Sequential Programming: Monkey Bridge

Troop 86 from Sumter, SC wanted to do a pioneering project and they selected the Double A-Frame Monkey Bridge. Great place to start, and a great way to illustrate sequential programming. What skills enter into the picture? A whole bunch! And with each step along the way, there’s an activity wherein each campcraft skill can be put into action, in a fun way, as reinforcement.

B.-P. wrote: “I am inclined to suggest to Scouters that in addition to the technical details of knotting, lashing, and anchorages, there is an educative value in Pioneering since it gives elementary training in stresses, mensuration, etc.” In addition to the “mensuration” skills that come into play when setting out the area for the bridge’s A-frames and anchors, a good deal of measuring takes place to assure the A-frames are as close to identical as possible, the pairs are joined together in similar fashion, an the spanner ropes are spread evenly. (Hand in hand with the building, Scouts do a lot of planning.)

 tape-measure-2  tape-measure-1

—> What is Sequential Programming?


Open-Ended Clove Hitch – How else would you want to secure the hand ropes to the A-frames? — How-to Video / Activity Video

Using Half Hitches to tie a Clove Hitch – A simple process always makes it easy to tie a clove hitch and finish many types of lashings. Several are used to attach the spanner ropes. — How-to Video / Activity Video —

Round Lashing – Three or four can be used to join together the bottoms of the A-frames on each side. Round lashings can also be used to attach a flag pole(s) to an A-frame(s). — How-to Video / Activity Video

Square Lashing – This project can use fourteen of them for both building the A-frames and then joining them together. — How-to Video / Activity Video

3-2-1 Anchor – The skill is to carefully drive in the stakes at the proper angle and applying the tourniquets to join the groupings. — Explanatory Video

Roundturn with Two Half Hitches – You can use this pioneering knot to attach the hand ropes to the anchors. — How-to Video / Activity Video —

Butterfly Knot and Rope Tackle – This configuration can be used to adjust the tension on the foot rope. — How-to Video 1, How-to Video 2 / Activity Video


Pioneering Program Curriculum VIII: Building a 3-2-1 Anchor

3-2-1 Anchor
3-2-1 Anchor

This is the eighth post in a series that will eventually comprise an activity-based, unit pioneering program curriculum.

VIII. For a wide range of pioneering structures, proper anchoring is crucial for both stability and safety. When nature doesn’t furnish natural anchors as in trees or boulders in just the right location, it becomes necessary to build your own. Of the two most prevalent approaches to building a very strong anchor, the 3-2-1 Anchor is the most simple. Also, depending on the amount of strain the lines must withstand, this form of anchoring can be constructed in a variety of configurations.

  • By following the proper procedure, Scouts will work together and demonstrate they can correctly build a 3-2-1 Anchor.


  • six pioneering stakes 30-inch x 2 to 2-1/2 inches
  • two wooden tent stakes
  • two 1/4-inch manila lashing ropes for the tourniquets (an 8 to 10-foot and a 12-1/2 to 15-foot will do)
  • 30 to 50-foot x 3/8-inch manila rope
  • one heavy wooden mallet


With the supervision of the instructor:

  1. Strong Anchor for Pioneering Projects
    Strong Anchor for Pioneering Projects

    Scouts take turns driving three pioneering stakes 18 inches into the ground in a row at a 20° angle using a large wooden mallet.

  2. Scouts take turns driving two pioneering stakes also 18 inches into the ground, at a 20° angle next to each other, spaced 2 feet away from the three-stake set.
  3. In the same way, Scouts take turns driving one more pioneering stake into the ground spaced a foot away from the two-stake set.
  4. As an attentive group, Scouts join the ends of the longer 1/4-inch manila rope with a sheet bend and form a double loop around the three-stake set and two-stake set. Using a tent stake, they twist the loop tight in a tourniquet. The loop is positioned at the top of the three-stake set to the bottom of the two-stake set. Once it is tight they push or tap the tent stake into the ground to keep it from unwinding.
  5. With the shorter 1/4-inch manila rope, Scouts repeat the tourniquet process between the two-stake set and the single stake.


  1. As an attentive group, Scouts tie a butterfly knot about 15 feet from one end of the 30 to 50-foot rope.
  2. Scouts pass the end of the rope that’s 15 feet away from the butterfly knot around the bottom of the three-stake set. (No rope grommet will be necessary for this activity.)
  3. Scouts proceed to form a rope tackle by passing the same end through the fixed loop of the butterfly knot.


