Climbing harness

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Sit harness Klim gordel.jpg
Sit harness

A climbing harness is a device which allows a climber access to the safety of a rope. [1] It is used in rock and ice climbing, abseiling, and lowering; this is in contrast to other activities requiring ropes for access or safety such as industrial rope work (such as window cleaning), construction, and rescue and recovery, which use safety harnesses instead.



While an improvised harness can be created out of length of rope or nylon webbing, commercially produced harnesses specific to climbing rock and ice are the norm. These characteristically include a dedicated tie-in loop, padding, and amenities such as gear loops. Most commercial climbing harnesses meet the guidelines and manufacturing standards of organizations such as the Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme (UiAA) or European Committee for Standardization.

Harnesses of users involved in climbing should be attached to dynamic (kernmantle) rope, which has natural shock-absorbing stretch. In via ferrata, the harness is attached to metal cables via a shock absorber that can absorb some of the impact of a fall.

The most common knot for attaching a harness to a rope is the figure-eight follow through, characteristically backed up by a stopper knot. Although it is harder to untie after a fall than some alternatives, it is inherently more secure, [2] easier to tie, and easier to verify that it has been tied correctly. [3] There are many variations of the bowline knot, including a variation of the double bowline, [4] [3] [5] and some will untie themselves when repeatedly stressed and unstressed, as is common in climbing. [3] [5] [6] [7]

A harness' gear loops, used for carrying such equipment a protection devices, carabiners, etc., are not weight-bearing; nor are the elastic cords which restrain the leg loops from slipping down while not under load.


The invention of the climbing harness has been attributed to Jeanne Immink, a Dutch climber in the late nineteenth century. [8] Some of the first climbing harnesses were devised in the U.K. in the early 1960s by Alan Waterhouse, Paul Seddon and Tony Howard who went on to form the Troll climbing equipment manufacturers. [9] A harness designed by British climber Don Whillans was made by Troll for the 1970 Annapurna South Face Expedition. It went into mass production shortly afterwards and soon became popular worldwide. [10]

The sit or seat harness was invented in the 1960s by Yosemite climbers. The first innovation was the Swami Belt, which was multiple loops of webbing around the waist. Then quickly came the Swami Seat, a sit harness tied from webbing revealed to the climbing world thru an article in Summit Magazine in the mid-60s, which included leg loops and an integrated waist loop. Once the seat/sit harness came to be, suppliers of climbing gear started making them with stitching replacing the knots.


A sit harness consists of a waist belt and two leg loops which are normally connected in the front of the hips through a permanent webbing loop called a belay loop. Belay loops are extremely strong, but nonetheless still a single point of failure that caused at least one notorious death. [11] For rock climbing, the rope typically goes through the two "tie-in loops" that are above and below the "belay loop". The figure-eight knot is mostly used for rock climbing. These are the most commonly used harnesses for recreational activities such as abseiling and rock climbing, as they afford a wide range of movement while still maintaining a high level of safety. Ensuring the harness fits correctly is key to avoiding pain in the upper thigh area caused by the leg loops being too tight around the upper legs and groin area, while at the same time ensuring that a climber flipped over in a fall does not slip out. The waist belt should be tightened snugly.

A chest harness is worn around the shoulders, usually with a sit harness so as to provide an additional attachment point. This attachment point allows for better balance in some situations such as when carrying a heavy pack (as the centre of mass is above the connection to the rope) and when the person in the harness may be unable to maintain an upright position (due to injury or other influences).


In a study conducted, researchers came to a conclusion that there was no statistically significant evidence revealing a pattern between harness type and severity of climbing accidents. Direct rock contact in rock climbing was the main reason for injury, not the type of climbing harness used. [12]


Most harnesses are made from nylon webbing, specifically, Nylon 66. [13] [14] [15] Aspects are often tubular rather than flat. [16] Different weaves are used depending on a component's function. These sometimes include polyester.[ citation needed ] Buckles are typically made of anodized aluminum. Foam and mesh are integrated into the leg loops and waist belt to make them more comfortable. Harness designers adapt increasingly advanced materials such as Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE), aramid fibers (Kevlar, Vectran, etc.), and sailcloth to make harnesses lighter and more comfortable.

