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Snowy Mountains




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In the heart of the snow country, here it is not uncommon to have 10 feet of snow on the ground. The checkpoint is at Winter Lake Lodge. From Finger Lake, the mushers begin the long climb to Rainy Pass.

Lots of humans fly out to Finger Lake to watch the race. Kirsten and Karl Dixon who run Winter Lake Lodge provide hospitality for Iditarod spectators. Wait, I don’t get this! How can Winter Lake Lodge be on Finger Lake? The real name of the lake is Winter Lake but the lake is shaped like a two-mile long finger so many old timers and for Iditarod, the checkpoint is known as Finger Lake.

Winter Lake Lodge is a luxury summer lodge. Folks go there for wellness, cooking classes, hiking, fishing, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking and dog mushing. There are lots of birds, flowers and berries that are rare to other places. Action picks up at Finger Lake/Winter Lake Lodge early on the second day of the race and because it’s early in the race, the action is intense. Teams arrive in a steady stream, one right after the other. Most teams stay and rest during the “heat of the day.” Mushers have to carry enough food with them from Skwentna to feed their dogs at Finger Lake, as there are no musher bags flown out to Finger Lake. Dogs are very happy to eat a tasty meal and then snooze while the temperature tops out in the early afternoon.

Population = 2 (Kirsten and Karl Dixon)

Finger Lake serves as the Cyber Sled Race Survive the Cold checkpoint: Pioneer Point. Below you will find all content for Pioneering Merit Badge and other activities related to knot tying. 

The content below is for participants of all ages, unless otherwise noted. Utilize your connected worksheets and tracking tools to find the specific information for your rank. 


Scouting’s founders believed that pioneering was an important way for Scouts to gain confidence in their abilities and to be prepared to make the most of outdoor experiences.

Pioneering—the knowledge of ropes, knots, and splices along with the ability to build rustic structures by lashing together poles and spars—is among the oldest and most honored of Scouting’s skills. Practicing rope use and completing projects with lashings also allow Scouts to connect with past generations, ancestors who used many of these skills as they sailed the open seas and lived in America’s forests and prairies.


Knots, splices, and lashings are formed today the same ways they have been done for a long time. Whether built as models or full-sized structures in the field, the pioneering projects you complete will look very much as they would have at any time in Scouting’s history. Of course, there are a few differences. One important change in pioneering is Scouting’s deep commitment to the principles of Leave No Trace. Where pioneering projects are built can be every bit as important today as how they are built. Protecting the environment, using appropriate materials, and removing all evidence of your activities after an event lie at the heart of responsible Scouting—and pioneering—in the 21st century.

Scouts follow the principles of Leave No Trace wherever they participate in outdoor activities—including pioneering. Planning and preparing will help ensure that you have chosen the right place for your activities and that the materials you use come from environment-friendly sources.

  • Select durable surfaces for building pioneering projects to minimize the trampling of vegetation, and arrange for access to toilet facilities.

  • Follow all Leave No Trace principles to be certain you are also respecting wildlife that make their homes in your pioneering project area.

  • Be considerate of visitors who happen upon pioneering projects. Politely share information about what you are doing and about Scouting. Also give guidance that will help ensure their safety, perhaps by escorting them around a project in progress or by showing them where to stand while they watch.

  • Minimize campfire impact by using a camp stove when a pioneering event includes cooking a meal. Where campfires are allowed, manage yours in a way that lets you remove all evidence it was ever there.

  • Leave what you find, and leave the area in the same condition you found it. Dismantle structures when you are done with them, and store all building materials.

  • Dispose properly of waste, and clean up all bits of rope and other building materials at the end of a pioneering event.


With its rich history and dynamic projects, pioneering pulls together the best features of Scouting. As you plan and build your pioneering project, make it a fun, safe, and positive adventure.



Building a scale model of a pioneering project involves few risks. However, constructing full-sized towers and bridges requires a keen eye toward safety. Manage risk during pioneering projects by being alert to your surroundings and by taking action whenever you notice a potential hazard. Doing so will help prevent accidents, avert emergencies, and ensure a fun, safe time.



Follow these guidelines whenever building and using pioneering structures.

  • Dress for the weather. When necessary, wear gloves to protect your hands.

  • Use ropes and materials that are in good condition and appropriate for the project.

  • Coil and store ropes when they are not in use.

  • Avoid wrapping a rope around your arm or waist when dragging or lifting a load.

  • Do pioneering work only when it is nice outside, never during rainy weather or in wet conditions that can make ropes and spars slippery.

  • Practice good body mechanics when lifting and hauling. Lift no more weight than you can handle safely.

  • Use flagging tape to mark anchor lines, ropes stretched between trees, hanging loops of rope, and cords or ropes that could trip or entangle someone.

