very effective, with not much that can go wrong with it.

However, it does suffer from one drawback. Once loaded, the knot can tighten up making it difficult (or sometimes almost impossible) to untie. This is multiplied many times over if the sling has got wet. It is even worse in winter if the temperature is below freezing.

Consequently, in winter, it must be used with care with a view to untying it after use.

A solution – Stopping the sling tightening with a karabiner

There is one possible solution to stopping a knotted sling from tightening that is unbelievably simple. It will pay dividends in winter conditions, but is also very handy in summer too – especially if you anticipate a significant load on the sling.

First, place all the anchors and adjust the sling for equalising. Then, just before pulling it snug, simply insert a karabiner into the folds of the knot. It’s that simple!

A karabiner inserted into a knot helps to keep the knotted sling from tightening
A karabiner inserted into the knot helps to keep a knotted sling (for example an equalised sling) from tightening

In the photo on the left, the karabiner in question is the uppermost silver snap-gate. It is not the lower screw gate with the gold-coloured screw.

This snap-gate karabiner is only there to stop the knot from tightening fully around itself. It will also act as a ‘tool’ when trying to release the knot.

It’s important to understand that this is all the karabiner is for. It is not part of the belay system itself and is not for attaching anything to. A karabiner placed through one (or both) of the ‘power-point’ loops remains the normal method of attachment (with the pink rope shown).