When Would I Use a Tag Line?

Kitty Calhoun, Chicks Climbing and Skiing Dec 15th 2017
  • Gibbs Knot
  • Kitty Calhoun

Also called “pull cords” or “rap lines”, Tag Lines are small and lightweight- most often used for doubling with a single rope to make long, full-length rappels. Proper Tag Line setup can be immensely helpful to technical climbers but should only be attempted by climbers with the proper training and safety knowledge. We recommend practicing with a guide before going out and using one.

Kitty Calhoun, co-owner and guide for Chicks Climbing and Skiing gives a few scenarios for when you might want to use a tag line:


When you are leading a long pitch and might want to haul up extra gear mid-pitch. In this case, you can just tie a Figure 8 on a bight to the top end of the tag line and clip it to the haul loop on the back of your harness.


When you are rappelling and you need two ropes to get down. In this case, you may want to use a Gibbs knot (Flat Overhand with extra pass though). This low profile knot will flip over to its flat side when pulled over an edge. The extra wrap on the Flat Overhand makes it stronger.

NOTE: It is advisable to thread the larger diameter rope through the chains because the thinner haul line will stretch more. If the larger diameter rope is threaded, the knot will likely butt up against the chains. Some people rappel on both ropes and some rappel on just the larger diameter rope. If you only rappel on the large diameter rope with the knot jammed in the chains, close this loop by attaching a carabiner on a bight on the haul rope clipping it into the climbing rope below the chains.
Gibbs Knot Larger in Diameter
  • Gibbs Knot with Larger diameter through the chains.
  • Kitty Calhoun


When you have a sling-shot top-rope set up and your route is longer than half a rope length, you can extend the climbing rope with a tag line. In this case, you can also use a Gibbs knot.



NOTE: Wear belay gloves when lowering on a small diameter rope!

Again, these are advanced techniques and if in doubt, seek qualified instruction

Chicks Climbing and Skiing is dedicated to educating and empowering women through mountain sports, developing community, and fostering environmental stewardship. Their all-women’s ice climbing programs were the first in the country and they’ve now expanded to offering rock, alpine and skiing events. Sterling Rope is their Official Rope Sponsor. To learn more about Chicks, visit their website.