Technique Tuesday: How to Use a Prusik Hitch
Using a prusik hitch is one of the oldest climbing techniques around. Every climber should know it, because you never know when you’re going to need it.
It was developed in 1931 by Austrian mountaineer Dr. Karl Prusik (not prussik) and within a few years it became a must-know skill. While it is often called a knot, the prusik it technically a hitch.
It can be used as a rappel backup, to ascend a rope, to escape a belay, for glacier travel and for rescues. The prusik uses 5 mm or 6 mm accessory cord that is joined at the two ends with a double, or triple, fisherman knot. The most common length of cord is about 1.5 metres for a short prusik and 1.83 metres for a long.
The prusik loop connects to the rope by wrapping around the rope and through itself to make a barrel. About three to five wraps are required depending on the type of cord and rope.
There will then be a “tail” that hangs out of the middle. When you weight the tail, it tightens around the rope. When you remove the weight, you can move the prusik along the rope.
This is a difficult technique to master and practicing in a gym or on a fixed rope near the ground is best. Multi-pitch rock, alpine and ice climbers should know this hitch and always have some accessory cord on them.