  • Stand clear of any weight suspended by a rope. 

  • Stay off to the side of a rope that is tensioned (under strain from a load). A tensioned rope may snap back if it breaks, a knot comes loose, or an anchor gives way


Pioneering calls for knowledge of first aid. Make it a point to know how to respond in an emergency. Being prepared helps ensure that you and your pioneering friends will have glitch-free fun.


Learn about first aid at Ruby - Survival Shack

Rope burns, or friction burns, can happen when a rope slides too quickly through your hands or when any part of the body encounters a fast-moving rope. A rope burn leaves skin raw, red, and sometimes blistered. The best protection against rope burns on the hands is, of course, to wear protective gloves. If a burn does occur, clean the area with mild soap and water to help prevent infection.


Rope is among our oldest tools. Ancient peoples made useful lines by twisting or braiding roots, reeds, plant fibers, or strips of leather and used them to haul loads and harness animals. With rope, they could lash together tools, fishing nets, and shelters. Rope is still important for work and for play. Without it, pioneering projects would be impossible. When choosing a rope for a pioneering task, consider how strong it is, how much it stretches, how easily it handles, and how well it resists mildew, rot, and exposure to sunlight. You will also want to note whether it is made of natural fibers or of synthetics.



Rope makers have settled on a handful of plants as the best producers of natural fibers for

manufacturing ropes. Each has its advantages. The fibers most often used are manila, sisal,

cotton, and coir.

Manila. Manila rope is made of fibers harvested from the leaf stems of the abaca plant

(Musa textilis), a native of the Philippines. It takes its name from the city of Manila, the

Philippine capital. Fibers can grow 10 feet long, making them ideal for constructing rope.

Manila rope is easy to handle and, when new, has a smooth, silky feel. It is strong, does not

stretch much, and is fairly resistant to the damaging effects of sunlight. For tying knots and

making splices and lashings, quarter-inch manila rope is a good choice.


Sisal. Sisal fiber comes from a plant in the cactus family, Agave sisalana, found in arid

regions of East Africa, Central America, and Mexico. (The name sisal comes from a small

town in the fiber-growing region of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.) Because the fibers are

shorter than those of manila rope, sisal rope has only about two-thirds the strength of

manila. Sisal fibers also have a tendency to splinter. This rope is not as flexible as manila

and so is not as practical for lashings and for practicing knots. If knots in sisal rope become

wet, kinks may remain in the rope after the knots are untied.


Cotton. The same cotton plant fibers used to make clothing can also be twisted or braided

to form rope. Cotton rope is not very strong, but it is soft and easy to handle. It is ideal for

clotheslines, tying up packages, and other uses that don’t require it to bear much weight. Cotton rope is not useful for pioneering structures.


Coir. Originating in the islands of the Pacific, coir rope is made of fibers taken from coconut husks. It is a coarse rope, light in weight, that will float and is not harmed by salt water. The chief disadvantage of coir rope—and it is a big one—is that its very short fibers make it the weakest of major natural-fiber ropes. It is not recommended for use in pioneering projects, especially those that will bear weight.

Type of ropes.jpg

Just as in prehistoric days, natural-fiber rope is still produced from plants. Fibers

taken from stalks or leaves are twisted together to form thin yarn. Lengths of yarn

are then twisted together in the opposite direction to form a thicker strand.

Next, groupings of strands are twisted together, again in the original

direction, to make a small rope. Finally, three of these small ropes are

twisted together the opposite way to form the finished rope. The lay of the

rope—the shape that results from alternating the directions for twisting the

yarn, strands, and small ropes—allows a rope to hold its shape and resist

unraveling. To better understand the anatomy of a rope, take apart a short

piece of three-strand natural-fiber rope. As you unravel the rope, notice how the

smaller ropes, the strands, and the yarn have been twisted. Finally, unravel a single bit

of yarn and you will find plant fibers—the raw material from which natural-fiber ropes are made.

Binder twine is made from loosely twisted fibers of sisal or jute that have been treated with chemicals during the manufacturing process. Its principal use is for tying bales of hay as they are formed in the field by baling machines. The single-strand construction of binder twine gives it none of the strength that comes from twisting strands together to form the lay of a rope. Binder twine has a breaking strength of only a hundred pounds or less. It should never be used for pioneering projects except when lashing together camp gadgets that will bear little weight (such as a stand for a washbasin), and for making rope.



Synthetic rope is manufactured by twisting or braiding together

fibers made from synthetic (mainly petroleum-based) materials,

giving a variety of rope types that can be produced in almost any

color and matched to many uses. Some synthetic ropes can be

more vulnerable to sunlight than natural-fiber ropes. However,

they generally resist rot and mildew better than natural-fiber ropes

and, in many cases, are stronger.


