Munter hitch

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Munter hitch
HMS complete.jpg
NamesMunter hitch, HMS, Italian hitch, Flip-Flop knot, Crossing hitch (ABoK #1818, #1725, #1797)
Category Hitch
Related Half hitch, Zigzag Knot (ABoK #1195), Monster Munter
Releasing Non-jamming
Typical use Belaying
CaveatWears out the rope when used for descending

The Munter hitch, also known as the Italian hitch, Mezzo Barcaiolo or the Crossing Hitch, [1] is a simple adjustable knot, commonly used by climbers, cavers, and rescuers to control friction in a life-lining or belay system. To climbers, this hitch is also known as HMS, the abbreviation for the German term Halbmastwurfsicherung, meaning half clove hitch belay. This technique can be used with a special "pear-shaped" HMS locking carabiner, or any locking carabiner wide enough to take two turns of the rope.


In the late 1950's, three Italian climbers, Mario Bisaccia, Franco Garda and Pietro Gilardoni developed a new belay technique called the "Mezzo Barcaiolo (MB) meaning; "a half of the knot, which is used by the sailors to secure a boat to a bollard in a harbor." [2] The "MB" came to be known as the Munter hitch after Werner Munter, a Swiss mountain guide popularized its use in mountaineering in the 1970's. [3] This hitch was studied and then promoted for its use in the mountains (being officially recognized by the UIAA towards the end of the sixties), by the Italian Alpine Club and, in particular, by its Central Commission for Materials and Techniques. [4]

The hitch is simply a set of wraps using a rope or cord around an object, generally a round object like a pipe, pole or more commonly, a carabiner. Its main use is as a friction device for controlling the rate of descent in belay systems.

Method of operation

Tying the hitch one handed Onehanditalian.JPG
Tying the hitch one handed

The Munter hitch creates friction by having the rope rub on itself and on the object it has been wrapped around. There is no localized abrasion on any part of the rope as it is a continuously moving hitch. One very useful aspect of the Munter is its reversibility; it can be pulled from either side of the rope and it still works just as effectively. The Munter hitch is a self regulating hitch. The heavier the load the tighter the bends in the hitch become and therefore creating more friction and self regulating.

Use for rappeling

A soldier abseiling with a Munter hitch, depicted in a German military publication from 1966. Seilkreuzbremse1966.jpg
A soldier abseiling with a Munter hitch, depicted in a German military publication from 1966.

This hitch can be used to rappel or abseil down a vertical or semi vertical wall although it is not recommended as it causes severe twisting of the rope. When using the Munter hitch to rappel make sure to get proper training before using the hitch. Using this method to rappel is very hard on rope because of the rope on rope contact and is generally considered an emergency option only.

Use as load releasable tie off

As with most belay devices and some hitches the Munter can be tied off (dogged/dogged off) to maintain tension in a manner which is easily released under tension, this is often referred to as a Munter-Mule-Overhand or MMO (Munter Mule Overhand)

The control rope (the rope not going to the load) is tied to the load rope with a Mule Knot (aka Halter hitch) - not a slipped overhand! - and the bight (loop) that sticks out is tied in an overhand around the load rope. A carabiner is then sometimes clipped through the end of the bight and around the load rope.

Examples of when a tie off would be employed include:

When a belayer needs to transfer the load from his harness to the anchor to escape the system: a rope grab (mechanical or friction knot/Prusik) is placed on the load line towards the load, rope is terminated on the rope grab (or the tails of accessory cord are used when using a cordelette with a Prusik as a rope grab) and runs back to the anchor where a Munter mule is tied under tension. The load can then be lowered (transferred) from the original belay onto the Munter Mule via the rope grab. The new line is often consider independent of the safety system so the original belay needs to be maintained throughout the process and secured back to the anchor before the system can be left unattended.

Use as a belay

A belay system incorporating the Munter hitch is the same as any other belay system, which incorporates a belayer to tend the rope and an anchor, which secures the belay system and belayer.

