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The story of the Monkey Fist knot

By this point many of you who were on board with our Indiegogo campaign before the start of the project have received the monkey fist choker/necklace in the mail. I always wonder what peoples first reaction to this oddball bit of jewelry is. I imagine everything from elation at the intricacy of the knot-craft to complete disgust at the fact that they backed this project and were basically mailed a bit of string in return. It is with these extremes of response in mind that I write this blog–to enrich and to explain the significance of my choice to make and give these as perks for project backers.

The monkey fist knot has its origins in the maritime world, where it was tied with a weight in the center to allow sailors on a boat to throw their rope to people at the dock with greater accuracy. In climbing, this knot is used primarily in eastern europe where some of my ancestors hail from, as a form of protection, in areas where metal cams and stoppers are not allowed! If you want to see more of this in action, I would HIGHLY recommend watching “The Sharp End” which shows the monkey fist used as climbing pro.

Basically, this knot gets wedged into fissures and cracks in the rock and used as an anchor. It takes a great deal of trust to use and confidence in your knot-craft. These are themes that I felt were very relevant, since the “Brotherhood of the rope” in climbing is a central idea in which your life and future are in the hands of your partners. Every time I tie into a rope, I place ultimate confidence in another person–I trust them to pay attention and to respond at need to my movements and then when we switch roles, I do the same for them. This is a very simple and often overlooked component of climbing because it happens in climbing teams as second nature. As I look more and more at the act of climbing I realize that this kind of practical trust exercise is a huge privilege and a serious expression of respect.

When we created LivingVertical and cooked up the idea for a 365 day climbing challenge, we were heading into the unknown, leading up a serious and dubious looking “climb”. There were no blueprints, no degrees and no google searches that could prepare us and reveal a safe passage by which to follow this improbable dream. But for the support from you, our partners in this venture, we might be staring up at this challenge still wondering if it “would go”. By supporting us and giving us the ability to make the first steps, you attached yourself to us, trusting our motivation and ability. Now we are making great progress and while there is reason to be encouraged, we know that there can be no celebration until the task we are engaged in is fully completed.

I have had the privilege of literally sharing a climbing rope with some of you and the rest of you, well, one day we will have to catch up with that experience! The brother/sisterhood of the rope is a very real concept to me and is one that extends well beyond the realm of technical climbing. These bits of string are a small token of the bond we share and the trust that has and is developing into something much bigger than string or money.

Having said that, I want to make sure it is known that each of these chokers took close to an hour to make–the diameter of the cordage and the fact that my sister-in-laws cats kept insisting on trying to play with the string may have factored into that. Point being, I made each one and I put my time and care into them because I wanted to be able to give something that was part of me in a way, just like you all did.

There are some of you who definitely contributed to project 365 during its early stages but did not do so via the Indiegogo platform–which is what we have been working off of. I would really appreciate it if you could send me an email to give me a nudge so I can make you one of these and get it out to you at some point. Same goes for anyone who contributed via Indiegogo and selected a Monkey Fist choker and didnt get one–please let me know and I will make sure you get one before all is said and done!

Lastly: To adjust, pull the knots APART to tighten, do not untie them!!!! It is a lot easier if you have someone else help you with this! (teamwork!)

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