Polyester. Polyester rope usually is found in braided, rather than twisted, form. This strong, durable rope handles well and doesn’t stretch much. It is less affected by sunlight than most other synthetic fibers. Polyester rope is excellent for practicing knot tying and for use in pioneering work.


Nylon. Modern nylon rope is more than twice as strong as manila rope of the same diameter. It is available in braided form and twisted strands. Nylon rope has more stretch than other synthetic or natural-fiber ropes, but it recovers its original shape after tension from a load has been released. Nylon rope a quarter-inch in diameter works well for practicing knot tying and making lashings.

Parachute cord. A core of nylon strands covered with a braided nylon sheath, this cord takes its name from the role it plays with parachute rigging. It has a thousand uses around camp, from tent guylines to tying gear onto packs to hoisting food bags into trees as bear hangs. However, for pioneering projects, parachute cord can be used only for small projects (camp table, rack for drying clothes). The relatively low breaking strength of parachute cord (generally 200 to 500 pounds) means it should never be used for full-sized towers, bridges, or other weight-bearing pioneering projects.


Polypropylene. Polypropylene rope will float, making it a good rope for waterfront activities and in wet conditions. Polypropylene rope handles well, but its slippery finish makes it unreliable for holding knots or forming secure lashings, especially when the rope is new. While polypropylene has about twice the strength of manila rope of equal diameter, it also stretches more. This rope can be used in pioneering projects as a line for pulling towers into position, as guy ropes anchoring structures in place, and as hand lines for monkey bridges. Its strength makes it suitable for anchoring systems and for any uses involving heavy strain. Its slippery surface reduces the friction of rope tackle systems.


Polyethylene. Polyethylene is an inexpensive braided rope. Knots and lashings will

leave kinks in polyethylene rope that has been under tension, which makes it

unsuitable for most pioneering projects. Polyethylene (also known as Dacron®) does

float, giving it limited use at waterfronts, for example as towropes for water-skiers.


Kernmantle. Today, the only rope approved for BSA climbing and rappelling activities is nylon kernmantle rope. This strong rope has a core of parallel or braided nylon strands (the kern) surrounded by a woven nylon sheath (the mantle).


Did you know?

Rope used for climbing and rappelling at Scout camp — must never be used for pioneering projects.


New rope will have breaking strength and safe working load information printed on its packaging or included with the rope as a tag or pamphlet. The breaking strength of a rope indicates how many pounds of strain it will take before failing. The working load strength of a rope, usually less than 20 percent of its breaking strength, indicates the load the manufacturer recommends should not be exceeded. A typical comparison of safe working loads and breaking strengths for new ropes of various kinds— in this case, ropes of 3⁄8-inch diameter—looks like this. *For exact load limits of a particular rope, see the manufacturer’s information printed on spools or packages of new rope.



Inspect the full length of a rope before and after a pioneering event to ensure there are no cuts or abrasions. Any rope that has cuts, abrasions, or more than a few broken fibers might need to be retired. The same is true if rope fibers have lost their luster and appear dry and brittle. Feel for lumps in braided rope and look for internal fiber puffing through the weave of the braid. A section of line that seems thinner than the rest of the rope can be another sign of a weak spot. Twist open the lay of a natural-fiber rope in several places and inspect the interior fibers. Light-colored fibers suggest the rope probably is in good shape. A rope with a dark or spotted interior, or that smells bad, might not be safe to use. Prolong a rope’s useful life by taking care of it. The following guidelines will help you prevent rope from being damaged:

  • Always step over a rope, never on it. Avoid dragging it along the ground where grit might get into the fibers.

  • Protect rope from abrasion by using layers of canvas or tarp to shield it from sharp edges such as a cliff.

  • Protect rope from heat, chemicals, petroleum products, and prolonged exposure to sunlight.

  • Keep a rope under tension only as long as is necessary.

  • Allow wet rope to air-dry completely before putting it into storage.



Rope must be dry before it is stored. Damp or wet rope may develop mildew and rot. If a rope has become muddy and wet, rinse it off with a hose. Loosely coil the rope, hang it outdoors, and allow it to dry completely. Hasten drying by leaving space between the coils.


Store rope the right way and it will be ready the next time you need it. Start by making sure the rope is clean and dry. Coil and hang pieces of cord and short lengths of rope on pegs, or stow them in clean cloth bags. For long ropes or ropes of large diameter, either coil the rope and hang the coil on a smooth round peg in a gear room, or loosely stuff the rope into a clean canvas duffle bag.











Coiling a Rope for Storage or Throwing

Ropes can be coiled for storage or in preparation for throwing one end across a stream or over a tree branch. Begin every coil by removing any knots and hardware from the rope.

