name=Prusik knot

names= Prusik hitch
type= hitch
origin= Dr.Karl Prusik, 1931
releasing= Non-jamming
uses= Climbing
abok_number= #1763

A Prusik is a friction hitch or knot used to put a loop of cord around a rope, applied in climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, caving, rope rescue, and by arborists. The term Prusik is a name for both the loops of cord and the hitch, and is the verb to prusik. More casually, the term is used for any friction hitch that can grab a rope. The word is often misspelled as Prussik or prussic, because of its similarity to the term prussic acid.

The Prusik hitch is named for its inventor, Austrian mountaineer Dr. Karl Prusik. It was shown in a 1931 Austrian mountaineering manual for rope ascending. It was used on several mountaineering routes of the era to ascend the final summit peak, where a rope could be thrown over the top and anchored so that climbers could attain the summit by prusiking up the other side of the rope.

A prusik does little or no damage to the rope it is attached to. Care should be taken to learn from a skilled instructor if a climber plans to use this or any other knot in a situation where failure could cause property damage, injury, or death.

Advantages of a Prusik hitch

Climbers carry Prusik cords mainly for emergency use, as they are lighter than other options. Prusiks are fast to place on a rope, and with practice can be placed with one hand. The loops of cord can be used as slings, and are thus multi-functional in a climbing environment.

Prusiks will work around two ropes, even two ropes of different diameters. Prusiks provide a strong attachment that will not damage or break the rope, and so are used in some rope-rescue techniques. Prusiks are good to use in hauling systems where multiple rope-grabs may be needed, and where mechanical rope-grabs are not available.

Prusiks are far less likely to damage the main rope than mechanical rope-grabs such as a jumar. A prusik which is overloaded will initially slip, causing no damage. If loaded to great excess, the worst result is that it slides until the heat of friction causes physical failure of the prusik cord, rather than the rope. Mechanical rope-grabs when overloaded will sometimes damage the sheath of the rope, or in extreme cases sever the rope entirely.

Depending on which variant is used, Prusik hitches have the advantage of working in both directions. Most mechanical rope-grabs work like a ratchet, moving freely up the rope, but grabbing when a load is placed down on them. Traditional Prusiks (such as those shown below) will grab when pulled by the tail, either up or down, and will slide either way when pushed by the barrel.

Although the Prusik Climb technique may be seen as outdated by some, the US Army still includes it in its annual Best Ranger competition. Rangers in the competition routinely make it up a 90 foot rope in under a minute.

Disadvantages of a Prusik hitch

Prusiks are ineffectiveFact|date=September 2007 upon frozen ropes. This is due to the necessity of friction for the Prusik to function. Mechanical devices (such as jumars) to grab the rope are available that are easier and faster to use, but heavier, more expensive and bulkier.

Related hitches and equipment

Although prusik can be used in a general way, the Prusik hitch is a specific hitch. The two main alternatives are the Bachmann knot and the Klemheist knot. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, mainly in how easy they are to use for climbing a rope. Another variation is the AutoBloc or French Prusik, used by some people as a backup knot while rappelling.

A Purcell Prusik is a related cord popular among cavers and rope-rescue people. A somewhat longer loop than the normal Prusik is used around the rope, then a second Prusik is used around the cord loop itself to form a foot loop. The foot loop is then easily adjusted in length and position.

A Prusik-Minding-Pulley is common in rope rescue. The rope to be pulled is passed through a pulley, and a Prusik is tied on the loaded side. When the rope is pulled, the Prusik rides against the pulley and the rope slides through it; but when the rope is relaxed, the Prusik slides away from the pulley and grabs the rope. Thus, the combination acts as a ratchet.


A Prusik hitch is tied using a loop of narrow but strong nylon accessory cord or a sling (though some suggest avoiding spectra slings, due to their high potential for melting when the hitch slips). The length of this loop depends on the application. For instance, the loop used for an Auto-Bloc might only be 20 cm, whereas the foot loop for climbing a rope might work better with a length of 100 cm or more. As a general rule, longer loops are preferable over shorter ones, as a loop can always be shortened by tying a knot in it.

The effectiveness of the Prusik hitch relies on the surface area between the hitch and the main line, and the diameter of the cord used. Normally the greater difference between the diameter of the cord used for the hitch and the main line, the greater the ability for the hitch to hold. However, the smaller the diameter of the cord used, the lower its safe working load. In addition, smaller diameter cords often jam too tight when placed under load, and are hard to handle when wearing gloves.

Tying the Prusik

The Prusik is tied by wrapping the prusik loop around the rope a number of times, usually 3-5 times depending on the materials, and then back through itself, forming a barrel around the rope with a tail hanging out the middle. When the tail is weighted, the turns tighten and make a bend in the rope. When weight is removed, the loop can be moved along the rope by placing a hand directly on the barrel and pushing. Breaking the Prusik free from the rope after it has been weighted can be difficult, however, and is easiest done by pushing the "bow", the loop of cord which runs from the top wrap over the knot to the bottom wrap, along the tail a little. This unwinds the wrap to loosen the grip of the hitch, and makes movement easier.

