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Survival Outdoor Rope Climbing Techniques for Beginners

Learn the best ways to climb a rope without equipment

Learn outdoor rope climbing techniques with no climbing gear other than rope and what you can make from it. 

It includes how to to climb rope with and without a harness, and how to make a rope climbing harness.

You will also learn climbing rope techniques for descending with and without your self-made harness.

To practice these rope climbing exercises you will need rope for climbing and some basic knowledge of knots. Rope for rock climbing works best for most of these.

You can find instructions on how to tie the knots you need in this post.

Climbing Rope Without a Harness

These static rope climbing skills are useful when bouldering is too dangerous and you aren't able to make a prusik. 

Brake and Squat

If you want to climb the rope without a harness, and it is a thicker rope, try the brake and squat method.

This works well with climbing gym rope and is good for rope climbing crossfit workouts.

It is the classic military rope climb method, and you can also use it as a gymnastics rope climb.

Let the rope fall to the outside of one of your legs and step on it with your closest foot. Put your other foot underneath the rope.

You are now in the basic position.

Grab the rope as high as possible and hang off it. 

Bring your feet up as high as possible. Pull yourself up and bring your knees to your chest and place them in the basic position.

The basic position locks the rope in so you can stand (and rest if needed). 

Reach up as high as you can again and repeat the process.


Brake and squat

You can do this rope climb exercise at home if you can find a good place to hang crossfit climbing rope. Get some here.

Make a Rope with Knots to Climb

A series of overhand knots tied at intervals along a smooth rope will make climbing much easier.

Climbing a knot rope is another good rope climb exercise. You can get a decent rope climb workout from it.

How to Make a Rope Climbing Ladder

Climbing a rope ladder is yet another way to get a good workout climbing rope.

One way to make a rope ladder is to tie as many fixed loops (butterfly loops work well) in a rope as you need hand and footholds.

Another way is by using two ropes, or one rope doubled up.

Tie fixed loops opposite each other along the ropes. Alpine butterflies or figure 8 loops work well.

As you tie the loops, put sticks (the rungs of the ladder) in them. Ease the knot tight around them to hold them in place. 

Allow the rung ends to protrude out the sides of the knots so they will not slip out.

How to Rapel Without a Harness

You can learn how to rappel without a harness using the Dulfersitz method. You may wish to use rope climbing gloves for protection.

For this to work, you need a rope at least twice the length of the distance you wish to descend. It must also be strong enough to hold your weight. 

Find the middle of the rope and wrap it around a solid anchor. Ensure it is not rubbing against any sharp edges and test its stability with all your weight. Jerk on it to make sure.

Pass both ends of the rope between your legs from front to back and then to the left of your body. Continue it over your right shoulder and down your back.


The Dulfersitz method

For comfort, you can put padding around your shoulders and groin.

Hold the rope in front with your right hand and at the back with your left.

Plant your feet against the slope about 45cm apart and lean back so that the rope supports your weight. Do not hold yourself up with your hands.

Step downwards while lowering your hands one at a time.

Go slow!

How to Make a Rope Harness

In this section you will learn how to make 2 types of improvised rope harnesses so you can climb a rope safer.

One is the triple bowline. The other is the more complicated (but more comfortable) swiss seat. 

Improvised rope harnesses may not be that comfortable but they are useful to know.

How to Tie a Triple Bowline Harness

A triple bowline is a bowline made with a doubled-up line.

It produces 3 loops which you can use as a sit sling or a lifting harness. One loop goes around each thigh and the third will go around the chest.

Tie it in the same way as a bowline using the "middle" of the rope, i.e., do not use the ends. The running end must protrude out long enough to create the third loop.


Triple Bowline Harness

When using this to haul people be careful of the pressure the rope on the chest. You can make a foot loop to ease the pressure.

How to Tie a Swiss Seat Rope Harness

The swiss seat rappel harness is sturdy enough to use for anything a commercial harness can do. It won't be comfortable, but it will work.

Swiss seat webbing will be more comfortable but rock climbing rope will work too.


Tie a surgeons knot around your wait

Pass the ends between your legs. Now tuck them up through the wrap you made around your waist, on either side of your waist.


Pass the ends around your legs

Pull down on the ends as you do a few squats. This will tighten it and check for comfortability. Next, do a full wrap around your "belt" with each end of the rope.  


Make a few wraps around the "belt"

Tie the ends together using a reef knot. Do it off center.

Make half hitches with the left-over rope that goes around both "belts".


Tie it off with a reef knot and some half hitches

Climbing a Rope with a Prusik

Prusiking up a rope is a safe way to ascend when there is no easy way to climb out. You can also use it in reverse to descend.

