|Munter hitch, Italian hitch
|Wears out the rope
The Münter hitch, also known as the Italian hitch, is a simple knot, commonly used by climbers and cavers as part of a life-lining or belay system. To climbers, this knot is also known as HMS, the abbreviation for the German term Halbmastwurfsicherung, meaning 'half hitch belay.' Therefore, carabiners used for this belaying technique are called HMS carabiners. The name 'Munter hitch' is due to a Swiss mountain guide, Werner Munter, who popularised its use in mountaineering.
The hitch is simply a set of wraps using a rope or cord around an object, generally a round object like a pipe, pole or more commonly, a carabiner. Its main use is as a friction device for controlling the rate of descent in belay systems.
How it works
The Münter hitch creates friction by having the rope rub on itself and on the object it has been wrapped around. One very useful aspect of the Münter is its reversibility; it can be pulled from either side of the rope and it still works just as effectively.
Setting up a belay system using the Munter hitch
A belay system incorporating the Munter Hitch is the same as any other belay system, which incorporates a belayer to tend the rope and an anchor, which secures the belay system and belayer to the deck.
The primary advantage of the Munter Hitch is twofold. It is the only belay system which provides acceptable resistance to arrest a fall when not in the break position, and requires no additional hardware other than a carabiner. However, it places more bends in a rope than other belay methods, and creates significantly more friction on the outer sheath. For these reasons, it is commonly only used as a backup or in emergency situations rather than a primary descending or belay mechanism.