Everything You Need To Know About Climbing Rope

Are you looking for an exciting sport to add to your exercise routine? Maybe you want to enjoy the outdoors more for your new healthy lifestyle? If your answer is yes, it is time to try rock climbing. Well, this is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of outdoor fun, but this sport offers myriad health benefits that you can ignore. 

Rock climbing blends outdoor fun with health benefits to make it one of the most versatile exercise routines. If you want to get the best out of this sport, you must have the right gear from climbing harnesses, climbing helmets to the most crucial one, the climbing rope. 

This is the basic climbing tool, and if you want to leverage the multiple benefits of rock climbing, you have to learn everything you can about the climbing rope. It is the rope that keeps you safe and allows you to go further in this sport, and as such, you have to take time to understand it as best as you can. 

It is vital to trust your climbing gear when dangling 50 feet off the ground, and the most important of these is your climbing rope. This guide takes you on a journey of discovery to help you understand the benefits of rock climbing, intricacies of climbing ropes, types of ropes, how to buy the best product, and so much more. 

Is Rock Climbing Good Workout? 

But first things first, why should you take up rock climbing? To most people, this is a risky sport only allowed for highly trained athletes. However, many people have started taking up the sport in a bid to live healthily. 

Of course, you don’t have to start with the extreme climbs you see on TV as these take years of training. Most regions with the right geographical outlay invest heavily in sports tourism to attract rock climbers. 

From ice climbing, traditional climbing, indoor wall climbing, sport climbing to solo climbs, there are many variations of this sport that you can adopt. 

You can now enjoy the following health benefits by taking this sport:

  • Total body workout: This activity incorporates the use of all body muscles, giving you a complete body workout. From your trapezius muscles, biceps, quadriceps, latissimus dorsi, abdominals, obliques, deltoids, calves to the fingers, every part of your body gets a workout. 
  •  Cardiovascular workout: Rock climbing increases your body’s heart rate and boasts calories burned equal to running 8 to 11 miles. 
  • Mental health benefits/wellness: This sport demands keen mental skills such as problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, and judgment. It is an excellent activity for building confidence and self-esteem, overcoming fears, reducing stress by boosting mood, among other benefits.
  • Increasing flexibility: You can improve your range of motion through these exercises. It demands flexibility and adaptability as you reach, climb, and leap. You develop a supple body with higher energy levels. 
  • Sightseeing and exercising: When going up those sheer rock faces, you’ll also enjoy awe-inspiring sights. There’s a euphoric feeling that comes with being on top of the world, and it helps clear your mind.

Basics of a Climbing Rope 

A climbing rope, together with carabiners, harness, and shoes, are essential items for a safe and successful climb. If you are about to take up this sport, it is important to learn the basics of these critical components of gear. 

Below are some key aspects of the rope systems you should understand:

Climbing Rope Materials 

Nylon is the most common material used for the manufacture of high-quality strong light weight ropes. Individual nylon strands from the core, and by twisting them together, a yarn is formed. Using nylon at the core boosts a rope’s abrasion resistance compared to materials such as Polypropylene. 

Manila rope is also popular for climbing. However, together with Polypropylene, these materials are susceptible to UV damage. Nylon ropes, on the other hand, are UV-resistant and have a sheath of individual nylon threads that wraps the core. The threads are braided around the core to form a sturdy protective cover.

Static Ropes

This is a type of single rope designed to have no stretch when placed under a load. This type of rope won’t stretch to absorb a fall, which can result in serious injury. A static rope has minimum stretch making it ideal for multi-pitch climbing. It is perfect for hauling up stuff and abseiling. These ropes come handy in rappelling, rescuing, caving, hanging, and hauling. 

Dynamic Ropes 

Unlike static ropes, dynamic ropes are designed to stretch under the pressure of loading. Stretching reduces the chances of the rope failing during your climb and prevents injury in case of a fall. In case of an accident during a climb, a dynamic rope reduces the impact and possibilities for injuries. It is thus an ideal choice for mountaineering, rock climbing, and ice climbing. 

The best example of dynamic ropes is the Kernmantle rope, which also ranks as the safest for all climbing disciplines. Kernmantle rope features a strong core sheathed in woven material on the outside for protection. 

