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Cecil Hemp's Spanish Bowline

 
Author: JimK
Date: February 22, 2010
 
The following article, submitted by JimK, presents Kenneth Van Gorder's (AKA: Cecil Hemp) "Pretzel Methodology" as applied to the tying of the Spanish Bowline.

What do you get when you use a new tying technique on a very useful knot? Well, you get a Spanish bowline tied in 6 seconds. Speed isn't more important than reliability, yet it happens to tell the story of the efficiency found with Ken Van Gorder's hemp pretzel. The Spanish bowline is one of the most complicated knots that I tie in a climbing scenario. This knot provides two beneficial foot loops to attach on my ascender. Though normally tied in advance by laying it out on a flat surface, I have found that the hemp pretzel enables me to be suspended while tying the Spanish bowline in open space. I make sure that my climbing tool box is full of knots that are quickly tied without the benefit of a flat surface.

Van Gorder has developed numerous knots tied by the hemp pretzel. In fact the hemp pretzel was designed by him to reduce the steps in the tying process. He describes them in his book, "Kno-Knonsense Knots". The count of knots tied from a pretzel formation is over 25 and growing. In essence, the pretzel shape is the interstate interchange of knot tying. There are numerous outcomes found by moving the A, B, C, D and E points on the rope into the X, Y and Z spaces. If you mix in bights, loops and elbows, the potential grows. To describe what the hemp pretzel does, makes it sound like an extreme learning challenge. The opposite is true. More knots can be learned with improved recall.

The opening move on making the Spanish bowline is to form a hemp pretzel, which is a loop folded over on a bight. In the illustration that shows the hand, imagine the page folding between the D and C. That CAE loop could be hooked by the thumb. The pretzel formation comes to life.

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The next move is to pull B and C out, forming bights. Then the bights are twisted into loops. B is twisted counter clockwise. C goes clockwise.

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With B and C now forming loops, E is pulled through the center of B and C. As E expands into two loops, B and C get smaller and eventually lock in formation as a finished knot. You'll quickly discover that larger B and C loops give you larger finished loops.

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To tie in mid-air, the knot is held with a hand on B and C. After twisting the bights, I found it beneficial to hold C up and let B drop. Then my left arm slides through the center of B. My left hand grabs E to stabilize it. Next the right hand goes through C to grab E. Both hands pull E in their respective directions. The arrows show the direction of pull. The result is a knot formed rather fast.

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In this climbing application, the rope being tied has already been formed into an attachment loop with a predetermined length. The Spanish bowline converts the single loop into two footholds. If further length adjustment is desired, a Prusik loop can be added as a friction hitch to hold the slack as it's shortened. Ken Van Gorder's quest to make knot tying systematic has come to fruition with the hemp pretzel. For me, it's the only way that I will tie a Spanish bowline (video in the making). Ken Van Gorder is a frequent guest at our climb-ins. Meet him, learn some country wisdom and tie knots a lot better.

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