  • Coiling a thick rope for storage. Starting about 10 feet in from one end, drape lengths of the rope over the back of your neck so the loops hang down below your waist. When you are about 10 feet from the other end, remove the loops from your neck, grasp the two ends of the rope, and wrap them several times around the coil. Thread a bend of the remaining rope lengths through the coil, then pass the ends through the bend and pull it snug.

  • Coiling a thin rope or a cord for storage. Lengths of cord and ropes of small diameter can be coiled by laying loops of equal size in one hand. When only a few feet of rope or cord are left, use your other hand to wrap the remainder around the coil four or five times. Finish by passing a bend of the cord or rope through the coil, then run the end of the line through the bend and pull the end to snug the bend against the coil.

  • Coiling a rope for throwing. Tossing a rope over a tree limb or throwing a line across a creek is a challenging and fun skill. It can be important for setting up a bear hang to protect food in camp, for beginning a monkey bridge, for rigging a guyline on a signal tower, and for many other uses. Secure one end of the rope so it doesn’t take off when you throw the coil. Have a partner hang onto it, or tie it around a tree. If the end of the rope is weighted, neatly coil the rope in your non-throwing hand. Place the coils next to one another so that when the rope is thrown, the coils run out smoothly without tangling. Throw the weighted sock or stuff sack either underhanded or overhanded toward the target. If there is no weight on the rope, coil it neatly and hold it in your throwing hand. Swing the coil in an underhand motion, releasing all the rope at once and allowing it to uncoil as it moves toward the target. Throwing a parachute cord or a rope with a diameter less than a quarter-inch might require adding a weight to one end. A sock or small stuff sack filled with sand works well. Attach it to the line with a clove hitch.



Most knots used today have been around for centuries. They have endured because the way they’re formed—their architecture—has proven to be ideal for certain uses. Knots and Rope Strength Tying knots in a rope causes bends and loops that place uneven strain on the fibers. That can reduce the strength of the rope and decrease its breaking strength. Also, the effects that knots and splices have on a rope vary according to the condition of the rope and the nature of the knot or splice. For instance, knots such as the square knot that create tight bends weaken a rope more than knots with wide bends such as the timber hitch and bowline.


This list shows the approximate percentage of strength left in a rope tied or spliced in a certain way.



A little terminology can help you learn how to tie knots and understand their advantages.​


  • running end. The end of the rope that is used to tie a knot. This end is also called the working end.

  • standing part. All of a rope that is not the running end.

  • overhand loop. Formed when a loop is made so that the running end of the rope is on top of the standing part. underhand loop. Formed when the running end of the rope is placed under the standing part of the rope.

  • bight. Formed by doubling back a length of the rope against itself to form a U. The running end of the rope does not cross the standing part. (If that happens, the shape it forms is a loop, not a bight.)

  • turn. To take a turn, wrap the rope once around a spar or a stake. The friction created by the turn can help you control a line that has tension on it, especially if you are letting out line or taking it in.

  • roundturn. Make a roundturn by wrapping the rope once around a spar or stake and then halfway around again so that the running end of the rope is going back toward the standing part. A roundturn creates additional friction for controlling a line under strain.

  • hitch. A knot that secures a rope to a spar or other stationary object.

  • dress a knot. To adjust a new knot so that everything is in its place. Dressing a knot ensures that the knot will perform as expected.


The knots listed here are important basic knots for use in pioneering and other Scouting activities. These are the knots important to rank advancement. A Scout earning the Pioneering merit badge should be able to tie each of these knots quickly and well.


The square knot is used to tie together the ends of two lines of the same diameter. It is not a reliable knot when used with larger ropes, but is ideal when tying a package with cord or for finishing some lashings and whippings.


The bowline makes a fixed loop that will not slip. It is easy to untie.


The clove hitch can be tied with the end of the rope or tied along the standing part of the rope and slipped over a spar. It is used to start several lashings.


The sheet bend is used for tying the ends of different-sized ropes together. The bend of the sheet bend is formed in the larger of the two ropes.


The timber hitch is used for dragging a log and for starting a diagonal lashing. As tension is put on the rope, the timber hitch gets tighter but is always easy to untie.

Below in the Connected Activities you will have a chance to practice these knots!



For pioneering projects, you will need to add these additional knots to your repertoire. They are useful in many pioneering projects. It is a good idea to become familiar with each of them. Knowing these knots will enhance your skill, increase your knowledge, and provide plenty of enjoyment and satisfaction.


Roundturn With Two Half Hitches. Use the roundturn with two half hitches to secure the ends of foot ropes and hand ropes for a monkey bridge, and to tie off guylines. If desired, you can secure the running ends with safety knots. This knot is especially useful because it is secure and is easy to tie and untie when adjustments are needed. To make a roundturn, take t