  1. One Scout grabs a hold of the hauling end of the rope tackle, and two Scouts grab hold of the other end. On signal, to test the effectiveness of the rope tackle (and indeed the 3-2-1 Anchor!), a short tug of war ensues between the one Scout against the two Scouts.
  2. Scouts take turns at either end of the long rope.



Simple Rope Halyard

In the campsite it’s easy to fly the colors by simply tying them directly to the top of the simple flagpole with a couple of short cords. But, on a taller pole that’s going to stay standing, and when you want to raise and lower the flag(s), of course you need a halyard. Here’s one ultra simple recipe that will work with ease and that you can use with confidence:


  • A length of 1/4-inch nylon cord that is almost twice as long as the flagpole is high. If your flagpole will be thirty-two feet high, sixty feet of cord will work well.
  • 1/4-inch pulley
  • 2 small carabiners for each flag
When joining the ends of  smooth, slippery rope, the water knot won't fail.
When joining the ends of smooth, slippery rope, the Water Knot won’t fail.


• Fuse the ends of the nylon cord.

• String on the pulley and join the ends of the nylon cord with a water knot.

The Top of the Halyard
The Top of the Halyard

• With an indelible marking pen, mark the middle of the cord. This middle mark will be be just about at the top of the flag pole.

• Stretch out the cord and lay out the flag(s) the desired distance from the middle mark, and using small butterfly knots, tie a fixed loop at each grommet.

• Attach a carabiner to each loop.

Top of the Rope Halyard with the carabiners attached in position.
Top Section of the Rope Halyard with the Carabiners Attached to Match the Positions of the Grommets

When you’re ready to use the halyard, attach the pulley to the flagpole at the top with a prusik or a rolling hitch on a doubled rope. For shorter, lighter flagpoles, in lieu of a bully, the halyard can be reeved through a simple metal ring.

The MOST Simple Halyard

Rope Tackle for Pioneering Use

VIEW VIDEO: How to Tie a Rope Tackle

Using a Rope Tackle, two Scouts tighten a hand rope on their monkey bridge.
Using a Rope Tackle, two Scouts tighten a hand rope on their monkey bridge.
Click on the image for a larger view.
Click on the image for a larger view.

We apply a rope tackle, (also known as the Trucker’s Hitch, Lineman’s Hitch, Load Binder, and Harvester Hitch) where the guylines meet the anchors for pretty much all our pioneering projects. For safety reasons, Taut-Line Hitches should never be used in any pioneering work, because if the tension is eased the knot can slip. 

The rope tackle is one of the many skills learned for pioneering that can be used in a variety of situations for many years to come.

Securing a load of spars to a flatbed for transport.
Securing a load of spars to a flatbed for transport.

Frequently, we use a rope tackle when creating a ridge line between two trees for dining flies and tarps, and love using them whenever there’s an appropriate need to hold the strain on a line being tightened.

Simple Rope Tackle for a Low Stress Application using Braided Nylon Cord.
Simple Rope Tackle for a Low Stress Application using Braided Nylon Cord.

Author: Adolph Peschke

Start with a Butterfly Knot in the desired position along the standing part of the rope. When there is lots of line, make a bight in the running end and feed it through the fixed loop of the Butterfly Knot. To tighten the line, grab a hold of the bight and pull it towards the anchor. When the desired tension is put on the line, with one hand, keep the line taut, and holding the bight in the other hand, use the bight to form a half hitch around both tight lines. As the half hitch is secured, maintain the tension on the line by pinching the standing part, making sure it doesn’t slip. Still maintaining the tension on the tightened lines in the standing part, cinch the half hitch up close to the fixed loop of the Butterfly Knot. As an added measure, tie another half hitch around the tightened lines. All excess rope should be  coiled under the knots.
Rope Tackle for Pioneering Use

The following drawings and text have been extracted directly from the 1993 publication of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet written by Adolph Peschke:

When you want to lift or pull more than your own strength will permit, or when you want to make a heavy lifting job a little easier, the rope tackle is a device that can be used.

The idea behind a rope tackle is similar to that of a tackle using blocks and pulleys. In a rope tackle, one lead (end) of the rope has to be fixed. That is, it has to be anchored around a spar or tied through a ring or other piece of hardware that doesn’t move.

