Cowstail Lengths


Well-known member
Unfortunately it isn't fit for purpose! & that is the way with modern social media, there is so much info out there that it's quicker to ask than trawl through...

I also think this is one of those topics that's always worth discussing afresh - not least as new cavers/readers may be on here, and who hadn't really thought about the topic at all, other than that they 'needed some cowstails' to go caving. And shared experiences of the reality of a fall (accidental or deliberate!) can be helpful too, not least as men and women have different physical profiles, and have different (and very important) body parts, both inside and out, that need protection from shock-loading. I've seen many cavers avoiding free-hanging from their cowstails at a rebelay, almost as though they didn't trust them. There's not much else to trust at that point, especially if you're at the midway rebelay in Titan (the scene of many freakouts), or similar. This does then bring in the serious issue of footloop length and techniques for de-weighting a loaded cowstail, especially at single-anchor rebelays.

We had a temporary traverse in the Longcliffe shaft that went around one of the walls halfway up, and one section had to be rigged as a fairly tight and steep diagonal section about a metre across and down which would have been a real pain rigged as a rebelay with a loop due to a prominent bulge, and thus it was too tight to rig a descender on. It had to be passed just using cowstails, chest-jammer and footloop, and moving them about a lot to get past the anchors. That really foxed a few people the first time of trying, but everyone eventually got the hang of it in both directions, and it was an 'enjoyable problem' after that. It's all good stuff.


Active member
Re- adding extra loops ot your barrel knot.

Don't. I have done so in the past and the friction is then so high that they don't contract around the krab properly and don't grip it, so that krab rotates o the knot on the gate etc. (and it's annoying). It may be safer on the very rare occasions that you fall on it, but it's more dangerous and less convenient for the other 99.99% of the time. I've tried adding a stopper knot to use up the excess while I'm adjusting lengths but that usually jusy works itself undone as you wriggle through the non-rope sections.

Lengths - I have a long long (I'm tall with long arms) I'm not worried about reaching the krab if I fall onto it because you can always prussik back up something (including the CT itself) for a step if needed. I htne use a 3 tail system with a very short for comfort and medium for rebelays etc.


Well-known member
I've had the extra loop on the barrel knots for months now and the crabs are held tight. Maybe it depends on the particular rope used.

David Rose

Active member
One solution for traverse lines if you like a short short tail for rebelays is to clip an extra snaplink krab to the end of your footloop safety cord. You can also use this to clip the footloop to the side of your harness when you're caving off ropes.