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Alpine Butterfly Knot: Mastering the Essential Climbing Technique

The Alpine Butterfly Knot is a versatile and essential knot for outdoor enthusiasts, particularly for climbers, hikers, and boaters. This knot allows the user to form a secure loop in the middle of a rope without having to access either end. Due to its stability and ability to handle significant amounts of weight on both the loop and the ends, the Alpine Butterfly Knot has become a favorite choice for various purposes, including creating transverse lines, binding anchors, and shortening rope slings.

Alpine Butterfly Knot
Alpine butterfly knot on the rustic table

Known for its reliability, the Alpine Butterfly Knot can accommodate a load in any of three directions independently or simultaneously. This feature has made it particularly popular among mountain climbers, who often use this knot for tying in the middle climber when traveling three to a rope. The usefulness of the Alpine Butterfly Knot extends beyond climbing, as it is also employed to isolate damaged sections of rope and secure a range of items during outdoor adventures. Overall, mastering the Alpine Butterfly Knot is a valuable skill for anyone involved in outdoor activities.

To Tie an Alpine Butterfly Loop:

Wrap three turns around the non-tying hand.

Whether left or right-handed, lift up the turn closest to the thumb and replace it close to the finger tips.

Do the same again but continue by drawing the bight through-back toward the wrist- beneath the other two turns.

Pull the resulting loop into shape and tighten.

For a more in-depth tutorial and additional information on the alpine knot, check out our video!

Alpine Butterfly Knot Basics

History and Uses

The Alpine Butterfly Knot, also known simply as the Butterfly Knot, has been a popular choice among climbers, arborists, and outdoor enthusiasts for many years. This versatile knot is used to create a secure loop in the middle of a rope, allowing climbers to easily tie in a middle climber or create an attachment point for a variety of applications. The Alpine Butterfly Knot can also be used for the Alpine Butterfly Bend, which is useful for joining two ropes together.

Benefits and Features

The main advantage of the Alpine Butterfly Knot is its ability to accommodate a load in any of three directions independently or together, making it a versatile choice for many situations. The knot is also easy to inspect, ensuring that it has been tied correctly before use. Some of the key features of the Alpine Butterfly Knot include:

  • Secure loop: The knot forms a secure loop in the middle of a rope, allowing for easy attachment points or tying in a middle climber.
  • Load distribution: The Alpine Butterfly Knot can handle load between the loop and either end of the rope, between the two ends with the loop hanging free, or to the loop with the load spread between the two ends, as described by Animated Knots.
  • Easy to untie: Despite its strength, the Alpine Butterfly Knot can be relatively easy to untie even after being loaded, which is a valuable feature for climbers and others who may need to quickly adjust their setup.

Comparisons with Other Knots

The Alpine Butterfly Knot offers some advantages over other knots, such as the Lineman’s Loop or Harness Loop:

  • Strength: Compared to the Lineman’s Loop, the Alpine Butterfly Knot provides a stronger and more secure loop in the middle of a rope.
  • Ease of tying: While the Harness Loop may offer similar functionality, many find the Alpine Butterfly Knot easier to tie and inspect, ensuring a higher level of safety and reliability during use.

Overall, the Alpine Butterfly Knot’s versatility, strength, and ease of use make it a valuable addition to any climber’s skillset, as well as a useful knot for outdoor enthusiasts in general.

Tying the Alpine Butterfly Knot

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Form a bight in the middle of a rope. Twist it twice to create two loops, one on top of the other. Make the top loop larger.
  2. Bring the top loop down over the bottom loop, folding it at the junction between the two loops. Now the bottom loop should be essentially inside the first loop.
  3. Fold the top of the eight down around the bottom of the eight. Now up and out through the lower opening of the eight.
  4. Pull tight to complete the Alpine Butterfly Knot.

You can also view an animation that helps demonstrate these tying instructions.