The kern/interior, which contains fibers, provides the much-needed strength, flexibility, and durability for climbers. This revolutionary design reduces pressure in case of a free fall and also protects your rope against damage. These ropes served in nautical applications but have now emerged as the ultimate rock climbing ropes. 

Some of the dynamic rope types include:

Single Ropes

These are the most popular with rock climbers and are ideal for beginners. It is intended for use by itself and has a number 1 marked on one of its ends. It is the standard for both indoor and outdoor activities and works best for trad climbing, sport climbing, big-wall climbing, and top-roping. 

These ropes are easy to handle as less rope means fewer mixups. They come in different diameters and lengths to suit different disciplines in this sport. 

Half Ropes 

These are popular for mountaineering, ice climbing and traditional climbing on wandering multi-pitch rock routes. You use two ropes (double ropes) in this case and catch one at a time as they run parallel and straight, more for wandering protection. 

This rope system reduces drag on wandering routes, and you can go twice as far as you could with a single rope. The two ropes provide greater protection in case of an accident where one gets cut during a fall. However, you require more skills to use this system, and the ropes are heavier. 

Twin Ropes 

Twin ropes work best for mountaineering, ice climbing, and non-wandering multi-pitch rock routes. Twin ropes are a two-rope system where you clip both strands through each piece of protection, just like with a single rope. 

There’s more rope drag than with half ropes, but this is an advantage when tackling non-wandering routes. This rope system allows for lightweight climbing, and you can go twice as far as with a single rope. In case one rope gets damaged, this system guarantees redundancy. 

On the downside, you need more skills to use this roper system, and the combined weight is heavier than a single rope. 

Length of a Climbing Rope 

When shopping for a climbing rope, one of the main considerations is the length. The right length will depend on what type of activity you intend to undertake. For instance, indoor climbing requires a short gym climbing rope such as the Slim Gym climbing rope than for Alpine climbing. Rope manufacturers make these items in between 40 and 80m.

Before hitting the sores, take time to assess the topography of your intended route. This allows you to determine the length of the rope you should buy. In most popular climbing zones, expert climbers recommend rope lengths based on their experience. Always read such recommendations before you buy them.  

For a simple route, a rope length of 70m will work fine, but for multi-pitch routes, you need a longer rope. It allows you to cope with the large distances between pitches and helps with the long abseiling passages. 

For most climbing gardens and other indoor facilities, a 60m rope length is sufficient. If a climbing hall is high, always ask for recommendations from the guides. 

Rope Diameter

This is another crucial consideration when shopping for an indoor or outdoor climbing rope. A thicker rope is more robust, which means it gives you more extended service and allows you to get more out of the sport. 

However, a larger rope also means more weight and increased friction in the belaying device and interim fixations. It provides a strenuous and uncomfortable climbing experience. When buying a rope, make sure it fits well in the belaying device. 

For single ropes, go for diameter between 8.7 mm to 11 mm thick. However, if your type of activity involves a lot of friction, you should go for a thicker rope. 

Half ropes and twin ropes on the market are thinner due to double-stranded use. Half ropes fall between 7.5 and 9mm while twin ropes start from 6.9mm upwards. 

Climbing Rope UIAA Safety Ratings

When buying a rope, it is essential to assess the amount of weight it can support. During manufacturing, the ropes undergo tough testing with an 80kg mass. 

The weight that can hang on the rope is not as significant as the force of the rope when there’s weight falling on the rope. Manufacturers use great force to test their products and give assurances to the users. 

From the tests, the ropes still undergo independent lab tests to get safety ratings. The Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA) creates these safety standards, and all products must meet them before going to the market.  

Every rope review gives the UIAA rating of the product. The rating covers:  

  1. Fall Rating: This is a rating showing the number of falls a rope can hold before failing. 
  2. Static elongation/working elongation: This is the extent of elongation for a dynamic rope when supporting an 80kg weight. For single and twin ropes, elongation should not exceed 10 percent of the total rope length. For half ropes, elongation cannot exceed 12 percent. High static elongation will mean reduced efficiency in your climbs due to energy loss. 
  3. Dynamic elongation: Distance a rope stretches during the first UIAA test fall. Lower dynamic elongation is better as it can protect you from hitting the ground during a fall. A rope should not stretch more than 40 percent of its entire length. 
  4. Impact force: The amount of force in kilonewtons put on a falling climber during the first UIAA fall. Lower impact force offers a soft landing, but this will require a farther stretch, thus reducing efficiency when climbing. 

