Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Halyard Tie

By Pat Nichols

Photos by Scott Meyer

TL 10, Boston Fire Department

You’ve got the ladder raised and in position; but you need to tie the halyard off to secure it from sliding when you are either climbing or descending.  Many Firefighters would simply wrap the halyard around two or three rungs, and finish it with a half-hitch.  That’s fine until you need to reposition the ladder at a different level.  Even worse, you’ve been working in the rain and/or snow; and you now attempt to reposition the ladder, and extend it to a new position in an attempt to rescue a firefighter who has become trapped, or a civilian who has now appeared at a floor above the ladder. Do you reposition the ladder, or get another from an aerial apparatus parked some distance away?

A simple solution is to reposition the original ladder by tying the halyard in a fashion which allows you to manipulate the knot in any condition; Safely and quickly extending and repositioning the ladder to affect a successful rescue.

Photo 1

Once the ladder has been extended- is in position and the climbing angle checked-you may now tie the halyard. The butt-person will be the person between the ladder and the building, as the climbing angle gets its final check. The butt person takes a bite of halyard, and puts it between two rungs at eye level (see photo 1).

Photo 2

With the halyard brought through the rung and tightened-up-you will take the halyard that is now in front of you by taking your hand ‘palm-down’- and crossing the halyard (2 over 1 [see photo 2]) you can now take that same bite of line-and go over the rung again-creating a half hitch that you can wretch-down to tighten-up (see photos 3 and 4).

Photo 3

Photo 4

If there is excessive halyard, double the halyard up when you bring it through to create the half-hitch. To untie, all that is needed is a pull, and the halyard is free (photo 5).

Photo 5

With practice, this will speed up securing the ladder halyard, both tying it and untying when speed is needed.

There are a number of techniques to tie off the halyard-this one, with practice-either rain or shine-snow or sleet-ties, and more importantly unties with ease, without sacrificing safety.


  1. Excellent halyard tie. I've seen this knot used several times on ground ladders. It ties and unties easily, even with gloves on.

  2. Hey Capt this is sweet...Is there any chance that we could get a quick video on it?

  3. This does indeed look pretty awesome! I've never seen it or heard of it before and i too would really love a video showing it step by step! Great post!

  4. We eliminated this step by getting a longer halyard and tying it to the fly section so the halyard will run around the bottom rung of the base when raised. Every second counts when its your life needs to be saved!