by Tree Climbing Instructor Tim "Tengu" Kovar 

A "Tengu Tip" might be an article about a new climbing technique, a note on familiar techniques, news about gear development,

or a tip from other climbers. It could be anything noteworthy that Tim wants to share having to do with climbing trees,

tree climbing gear, or facilitating others into the canopy.

Tip #2: Self-Advancing Blake's Hitch

August  2006


A climber rigged with the Self-Advancing Blake's Hitch

I’ve seen a variety of ways to mechanically advance your Blake’s Hitch using pulleys and prusik cords as slack tending devices. I’m a minimalist when I climb and I prefer to use the gear I have on hand to get the job done. Only after mastering the basics will I indulge in other tools that might make my life easier in the canopy. So when Abe Winters of Tree Climbing USA showed me this no-frills method of advancing the friction hitch, I was sold.


The beauty of this method is that it is so simple. There is no new equipment to buy, so there’s nothing new to clutter your saddle, or to risk losing in the forest. It adds no unwanted noise. There are no new knots to learn or new equipment to trust. All it takes is an extra two feet of your climbing rope and tying two more knots – familiar knots you already know. This is the simplicity that I look for when I try out new techniques.

This system works marvelously well, too. It's especially helpful for climbers who have different physical abilities, for young climbers, and for top-heavy climbers. And it’s great any time you want both hands free, like when you are maneuvering around a branch.

To create the Self-Advancing Blake’s Hitch, begin with an extra long tail (two extra feet) at the end of your bridge system, where you would normally tie a stopper knot. Bring that tail around to your “up” rope and tie another Blake’s Hitch above the primary Blake’s on the “up” rope. Now you have two bridges on your climbing system and two Blake’s Hitches. As you pull down on the “down” rope, your primary Blake’s will automatically advance. When you’re ready to come down just descend as usual by pulling down on your primary Blake’s Hitch.

I had only one problem when I first started using this system. Occasionally the second Blake’s would creep down the “up” rope when it rubbed up against the primary Blake’s Hitch on ascent. I solved this problem by adding a single figure eight knot above the clip-in point on my “up” rope. This then became a stopper knot that prevented the second Blake’s from creeping.


This system takes up a little more of your rope to create the second bridge and Blake’s Hitch, but after your climb is over you’ll have the cash you saved on gear to go out and support your local lemonade stand.