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Knot Method of fastening or securing linear material

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be practical or decorative, or both. Practical knots are classified by function, including hitches, bends, loop knots, and splices: a hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend fastens two ends of a rope to each another; a loop knot is any knot creating a loop; and splice denotes any multi-strand knot, including bends and loops. A knot may also refer, in the strictest sense, to a stopper or knob at the end of a rope to keep that end from slipping through a grommet or eye. Knots have excited interest since ancient times for their practical uses, as well as their topological intricacy, studied in the area of mathematics known as knot theory.

Bowline Simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope

The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie; most notably, it is easy to untie after being subjected to a load. The bowline is sometimes referred to as King of the knots because of its importance. Along with the sheet bend and the clove hitch, the bowline is often considered one of the most essential knots.

Figure-eight loop

Figure-eight loop is a type of knot created by a loop on the bight. It is used in climbing and caving where rope strains are light to moderate and for decorative purposes.

The Flemish loop or figure-eight loop is perhaps stronger than the loop knot. Neither of these knots is used at sea, as they are hard to untie. In hooking a tackle to any of the loops, if the loop is long enough it is better to arrange the rope as a cat's paw.

Climbing protection is any of a variety of devices employed to reduce risk and protect others while climbing rock and ice. It includes such items as nylon webbing and metal nuts, cams, bolts, and pitons.

Double bowline

A double bowline is a type of loop knot. Instead of the single turn of the regular bowline, the double bowline uses a round turn. This forms a more secure loop than a standard bowline.

Traditional climbing Style of rock climbing

Traditionalclimbing, is a style of rock climbing in which a climber or group of climbers place all gear required to protect against falls, and remove it when a pitch is complete. Traditional bolted face climbing means the bolts were placed on lead and/or with hand drills. The bolts tend to be much farther apart than sport climbs. For example, a trad bolted route may have bolts from 15–75 feet apart. A sport route may have bolts from 3–10 feet apart, similar to a rock climbing gym. The term seems to have been coined by Tom Higgins in the piece "Tricksters and Traditionalists" in 1984. A trad climber is called a traditionalist.

Webbing Strong fabric woven as a flat strip or tube used instead of rope

Webbing is a strong fabric woven as a flat strip or tube of varying width and fibres, often used in place of rope. It is a versatile component used in climbing, slacklining, furniture manufacturing, automobile safety, auto racing, towing, parachuting, military apparel, load securing, and many other fields.

Glossary of climbing terms List of definitions of terms and concepts related to rock climbing and mountaineering

This glossary of climbing terms is a list of definitions of terms and jargon related to rock climbing and mountaineering. The specific terms used can vary considerably between different English-speaking countries; many of the phrases described here are particular to the United States and the United Kingdom.

Ice climbing Activity of ascending ice formations

Ice climbing is the activity of ascending inclined ice formations. Usually, ice climbing refers to roped and protected climbing of features such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water.

Rock-climbing equipment

A wide range of equipment is used during rock or any other type of climbing that includes equipment commonly used to protect a climber against the consequences of a fall.

Abseiling Rope-controlled descent of a vertical surface

Abseiling, also known as rappelling, is a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, by descending a fixed rope.

Free climbing

Free climbing is a form of rock climbing in which the climber may use climbing equipment such as ropes and other means of climbing protection, but only to protect against injury during falls and not to assist progress. The climber makes progress by using physical ability to move over the rock via handholds and footholds. Free climbing more specifically may include traditional climbing, sport climbing, bouldering and most forms of solo climbing. Free climbing a multi-pitch route means free-climbing each of its pitches in a single session. At the end of each pitch, climbers are allowed to anchor themselves to belay stations and rest. If they fail climbing a pitch, they are allowed to use the rope to return to the beginning of that pitch and try it again.

Belaying Rock climbing safety technique using ropes

Belaying is a variety of techniques climbers use to create friction within a climbing system, particularly on a climbing rope, so that a falling climber does not fall very far. A climbing partner typically applies tension at the other end of the rope whenever the climber is not moving, and removes the tension from the rope whenever the climber needs more rope to continue climbing.

