As Seen In: USA Today, Discovery Channel, US News & World Report

One-Rope Bridge

The one-rope bridge is constructed using a static rope. The rope is anchored with an anchor knot on the far side of the obstacle and is tied off at the near end with a tightening system. A one-rope bridge may be built many ways, depending upon the tactical situation and area to be crossed (crossing a gorge above the tree line may require constructing artificial anchors). However, they all share common elements to safely construct and use the bridge: two suitable anchors; good loading and unloading platforms; a rope about 1-meter (waist) high for loading and unloading; a tightening system; and a rope tight enough for ease of crossing. Which side the tightening system is utilized, or whether an anchor knot or retrievable bowline is used, depends on the technique.

Site Selection

A suitable crossing site must have "bombproof" anchors on both the near side and far side. These anchors must be extremely strong due to the amount of tension that will be placed upon them. Natural anchors, such as large trees and solid rock formations, are always preferred. The site must also have suitable loading and off-loading platforms to facilitate safe personnel movement.

Installation Using Transport Tightening System

The transport tightening system provides a mechanical advantage without requiring additional equipment.

a. The rope must first be anchored on the far side of the obstacle. If crossing a stream, the swimmer must be belayed across. If crossing a ravine or gorge, crossing may involve rappelling and a roped climb. Once across, the swimmer/climber will temporarily anchor the installation rope.

b. One man on the near side ties a fixed-loop knot (for example, wireman's, figure-eight slip knot) approximately 3 feet from the near side anchor and places the carabiner into the loop of the knot. The opening gate must be up and away from the loop. If two carabiners are used, the gates will be opposing. At that time, soldiers route the remainder of the rope around the near side anchor point and hook the rope into the carabiner. This system is known as a transport-tightening system (Figure 7-10. The man on the far side pulls the knot out four to six feet from the near anchor.

c. Once the knot has been pulled out, the far side man anchors the rope using a tensionless anchor. The anchor should be waist high.

Figure 7-10. Transport tightening system.

Figure 7-10. Transport tightening system.

d. A three-man pull team on the near side pulls the slack out of the installation rope. The knot should be close enough to the near side anchor to allow personnel to easily load the installation.


No more than three personnel should be used to tighten the rope. Using more personnel can over-tighten the rope and bring the rope critically close to failure.

e. The rope the can be secured using one of three methods: transport knot (Figure 7-11), round turn around anchor and two half hitches on a bight (Figure 7-12), or a tensionless anchor knot (Figure 7-13).

Figure 7-11. Transport knot

Figure 7-11. Transport knot


Figure 7-12. Round turn around anchor and two half hitches on a bight.

Figure 7-12. Round turn around anchor and two half hitches on a bight.

Figure 7-13. Tensionless anchor knot.

Figure 7-13. Tensionless anchor knot.


During training, a second static rope may be installed under less tension and alongside the tight rope to increase safety. An individual would clip into both ropes when crossing, thus having a backup in case of failure of the tighter rope.

Installation Using Z-Pulley Tightening System

The Z-pulley tightening system (Figure 7-14) is another method for gaining a mechanical advantage.

a. The rope is brought across the obstacle the same way as discussed in paragraph 7-10.

b. Once across, the far side man anchors the rope.

c. One soldier ties a friction knot (autoblock, web wrap, Kleimheist) with a sling rope onto the bridging rope on the near side bank. Two steel carabiners are inserted with opposing gates into the friction knot.

d. The rope is routed around the near side anchor and through the carabiners, from inside to outside, and is run back to the near side anchor.

e. A second sling rope is tied to the bridge rope and then anchored to the near side anchor. This knot will be used as a progress capture device.

Figure 7-14. Z-pulley tightening system.

Figure 7-14. Z-pulley tightening system.

f. The three-man pull team on the near side then pulls on the rope, creating a pulley effect that tightens the system. As the rope is pulled tight, one man pushes the friction knot back toward the far side.

g. When the rope is tight, it is tied off with a tensionless anchor knot, transport knot, or round turn around anchor and two half hitches on a bight.


The rope bridge can be used to move personnel and equipment over obstacles. There are several methods of accomplishing this.

a. Method of Crossing. If dry crossing is impossible, soldiers will use the rope bridge as a hand line. Preferably, all soldiers will tie a safety line and attach it to the rope installation as they cross. If the soldier must cross with his rucksack, he may wear it over both shoulders, although the preferred method is to place another carabiner into the top of the rucksack frame, attach it to the bridge, and pull the rucksack across. Soldiers will always cross on the downstream side of the installation. If a dry crossing is possible soldiers will use one of three methods: commando crawl, monkey crawl, and Tyrolean traverse.