Loop knot.  Then a loop knot is tied along the standing part of the rope. The Butterfly Knot and the Bowline on a bight are suitable for making a loop knot because they can be tied in the standing part of the rope and they are both easy to tie and fairly easy to untie even after being put under a strain. If you have no other reason to become proficient in tying these two knots, the rope tackle should convince you.

Vertical display, as for lifting or pulling an object.
Vertical display, as for lifting or pulling an object.

Connect with the load. After you’ve tied the loop knot, it forms a fixed loop that acts as the wheel in a block. If you’re using the rope tackle to lift or pull an object, pass the running end through a ring or other hardware that’s attached to the object (load). The ring (or other hardware) is used so that the rope is free to slide as you pull on the hauling end of the rope as the tackle takes effect. If you want to use the rope tackle to tighten a line, pass the running end around a fixed object such as a spar, a stake, or a tree.

Finally, the running end of the rope is passed through the fixed loop in the loop knot. The running end becomes the hauling line which is pulled to make the tackle work.

Principles. The rope tackle works on the same principles as any other tackle using mechanical blocks or pulleys. The rigging method shown on the left develops twice the lifting or pulling power that’s applied to the hauling end. In other words, you can lift a fifty-pound weight using only twenty-five pounds of force on the hauling end.

To determine how much force is needed to lift a weight, the general rule is that you count the number of ropes passing through the ring where the object (load) is. In this case there are two ropes passing through the ring that’s attached to the load. Then divide the number into the weight being lifted. Let’s assume that the weight being lifted is fifty pounds. The answer is twenty-five pounds, which is the amount of pull required to lift the fifty pounds with the rope tackle.

When you take into consideration the friction of the ropes rubbing together, you will have to apply a bit more than the twenty-five pounds to make the lift. But even with the loss caused by friction, the rope tackle is quite effective.

Sometimes it is better to actually experience the effect of how the rope tackle works than it is to understand the technical explanation of the process. Setting up a rope tackle will convince you.

Tying off the Rope Tackle
Tying off the Rope Tackle & Maintaining the Tension on the Line

Tying off. When using a rope tackle, if you want to hold the position of a load being lifted or pulled, or if you want to hold the strain of a line being tightened, form a bight in the hauling end of the rope and tie it off with a tight Half Hitch below the fixed loop in the Butterfly Knot.

Types of rope. The type of rope you choose for a rope tackle should have a low stretch factor, such as pure manila rope. Ropes that stretch like polypropylene and nylon, even though they are strong, require that you pull the stretch out of the rope before your tackle takes effect.

Note: When in use, the rope tackle can put considerable strain on the fibers of the rope. Therefore, repeated use of the same section of the rope for this purpose should be avoided. The ropes used to make the tackle should be inspected for damaged fibers on a regular basis.

Uses of the rope tackle. The wide range of uses for a rope tackle by a number of different craftsmen speaks for its effectiveness. Each craft seems to use a slightly different knot or hitch to form the loop that makes a rope tackle. The Lorryman’s Hitch, the Lineman’s Hitch, the Stagehand’s Hitch, are all samples of different knots or hitches used to form the loop. The only difference between these hitches is that in some of them the type of knot used to make the loop is more easily untied than others after a hard pull. But they all do essentially the same thing. That is, they form a fixed loop for the rope to be used as a tackle.

The extent to which the rope tackle has been used by craftsmen and tradesmen in their daily work can be better understood from the following list of uses and by the various names by which it is called:

  • The Linesman’s Hitch is used to put strain on a line in the process of stringing electric or telephone lines. It was used as far back as the building of the telegraph lines that opened up the western states during the 1800s.
  • The Stagehand’s Hitch is used to adjust the height of the curtains on a theater stage.
  • The Wagoneer’s Hitch is an English reference to the hitch used to secure the load on a wagon or lorry.
  • The Load Binder is is what the farmer called the hitch he used to tie down a load of hay on his wagon.

Pulling a log. One of the uses of a rope tackle is to pull a heavy load such as a log. To do this, you need two ropes. Tie a short (6′ to 8′) length of rope to the end of the log with a Timber Hitch. Then tie a bowline at the other end of this rope.

