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Flat Overhand Bend (European Death Knot)

Climbing Index Climbing Usage

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Animation: Flat Overhand Bend Tying (Climbing)Animation: Flat Overhand Bend Tying
Flat Overhand Bend Tying (Climbing)
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Flat Overhand Bend Tying

Use enough rope to allow for the long tail ends. Use both ends together to form a loop. Pass the two ends through the loop. Tighten and dress the knot. The underside of the knot is unlikely to catch on an obstruction.

Flat Overhand Bend Details

Origin: Ashley named this the Overhand Bend (ABOK # 1410, p 258) and describes it as "among the weakest of the bends" and used to hang hams, bacon, and bananas. He was writing before the knot was developed for joining two ropes for rappelling.

Tying it: The knot must be dressed neatly and pulled as tight as possible. The tail ends MUST be long – about half a meter (18 - 24"). After loading it can be very difficult to untie.

Danger: Deaths have certainly been associated with the similarly tied Flat Figure 8 Bend and, perhaps wrongly, with the Flat Overhand Bend. The Flat Figure 8 Bend is deliberately not illustrated here because of the greater risk associated with it.

Names: Ashley also calls it the Thumb Knot. Climber and Rescue workers are more likely to call it the EDK (for "Euro Death Knot"). This name probably arose initially in the United States where unfamiliarity bred distrust, and because the occasional disaster, likely with the Flat Figure 8 version, caused both knots to be branded with the EDK name.

Advantages: The Flat Overhand Bend must be one of the easiest knots to tie. It is also the bend least likely to get stuck because the two ropes enter the knot at the same point and, therefore, pass over an obstruction relatively easily.

Options: Some climbers tie a second, adjacent, overhand knot beside the first – in the belief that it may increase security. However, others fear that this increases the risk of the rope catching.

Testing: Both of these knots have been extensively reviewed and tested by Thomas Moyer. He provides useful references to detailed accounts of accidents as well as the results of his tests in which both knots failed by rolling or capsizing at high loads. Moreover, after a knot rolled or capsized, subsequent rolls and capsizes occured at an even higher loads. He also provides a balanced view of the role for these knots and the opinion that: "I don't believe the flat-overhand will ever fail under body weight if it is tied well."

Disclaimer: Any activity that involves ropes is potentially hazardous. Lives may be at risk - possibly your own. Considerable attention and effort have been made to ensure that these descriptions are accurate. However, many critical factors cannot be controlled, including: the choice of materials; the age, size, and condition of ropes; and the accuracy with which these descriptions have been followed. No responsibility is accepted for incidents arising from the use of this material.

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Version 6.0 Jan 1, 2016
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