(1) Commando Crawl (Figure 7-15). The soldier lies on top of the rope with the upstream foot hooked on the rope and the knee bent close to the buttocks; the downstream leg hangs straight to maintain balance. He progresses by pulling with his hands and arms. To recover if he falls over, the soldier hooks one leg and the opposite arm over the rope, and then pushes down with the other hand to regain position.

Figure 7-15. Commando crawl.

Figure 7-15. Commando crawl.


Only one man at a time is allowed on the bridge while conducting a commando crawl.

(2) Monkey Crawl (Figure 7-16). The soldier hangs below the rope suspended by his hands with both heels crossed over the rope. He pulls with his hands and arms, and pushes with his feet to make progress.

Figure 7-16. Monkey crawl.

Figure 7-16. Monkey crawl.

(3) Rappel Seat Method (Figure 7-17). The soldier ties a rappel seat (or dons a seat harness) with the carabiner facing up and away from his body. He then faces the rope and clips into the rope bridge. He rotates under the rope and pulls with his hands and arms to make progress. The rappel seat method is the preferred method. If crossing with rucksacks, a carabiner is inserted into the frame and attached to the rope bridge. The soldier the places one or both legs through the shoulder carrying straps and pulls the rucksack across.

Figure 7-17. Rappel seat method.

Figure 7-17. Rappel seat method.

b. Rigging Special Equipment. Any special equipment, such as crew-served weapons, ammunition, or supplies, must be rigged for movement across the rope bridge. A unit SOP may dictate the rigging of these items, but many expedient methods exist. The rigging should use various items that would be readily available to a deployed unit. Some of these items include tubular nylon webbing, cordage (various sizes), and carabiners.

(1) Machine Guns. To rig machine guns, use a sling rope and tie a rerouted figure-eight around the spine of the front sight post. Then tie two evenly spaced fixed loops. Finally, anchor the sling rope to the buttstock of the machine gun. Additional tie downs may be necessary to prevent accidental disassembly of the weapon.

(2) ALICE Packs. ALICE packs can be joined together with a sling to facilitate moving more than one rucksack at one time.

Hauling Line

A hauling line may be used to move rucksacks or casualties across the rope bridge (Figure 7-18).

a. Construction. An additional rope is brought across the rope bridge and anchored to the far side. The other end is anchored on the near side. All the slack is pulled to the near side, and a figure-eight slip knot is tied at the loading platform. A carabiner is inserted into the loop and clipped onto the rope bridge.

Figure 7-18. Hauling line.

Figure 7-18. Hauling line.

b. Moving Rucksacks. Use carabiners to attach the rucksack frames to the rope bridge. Then clip the carabiner of the hauling line into the carabiner of the rucksack closest to the far side. Personnel on the far side pull the rucksacks across using the hauling line while personnel on the near side manages the slack at all times.

c. Moving Litters. The carabiner of the hauling line will remain on the rope bridge. On each side of this carabiner, using the hauling line tie a middle-of-the-rope clove hitch around both of the horizontal lift straps of the litter. Remove the slack between the carabiners. Then place the carabiners in each of the lift straps onto the rope bridge. The same technique used for the rucksacks is used to pull the litter across.


Once all except two troops have crossed the rope bridge, the bridge team commander (BTC) chooses either the wet or dry method to dismantle the rope bridge.

a. If the BTC chooses the dry method, he should have anchored his tightening system with the transport knot.

(1) The BTC back-stacks all of the slack coming out of the transport knot, then ties a fixed loop and places a carabiner into the fixed loop.

(2) The next to last man to cross attaches the carabiner to his rappel seat or harness, and then moves across the bridge using the Tyrolean traverse method.

(3) The BTC then removes all knots from the system. The far side remains anchored. The rope should now only pass around the near side anchor.

(4) A three-man pull team, assembled on the far side, takes the end brought across by the next to last man and pulls the rope tight again and holds it.

(5) The BTC then attaches himself to the rope bridge and moves across.

(6) Once across, the BTC breaks down the far side anchor, removes the knots, and then pulls the rope across.

b. If the BTC chooses a wet crossing, any method can be used to anchor the tightening system.

(1) All personnel cross except the BTC or the strongest swimmer.

(2) The BTC then removes all knots from the system.

(3) The BTC ties a fixed loop, inserts a carabiner, and attaches it to his rappel seat or harness. He then manages the rope as the slack is pulled to the far side.

(4) The BTC then moves across the obstacle while being belayed from the far side.

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