The Icicle Hitch is an excellent knot for securing a line to a rod, post or another line when the direction of pull will be roughly in line with the length of the rod.
It is so secure it can even be tied onto a tapered post like a marlinspike, hence the name ‘icicle’ hitch (though use on actual icicles is not recommended.They are not strong anchors and prone to break easily).
The Icicle Hitch is one of the best knots for tying a (usually smaller) line to another (usually larger) loaded line, so that the load can be taken off the loaded line (and taken onto the new line, which is usually the smaller one).
This means that the load on the line never needs to be removed completely, but the effects of the load on one end of the larger line are removed, so it is not tensioned and can be manipulated, tied or untied as necessary.
This technique is commonly used by search and rescue personnelle in roped rescue systems, and sailors for keeping the sails trimmed properly while a rope snarled on a winch is dealt with.
You may have heard of the Rolling Hitch for use in situations like those described above. The Rolling Hitch was developed by sailors for use on comparatively rough, natural fibre lines, which were almost always laid (twisted) rather than braided.
This made the lines very grippy in comparison with modern materials and constructions of rope like dyneema, amsteel, nylon and paracord which you are far more likely to find and use these days. As such, the Rolling Hitch is effectively obsolete, as was shown by recent independent testing by Practical Sailor.
The Icicle Hitch will hold for almost every situation like this, but sometimes not on very slippery things like metal tubing. For those situations the more complex Gripper Hitch is recommended.
There is an anecdotal problem with the icicle hitch that over repeated tensioning and slackening the working end can be jiggled free.
This can be partially addressed by simply leaving a very long tail on the working end, or more thoroughly by tying off the working end with a double overhand knot around the standing part.
The knot can be safely moved under control along whatever it is tied around, by pushing it from the side opposite where the ends where come out. It should slide slowly along. This makes it a ‘slide and grip’ knot.
However you tie it, the Icicle Hitch may elongate as you pull it. This is normal, should be expected, and will not compromise it’s security or strength. So long as the backmost (the leftmost in these pictures) turn does not move, the knot will hold.
It can be tied in two ways, below I’m showing you the “End Method”.
Step 1. Make a turn:
Step 2. Tuck the working end under the post, going in the same direction (side to side) as when you made the first turn:
Step 3. Bring the working down over the post to make a round turn:
Step 4. Continue making turns along the length of the post. Notice that the turns progress away from the end of the pole. You should make at least four turns, though more will be stronger and more secure:
Step 5. Pass the working under the original standing part:
Step 6. Now pass the working end under the post, outside of the rest of the knot:
Step 7. Bring the working end down over the top of the post, making a turn:
Step 8. Put the working end back under the standing part. Notice how this forms a ‘hole’ (it’s not a loop because of how it’s constructed) between the working part, the standing part and pole:
Step 9. Lay the working end over the top of the pole again, outside the turns:
Step 10. To finish the knot out the working end though the ‘hole’, following the standing part:
Step 11. Pull on the standing part to tighten the knot:
- The Rolling Hitch as mentioned above, is an older knot for similar purpose, but developed for materials which were much easier to grip, so is effectively obsolete now.
- The (‘Death’) Gripper Hitch is a similar slide and grip knot, though with two sets of coils going in opposite directions, and a built-in tuck to keep the end secure. It is quite difficult to learn, however, so is best used for very critical situations.
This is a very versatile and useful knot, especially if you are dealing with situations involving heavy loads and tension.
It will hold in almost any circumstances, though for applications of critical importance on slippery surfaces it may be better to at least know the ‘Death’ Gripper Hitch just in case.