It is a good way of climbing a tree with rope and gives a good rope climbing workout too. 

The first thing you must do is create 2 closed loops. These will be your prusik loops. Many types of knots can make a closed loop but most of them are not safe to use when prusiking.

Climbers often use a double fisherman's knot but a faster way is to use a figure 8 bend. The figure 8 bend is also easier to tie than a double fisherman's and easier to untie, even after your weight has been on it. Refer to the post on bend knots for instructions on how to tie a figure 8 bend.

Make your 2 prusik loops from a rope with a thickness of about half the diameter of the rope you will ascend. Have one rope about as long as you are high plus 20cm, and the second rope twice your height.

The rope you use for your prusik loops must strong enough to hold you if you fall. Being able to hold your weight is not enough. It has to be strong enough to handle the shock load.

How to Tie a Prusik Knot for Climbing

Once you have made your prusik loops use the prusik hitch to attach them to the rope you want to climb.

To tie a prusik hitch put the loop on your main line with the joining knot (figure 8 bend) facing the right.


Place the loop over your main line

With the knotted side, wrap your prusik loop around the main line.


Wrap the prusik loop around the main line

Do it at least twice. The more wraps you make the more friction you will have.

Ease the loops tight. As you do so ensure all the lines are neat next to each other. Do not let them overlap/cross each-other.

Also, as you tighten it, do your best to position the fig 8 bend close to the main-line.


Ease the loops tight

Prusik Knot Ascending

Using prusik knots to ascend is a good way of climbing a tree with a rope.

Tie both prusik loops onto the main line using prusik hitches. Tie the smaller prusik loop above the larger one.

A prusik hitch works because you can slide it up but when there is downward tension it does not slip. Test it well with all your weight before using it to climb. If needed, add extra turns.

Attach the top prusik loop to your harness.

Note: Rope on rope friction can cut rope. If you have a carabiner, use it. If not, be extra careful there is not too much friction between your harness and the prusik loop.

Slide the top prusik loop up as high as you can reach.

Slide the bottom prusik loop to about head height, or as high as possible so you can still put your foot in it.

Put your foot in the loop and stand up. The joining knot of the prusik loop is the weak part so keep off it.

Slide the top prusik loop as high as possible and then put your weight on it by sitting in your harness.

Now slide your bottom prusik loop up as high as possible and put your foot in it. Stand up and slide the top prusik loop up again.

Repeat this motion.

To use a prusik knot for rappeling, reverse the motions.


Climbing a rope with prusik loops

Prusik Knot Climbing Without a Harness

It is possible to ascend using prusik loops with no harness but doing so is risky and you will use more energy. It requires more strength and stamina.

Make your loops smaller than usual and have at least two. Four is best.

Assuming you are using four prusik loops, the top 2 are for your hands and the bottom two are for your feet. You want them all to be snug so you can slide them up with minimal movement.

Place your feet in the two bottom prusik loops and hold on to the top ones with your hands.

Slide your hands up with the top prusik loops as high as you can. Pull yourself up and use your legs to slide the bottom prusik loops up as high as you can.

Repeat this process.

Climbing Rope Technique Conclusion

Now you know all the outdoors climbing rope skills you need for if you have no special rope climbing gear. 

You can do rope climbing gymnastics using the methods for climbing rope without a harness. This includes army rope climb techniques and how to make a rope ladder.

The safest way to rappel without a harness is the Dulfersitz method.

For how to rope climb a tree or rock face, make a harness. You now know how to tie a swiss seat harness and the easier but less comfortable triple bowline harness.

The last of the rope climbing training is solo rope climbing with prussiks.

Whether rope climbing at home as a fun backyard rope climb activity, rope climbing in gym class, indoor rope climbing on a rope climbing course, or practicing tree climbing techniques with rope, safety is paramount.

Many of these rope climbing tips infer solo climbing with rope, but having a buddy is for safety is smart.

Did you find this article about how to rope climb useful? If so, please share it with your friends.

Article by Sam Fury

Sam Fury 3 png
Sam Fury 3 png

Sam Fury is the creator and owner of the Survival Fitness Plan.

He has had a passion for martial arts and outdoor pursuits since he was a young boy growing up in Australia.

As a young adult he joined the military and studied outdoor leadership in college. After that, to further his skills, Sam started traveling to learn from the best in the world in various fields related to the Survival Fitness Plan including various martial arts in China, SE Asia and Brazil, Parkour in Singapore, Surf Life Saving in Australia, and others. 

These days, he still enjoys learning new things, traveling and sharing what he has learned via the Survival Fitness Plan. 

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