Pulling a Log or Other Heavy Object
Pulling a Log or Other Heavy Object

To pull the log, tie a long line to a tree or other anchor point with a Roundturn with Two Half Hitches. Then tie a Butterfly Knot in the long line to form the loop for a rope tackle. Run the end of the long line through the Bowline and back through the fixed loop in the Butterfly Knot. Then pull on the end of the long line to pull the log.

Pioneering Uses

  • To adjust the strain on the guylines of a pioneering project or a flagpole (see figures 98 and 99)
  • To put the strain on a picket line used for tying up horses or canoes
  • To tie down and secure your equipment on a trailer or truck (see figure 100)
  • To hoist or lower equipment in rock climbing
  • To tie a line to air your sleeping bag or to make a clothesline for wet clothes
  • To tighten hold-down ropes on large tents and flies

Single Pull Rope Tackle Monkey Bridge Configuration

Uses for a Rope Tackle
Uses for a Rope Tackle

Favorite Pioneering Knots: Butterfly Knot

VIEW VIDEO: How to Tie a Butterfly Knot

Start with an overhand loop, then twist the rope to form a second overhand loop. Next drop the upper loop down in back. When the upper loop is dropped down, pull it under the two crossed standing parts of  the rope. Then pull it up through the top loops to complete the Butterfly Knot. To pull the knot tight, pull the upper part while holding the two standing parts of the rope at the bottom.
Great knot for tying a rope tackle!

The following text is by Adolph E. Peschke as presented in the 1998 printing of the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:

A butterfly knot is a fixed loop tied in the middle of a rope. There are a number of other knots that do the same thing, but the butterfly knot tends to work better because it doesn’t jam when strained and it’s easy to untie.

Since it’s tied in a symmetrical fashion, strain can be put on it from any direction. Even though this knot is usually tied in the middle of the rope, you can also tie it at the end of the line if you need a fixed loop that is easily untied.

The butterfly knot is a favored knot for mountain/rock climbers, used for hand or foot loops or used to hook their carabiners into. It has many uses in pioneering work.

Butterfly Knot Instruction at a Camporee
Butterfly Knot Instruction at a Camporee

Pioneering Uses

  • When using a rope to pull a heavy object (such as a log), tie a series of butterfly knots to form loops for each person’s hand or shoulder.
  • When climbing a rope, you can tie a series of butterfly knots to form loops for your hands and feet.
  • To provide a fixed loop to use with a toggle.
  • When making a rope tackle, the loop in the butterfly knot serves as the pulley. (See Rope Tackle.)
  • To tie up horses or anchor canoes on shore, tie a series of in a picket line for each horse or canoe.

The butterfly knot, also named the Alpine Butterfly and the Lineman’s Loop, has been referred to as the “Queen of Knots” by Pioneering legend, John Sweet.

Introduction to Pioneering

Link to: Older Pamphlet Info.The following text is by Adolph E. Peschke as presented in the 1998 printing of the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:

Pioneering is the knowledge and skill of using simple materials to build structures that are used in a wide range of Scouting activities. These skills are sometimes referred to as “backwoods engineering.”

Down through the ages, people have used ropes, spars, and simple hardware to build bridges, towers, and even their own shelters. In the early development of our country, pioneering methods were used in mining and transportation, to clear the wilderness, and to build roads and bridges. So it is understandable that the term “backwoods engineering” was applied.

The same skills can be used by Scouts to build pioneering projects ranging in complexity from a simple camp gadget to a signal tower.

Whatever the project, the same applied principles of physics, geometry, and math are used to build pioneering projects and structures. But, keep in mind that all the information (in this pamphlet*) is eventually used for a practical, hands-on application—that is, to build something.

Pioneering is a good foundation for many Scouting activities. You must learn, and then use, such disciplines as planning ahead and teamwork. You can also put to use the basic skills learned in rank advancement, such as knot tying.

But most of all, pioneering provides a practical way to experience the joy of accomplishment when you’ve built something that is needed for yourself or others; it can be something that makes living in camp easier and more comfortable. Pioneering can be both fun and challenging when you use your skill and knowledge to choose the right materials (ropes and spars) and build a usable structure.

The basics of pioneering, such as tying knots, making lashings, using rope tackle, constructing anchors, and basic rope knowledge can be done at home. The projects and structures (shown in this pamphlet**) can usually be constructed with materials available at summer camp or at council camping events.