Lead climbing Competitive discipline of sport climbing

Lead climbing is a climbing style, predominantly used in rock climbing. In a roped party one climber has to take the lead while the other climbers follow. The lead climber wears a harness attached to a climbing rope, which in turn is connected to the other climbers below the lead climber. While ascending the route, the lead climber periodically connects the rope to protection equipment for safety in the event of a fall. This protection can consist of permanent bolts, to which the climber clips quickdraws, or removable protection such as nuts and cams. One of the climbers below the lead climber acts as a belayer. The belayer gives out rope while the lead climber ascends and also stops the rope when the lead climber falls or wants to rest.

Ascender (climbing) Devices used for ascending, braking, or protection in climbing

An ascender is a device used for directly ascending a rope, or for facilitating protection with a fixed rope when climbing on very steep mountain terrain.

Prusik knot

A Prusik is a friction hitch or knot used to attach a loop of cord around a rope, applied in climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, caving, rope rescue, ziplining, and by arborists. The term Prusik is a name for both the loops of cord used to tie the hitch and the hitch itself, and the verb is "to prusik". More casually, the term is used for any friction hitch or device that can grab a rope. Due to the pronunciation, the word is often misspelled Prussik, Prussick, or Prussic.

Yosemite bowline Loop knot often perceived as having better security than a bowline

A Yosemite bowline is a loop knot often perceived as having better security than a bowline. It has been pointed out that if the knot is not dressed correctly, it can potentially collapse into a noose, however testing reveals this alternative configuration to be strong and safe as a climbing tie-in.

Bosuns chair Seat used to suspend a person working at height

A bosun's chair is a device used to suspend a person from a rope to perform work aloft. Originally just a short plank or swath of heavy canvas, many modern bosun's chairs incorporate safety devices similar to those found in rock climbing harnesses such as safety clips and additional lines.


  1. Cox, Steven M.; Kris Fulsaas, eds. (September 2003). Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (7 ed.). Seattle: The Mountaineers. ISBN   0-89886-828-9.
  2. Long, John (2010-06-15). How to Rock Climb!. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN   9780762766741. the double figure eight is a cinch knot: The tighter you pull, the tighter the knot cinches on itself.
  3. 1 2 3 Heise-Flecken, Detlef; Flecken, Gabi (2016-03-28). Rock Climbing: Technique | Equipment | Safety – With an Introduction to Indoor Climbing. Meyer & Meyer Verlag. p. 20. ISBN   9781782550358. double bowline is more complicated than the Figure Eight and partner checks are harder to verify. ... single bowline is not safe while the double bowline is difficult to tie but is easier to undo after taking strain
  4. Fitch, Nate; Funderburke, Ron (2015-10-15). Climbing: Knots. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 30. ISBN   9781493015061. the double bowline with a Yosemite finish is a less common way to attach the climbing rope to a climber
  5. 1 2 "Incident: Climber's Bowline Came Untied While Climbing at Rifle". Mountain Project. Retrieved 2018-07-14. there are many versions of the bowline, some of which are unsafe for climbing ... Bowline on a Bight, Retraced Through Harness w/ Yosemite Finish ... is the safest option
  6. Rock Climbing . Human Kinetics. 2009. ISBN   9781450409001. Because this knot unties so easily, sometimes even by simply rubbing against your body
  7. Tilton, Buck (2008-09-02). Knack Knots You Need: Step-by-Step instructions for More Than 100 of the Best Sailing, Fishing, Climbing, Camping and Decorative Knots. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN   9781599217598. A knot that can be shaken loose to spill of its own accord, such as the bowline ... is an insecure knot.
  8. Harry Muré (2008). "Jeanne Immink". Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  10. Hillebrandt, David (12 June 2007). "Letter: Suspension Trauma in UK Climbers?". Emergency Medicine Journal. 24 (4).
  11. Samet, Matt (2006-12-18). "Todd Skinner: Loss of a Legend". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved 2018-07-14.
  12. Hohlrieder M, Lutz M, Schubert H, Eschertzhuber S, Mair P (2007). "Pattern of injury after rock-climbing falls is not determined by harness type". Wilderness Environ Med. 18 (1): 30–5. doi: 10.1580/06-weme-or-020r.1 . PMID   17447711.
  13. Nylon webbing popular choice for climbing gear
  14. Nylon vs polyester webbing
  15. Breaking strength of nylon and polyester being about the same
  16. Tubular vs flat webbing