Many materials may be used to tie a prusik. The webbing illustrated is one choice, but many find round cord to work better. Adding more wraps increases the grip.


In addition to being a useful rope-grab for rope-rescue applications, Prusiks are popular for:

*Rappel Backup/Self-Belay Below The Device: A Prusik is placed below the descender and controlled with the brake hand. It acts as an automatic 'dead man's handle' should the climber be incapacitated or need to use both hands. Careful setup of the rappel backup is critical. An 'AutoBloc' or 'French Prusik' knot is most widely used in this application. []

*Rappel Backup/Self-Belay Above The Device A Prusik is placed above the descender and controlled with the hand not being used as the brake hand. This configuration allows for easier and faster transition from rappeling to climbing the rope, but can also result in the Prusik locking tight as the amount of friction required to hold the load at that point is far higher than that experienced by a "self-belay below the device".

*Prusiking or ascending the line: Two prusiks used in tandem can be used to climb a fixed rope. One prussik is attached to the belay loop sewn onto the front of a harness, and the other attached below that is a longer length of cord reaching to one foot. The climber can then stand up in the foot loop, slide the prusik hitch of the waist loop further up the rope and then "sit" down on it. Once sitting, they can slide the foot loop up the rope and repeat the process.

*Escaping the Belay: In a lead-climbing situation, should the climber become incapacitated in a position where they cannot be safely lowered to the ground, the belayer must "escape the belay" in order to effect rescue. After locking the rope in the belay device with one hand, the belayer can tie a prusik to the rope with the other hand, and then use the prusik loop to transfer the load to a fixed anchor. The belayer can then go to effect rescue or get help.

*Rescue Applications Rope rescue teams, such as in swiftwater rescue or in high-angle technical rescue, use a Prusik hitch as a 'ratchet' or "progress capture device". A prusik with a "prusik minding pulley" is used to hold a load while tensioning a line. The pulley advances the prussik up the line and prevents it from going back out. This can be used to raise a patient or tension a highline for a Tyrolean traverse, or in "boat-on-tether" and similar rescue operations.

When to carry (climbing)

All sorts of climbers carry prusiks as standard equipment "just in case". If you drop your rappel device, prusiks may be the only way to get down. Prusiks are unlikely to be needed on short climbs where the climber can be readily lowered to the ground; conversely, they may prove useful where the climber cannot be lowered, for instance from a high cliff or due to a hazard underneath the climber.

Prusiks can be improvised from other climbing equipment, such as slings already carried by the climber. Some sources recommend that three prusik loops be carried, since two are required to ascend a rope and the third allows for one to be lost, damaged, or dropped. Three loops also allow the climber to pass a knot in the rope, a difficult task without a third loop.


Further reading

* The Ashley Book of Knots discusses a knot of similar structure in the entry for drawing #1763

External links

* [ Prusik Knot at canyoning] with good pictures showing how it is tied.
* [ Prusik Knot used in Sailing] for climbing a mast, with other notes.
* [ Many Varieties of Friction Hitches]
* [ Discussion of Rappel Backups - Pros and Cons]
* [ A detailed article, good pictures, several prusiks and ideas shown.]
* [ A scientific study of common friction knots]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • prusik — /prusˈik/ (mountaineering) noun (in full, prusik sling; also cap) a type of rope sling attached to a climbing rope, which grips firmly when carrying weight but when unweighted can be moved up the rope intransitive verb and transitive verb… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Prusik — ist der Name folgender Personen: Karl Prusik (1896–1961), österreichischer Bergsteiger, Erfinder des Prusikknotens Waldemar Prusik (* 1961), polnischer Fußballspieler Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • prusik — 1. noun a friction hitch 2. verb To climb a rope using a prusik …   Wiktionary

  • prusik — [ prʌsɪk] adjective Climbing relating to or denoting a method of ascending or descending a rope by means of two movable loops attached by a special knot which tightens under pressure. Derivatives prusiking noun Origin 1930s: from the name of the… …   English new terms dictionary

  • prusik — prus·ik …   English syllables

  • Prusik-Knoten — Prusikknoten Typ Klemmknoten Anwendung zuziehende Schlinge Ashley Nr # 1763 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • prusik knot — prəsik noun Usage: usually capitalized P Etymology: from the name Prusik : a knot that is used in mountaineering for tying a small sling to a climbing rope as an aid to one who has fallen into a crevasse and that holds fast when weighted but is… …   Useful english dictionary

  • prusik sling —    A sling fastened by a prusik knot to the rope [25] …   Lexicon of Cave and Karst Terminology

  • prusik sling — noun Usage: usually capitalized P : a small movable sling fastened to a climbing rope by means of a Prusik knot …   Useful english dictionary

  • prusik knot —    A knot tied by looping a smaller diameter rope around a larger standing line (rope) that has the property of sliding with no load on the knot, but will hold when it is loaded (e.g. when the weight of a caver is applied) [13].    See also… …   Lexicon of Cave and Karst Terminology

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