How to Tie an Equalizing Figure-8 Knot

The equalizing figure-8 knot is an excellent variation of the figure-8-on-a-bight knot which allows a climber to equalize two or three different anchors or pieces of gear with the climbing rope rather than with slings or a cordelette.

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How to Use an Equalizing Figure-8 Knot

Use the equalizing figure-8 knot on bolt anchors to easily equalize two or three anchors when you tie yourself in with your climbing rope. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Great Knot for Tying Into Anchors
It’s particularly good for tying yourself and your rope into a belay anchor. By equalizing your anchors, such as at a belay stance, the knot distributes the weight load equally on all the anchors, which increases the strength of your anchor system since no single piece will be shock-loaded in the event of a fall.

Knot Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantage to using the equalizing figure-8 knot is that you don’t have to carry lots of extra slings or even a cordelette when you’re climbing a multi-pitch route. The knot’s main disadvantage is that the anchors it is clipped into the need to be close together rather than far apart. The farther apart the anchors, the bigger and longer the knot’s loops have to be to equalize the load.

Ideal Knot for Bolted Anchors

The equalizing figure-8 is an ideal knot to use if you’re climbing a long route with bolted anchors, such as those at Tuolumne Meadows in California or the South Platte area in Colorado. When you get to a two-bolt belay anchor, you just have to tie the equalizing figure-8 knot and clip the loops or ears of rope into a carabiner on each bolt hanger and presto, you’re safe, tied in, and ready to put your partner on belay.

Best Used When Swinging Leads

It is best, however, to use this knot as your tie-in point at the anchor only if your partner and you are changing leads for each pitch. If you’re leading all the pitches, it is better to use a cordelette so you don’t have to untie the primary anchor knot before heading up the next pitch.

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Step 1: How to Tie an Equalizing Figure-8 Knot

The first step to tie an equalizing figure-8 knot is to use a bight of rope and tie a figure-8-on-a-bight, but push the double loop of rope back through the upper opening. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

First Step to Tie Equalizing Figure-8 Knot

  • Take a bight or open loop of rope anywhere on the rope’s length. If you’re tying into anchors, the bight will be close to your tie-in knot and the end of the rope.
  • Use a long loop of rope, at least six feet, to begin the knot. The length of the loop depends on the distance between your anchors.
  • Tie a figure-8 knot with both strands of rope by twisting the ropes over and under until the bight is below the top coiled loop.
  • Now bring the long loop of rope and the bight through the top of the doubled figure-8 knot but don’t pull the entire loop through.
  • This creates three separate rope loops.
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Step 2: How to Tie an Equalizing Figure-8 Knot

Next tighten the equalizing figure-8 knot, leaving the three loops or ears ready to clip into two or three anchors. Adjust the loops to equalize the knot. Now you're ready to shout, "On belay!". Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Second Step to Tie Equalizing Figure-8 Knot

  • Finish the knot by tightening it down, leaving the three loops.
  • If you have two anchors, clip two loops into one carabiner and one loop in the other. Equalize by adjusting the length of the loops then tighten the knot. Or collapse one loop and use two on anchors.
  • With three anchors, clip separate loops in each carabiner and anchor and equalize the loop lengths. Now tighten the knot down and make sure the strands are properly dressed.
  • The knot will look exactly like the figure-8 follow-through knot used for tying in except for the three loops. This great knot is handy for equalizing anchors and spreading the load equally.