Disclaimer: I’d like to make sure it’s understood that these are in no way to be taken as qualified instruction. I suppose that technically I should classify these as ‘reminders’, but it is possible to learn from them… Just make sure you check with someone that actually knows what they’re doing before you try and do them halfway up a cliff.
Extra disclaimer: The bowline is a potentially dangerous knot; if tied incorrectly, it will not work at all. The reason we teach the figure of 8 for tying in is that it’s absolutely bombproof. Even if you get it slightly wrong, it’ll almost certainly still function. If you ever use this knot, be sure you’ve tied it right before you commit to it.
The primary advantage of the bowline is that it is non-jamming: when loaded, it locks, but then doesn’t tighten in on itself (like the figure of 8), making it easier to undo afterwards. The bowline is sometimes used for tying in, though that is much less common nowadays, and there’s better alternatives anyway. It’s also great for abseiling off huge boulders; the live end comes out of the knot in the right direction (unlike some other knots when used in the same way), and the non-jamming aspect is great for getting your rope back easily after 100m climbing back up Fairhead. The bowline if very familiar to sailors, due to it’s speed of tying, high strength and non-jamming.
Start by taking the end of your rope.
Pass it through/around whatever, and make a loop ‘in front’ of the main line. Pass the tail up through the bottom the loop and out the top.
Pass the tail ‘behind’ the main line.
Pass the tail back down through the loop.
Pull the knot tight, and you’re done. Note that the tail should lie on the ‘inside’ of the knot (if it’s on the outside, it’s a left-handed, or cowboy bowline, that has slightly different properties.
If you were to tie in with this (or for good practice on anchors, etc.) put a stopper knot just below the knot, on the ‘rope loop’.
Alternative ‘fast’ method:
Start by passing the tail through/around whatever.
Make a loop ‘in front’ of the main line, and then pass a bight of the main line down down through the loop.
Pass the tail down through the bight.
Now, pinch the tail and corresponding side of the rope loop, and pull the main line up, away from the pinched ropes.
Done. This method takes a bit of practice, and feels pretty unintuitive the first few times. it is slightly quicker, though.