Common Mistakes

  • Not twisting the rope enough, leading to an unsecured knot.
  • Failing to properly fold the loops over each other, which leads to an incorrect formation.
  • Not tightening the knot sufficiently, causing it to come undone under pressure.


  • Practice tying the Alpine Butterfly Knot multiple times to get comfortable with the process and develop muscle memory.
  • Make sure you have enough rope length to form a proper knot and avoid pulling it too tight before completing the knot, as this may impact its effectiveness.
  • Always inspect your knot for proper formation before relying on it for any load-bearing or safety tasks. A well-formed Alpine Butterfly Knot should have a clean and symmetrical appearance.

Applications and Safety

Climbing Scenarios

The Alpine Butterfly knot, also known as the lineman’s loop or butterfly knot, is a versatile and secure knot with numerous applications in climbing situations. One primary use is to isolate a damaged section of a rope; if a core shot occurs while climbing, the butterfly knot can effectively isolate the damaged section, allowing climbers to continue the ascent or descent safely.

Another climbing scenario where the Alpine Butterfly knot is useful is when there is a need for a fixed loop in the middle of a rope, such as attaching a middle climber to a team. The knot allows for load distribution between the two ends, ensuring safety and stability in the rope system.

Industrial and Everyday Use

In industrial and everyday use, the Alpine Butterfly knot has various applications. It is commonly utilized for shortening rope slings and can be used to attach carabiners, create anchors, and to connect two ropes together with a butterfly bend. In these situations, the Alpine Butterfly is often favored over other knots, such as the bowline on a bight or the figure 8 loop because it maintains high strength under load, is easy to tie, and can be untied even after being subjected to weight.

The knot can also be employed in camping scenarios, such as setting up a tarp, securing loads during transport, or any situation where a non-slipping loop is necessary. Its secure properties make it suitable for glacier travel, where fixed loops provide safety and stability in changing conditions.

In conclusion, the Alpine Butterfly knot is a reliable and versatile knot with wide-ranging applications in climbing, industrial, and everyday situations. Its ability to isolate damaged sections, distribute weight, and create fixed loops make it an essential tool for both climbers and those engaging in rope-based activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I tie an Alpine Butterfly Knot?

To tie an Alpine Butterfly Knot, form a bight in the middle of the rope and twist it twice to create two loops. Fold the top loop down over the bottom loop, essentially enclosing the bottom loop inside the first loop. More detailed instructions can be found in this wikiHow article.

What are the main uses of an Alpine Butterfly Knot?

The Alpine Butterfly Knot is mainly used for creating secure loop mid-line in a rope, allowing for hanging points for lanterns, setting up tarps, and creating anchor points in a climbing rope. It can also be used to isolate a damaged section of a rope, effectively minimizing the effects of the damage on the overall rope strength.

What are the advantages of using the Alpine Butterfly Knot?

Some advantages of the Alpine Butterfly Knot include its ability to maintain strength when loaded in various directions, its ease of tying and untying, and its ability to isolate a damaged section of rope. It is also quite secure, even when under tension, and does not slip or come undone easily.

Can the Alpine Butterfly Knot be untied easily after being loaded?

Yes, one of the main benefits of the Alpine Butterfly Knot is that it can be untied easily, even after being loaded. While it maintains its strength and security while under tension, it remains relatively simple to untie when needed.

How does the Alpine Butterfly Knot compare to other climbing knots?

Compared to other climbing knots, the Alpine Butterfly Knot is versatile, easy to tie and untie, and has a strong and secure hold when placed mid-line in a rope. While other knots may be better suited for specific tasks, the Alpine Butterfly Knot is a reliable and useful knot for various situations in climbing and outdoor activities.

Is the Alpine Butterfly Knot secure for all types of rope?

The Alpine Butterfly Knot performs well with a wide variety of rope types, including dynamic climbing ropes and static utility ropes. However, like any knot, its security and performance can be affected by the rope material, diameter, and condition. It is always important to inspect the knot and ensure it has been tied correctly before relying on its strength and security.