There are several advantages to the Munter hitch. It requires no additional hardware other than a carabiner. It's also the most common belay system which locks with the brake hand in line with the load, and as such is a more suitable method for direct belays than using a normal belay plate. [5] This can be useful when the anchor, carabiner and Munter hitch are above or behind the belayer whilst attention is paid to the loaded end of the rope. It can also more effectively dissipate heat than a belay device because no two surfaces of the rope are in contact with each other for more than an instant.

However, it places more bends in a rope than other belay methods, and creates significantly more friction on the outer sheath. Another disadvantage is that it can introduce significant twists to the rope. It is a versatile knot to know and can be used for full rope length vertical descents without the need for gloves.

The friction of the rope against the screw on the carabiner can cause the screw to undo and the carabiner to open, potentially weakening the strength of the carabiner, or allowing the rope to escape the carabiner completely.

Military use

The Munter hitch is taught on Australian military roping courses as a simple and effective method for descending steep or overhanging terrain with combat equipment and can also be used for lowering heavy stores or casualties, the only equipment required being a harness or webbing seat, a locking carabiner, and a rope.

Arboreal usage

For the recreational tree climber or working arborist, the Munter is useful to know as a reliable lowering knot for moderate loads. This hitch performs well on both 16 strand arborist climbing lines and the 11 mm double braid lines like Blaze and Velocity.

Tower technicians

Tower technicians also use this knot for lowering loads, and tagging heavy loads while hoisting. It is commonly referred to in the tower industry as a tag knot.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Truckers hitch

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Taut-line hitch

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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.

Klemheist knot

The klemheist knot or French Machard knot is a type of friction hitch that grips the rope when weight is applied, and is free to move when the weight is released. It is used similarly to a Prusik knot or the Bachmann knot to ascend or descend a climbing rope. One advantage is that webbing can be used as an alternative to cord. The Klemheist is easier to slide up than a Prusik. The klemheist is also a way to attach a snubber to the anchor rope of small boats, with the advantage that it is easy to undo.

Tree climbing

Tree climbing is a recreational or functional activity consisting of ascending and moving around in the crown of trees.

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.

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.

Self-locking devices are devices intended to arrest the fall of solo climbers who climb without partners. This device is used for back rope solo climbing for "ground-up climbing" or "top rope self belaying". To date, several types of such self-locking devices have evolved.

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.

Stopper knot

A stopper knot is a knot that creates a fixed thicker point on an otherwise-uniform thickness rope for the purpose of preventing the rope, at that point, from slipping through a narrow passage, such as a hole in a block. To pass a rope through a block, or hole, is to reeve it. To pull it out is to unreeve it. Stopper knots prevent the rope from unreeving on its own.

Bachmann knot

The Bachmann hitch is a friction hitch, named after the austrian alpinist Franz Bachmann. It is useful when the friction hitch needs to be reset quickly/often or made to be self-tending as in crevasse and self-rescue.

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.


An autoblock is a rope device used in climbing and caving for both rappelling (downward) and ascending (upward).

Distel hitch

Distel hitch is a friction hitch knot used to attach a carabiner to a rope, allowing a climber to descend or ascend. The knot is similar to the prusik knot, however it grips the rope more consistently, making for increased climber control.

Radium release hitch

A radium release hitch is a load-releasing hitch using 3:1 mechanical advantage which is used in a two-rope technical rescue system. The Radium Release Hitch allows a load to be transferred from one rope to another and is commonly rigged into the belay line prior to the operation of a two-rope technical rescue system.


  1. Clifford W. Ashley. The Ashley Book of Knots. Doubleday, 1944. p.306.
  2. Phillips, Ken. "NPS Technical Rescue Handbook" (PDF). Mountain Rescue Association. National Park Service. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  3. George, Caroline. "Munter Magic". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  4. "Cai Materiali". CAI Materiali. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  5. S. Long, The Climbing Handbook, 64