Roped Up

How to Lock Off Belay Device


Locking off your belay device is handy when you need to free your hands while belaying or rappelling. The common way of doing it is by tying a mule knot. It has an advantage of untying quickly by simply pulling the rope when you wish to continue rappelling/belaying. Depending on what kind of belay device you use, it is tied in different ways.

Mule Knot on Munter Hitch

The easiest things first. Tying off Munter hitch is simple because you block it by pulling upwards – in the same direction in which Mule knot is tied. Therefore, it is easier to control the rope while you are tying it, there is plenty of friction which brakes the rope.

For extra safety, back up the mule knot by an overhand knot tied above it (see the picture).

Mule Knot on ATC

Making a mule knot to lock off ATC is harder because you need to pull down with your brake hand and at the same time tie the mule knot ABOVE the belay device. The trick is to feed the braking tail through the belay carabiner first. That ensures that the rope is properly braked by ATC for a hassle-free tying of the mule knot.

Mule Knot on Figure-Eight

Figure-8 is no longer used by the climbing majority, although it is quite a versatile piece of equipment. Locking it off is slightly easier then locking off ATC: usually there is enough friction generated by the device, so you don’t need to keep your braking hand down. Simply tie the mule knot above it, just like with the Munter hitch.
(If you have problems with holding the rope braked and tying the knot at the same time, feed the rope through the belay biner as we did above for ATC).

Extra trick: Figure-8 can be locked off much faster by flipping the loose end of the rope over the device as seen in the picture on the right. Be careful however, if you do a lot of jumping or big swings, this can come undone.


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