Experts recommend twin ropes that have values of up to 12 falls, while single and half or double ropes have a value of 5 falls. When shopping for a rope, make sure you check the rating by UIAA to guarantee the quality and safety of the product. 

How Long Do Climbing Ropes Last?

There’s no clear-cut timeline on when to retire your climbing rope. Multiple factors affect the lifespan and longevity of this product. For instance, weather exposure, frequency of usage, rope durability, quality of care are some of the things that will affect the lifespan of the rope. 

Most manufacturers provide a manual of information about the retirement of their products. If you use the rope daily, one year is enough. If you only use the rope on weekends, you should retire it after three years. 

Some companies offer resources to help you determine if your rope needs to be retired. Ultimately, you are the one to decide the state of your rope.

Does the weather affect the climbing rope I use?

How does the weather affect your climbing rope? According to manufacturers, water will weaken the rope by 30%, which is a worrying fact. Dirt, on the other hand, deteriorates the rope’s core and innards by between 20-40%. While there are dry ropes on the market, they are still subject to moisture damage. 

Direct sunlight also affects the composition of the rope and lads to deterioration. Dynamic climbing ropes lose their elasticity when exposed continuously to direct sunlight. The Ultraviolet rays (UV) are dangerous for the nylon sheath that covers most of these products. Such a rope loses its protective cover leading to exposure of the core. 

Do I Need A Climbing Rope Replacement? 

Climbing ropes are tough and sturdy, and they undergo rigorous testing before hitting the market. However, you should have a proactive approach to safety if you want to enjoy rock climbing. One way to do this is by constantly checking the state of your rope. 

Here are some signs that you need a new climbing rope:

  1. Cuts in the nylon sheath: cut big enough to reveal the core of your rope is risky, and you should retire the rope.
  2. Core flat spots: A weakened core leads to flat spots on the rope. 
  3. Holes in the sheath: If you can see through a hole into the rope’s core, it is time to replace it.
  4. Sheath slippage: If the sheath clips from the core, it means the rope isn’t getting the needed protection. 
  5. Fuzzy sheath: more fuzz means less protection for the core, and it requires you to retire the rope.
  6. Sponginess: A spongy feel for the rope indicates severe damage to the core.
  7. Extremely dirty rope: this shows it might be contaminated with grease, oil, or tar. 
  8. Burns: If your rope has suffered damage due to heat, abrasion, or friction burns, it is time to replace it. 

What Makes A Good Climbing Rope? 

If you want to replace your climbing rope, you should start by querying what makes the ultimate climbing rope. Here are some considerations:

  1. Consider your climbing needs and find the best product to meet these needs.
  2. Look for a reputable brand such as Black Diamond when buying climbing gear. You get better quality and satisfaction guarantees. 
  3. Consider the rope specifications, including length, diameter, weight per meter, and certification (single, double, and twin). 
  4. Look for dry coating: Dry treatment of ropes repels water, lubricates rope fibers, and increases the lifespan of the item by protecting against wear and tear. 
  5. Consider the UIAA rating: Look at the Maximum Impact Force, Static and Dynamic Elongation, and Fall Rating of the rope you wish to buy. 

When shopping for high-quality, durable ropes such as Sterling Evolution Velocity, Sterling Marathon Pro, or Mammut Eternity classic, consider the features provided in the description. 

These will include the Sheath proportion, UIAA falls, Impact force, UIAA dry test, Stretch at 80 kg and Stretch on the first fall. You can make a more informed choice on the Mammut Eternity rope when you have all these details. 

How should I store my climbing rope?

If you want to increase the lifespan of your rope, you have to care for it properly. Good storage is crucial if you want the product to stay in tiptop shape to guarantee your safety. Always keep your rope in a keep in a clean and dry place. 

Choose a cool and dark storage place to prevent UV rays, which damage the polyamide of the rope. Buy the best rope bag to protect the item from dirt and direct sunlight. Your rope will also not get knotted in storage.