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Climbing Ropes Types and Construction

Introduction

Whether you are trad, sport or winter climbing the key thing to your safety is your rope. In this article we hope to give you valuable information about the various types of ropes available for you to choose from. You will have to consider what type of climbing you are going to do and what you require from a rope. This combination should enable you to choose your rope with confidence, particularly if it's your first rope.

Construction

Principally there are two types of rope, Static and Dynamic. Static ropes do not stretch and are suitable for abseiling where you don't want stretch or bounce in the rope. Climbers use Dynamic rope as the stretch allows for more energy absorption during a fall making them far more suitable.

Here's a video showing the production and testing of Mammut Ropes.

Modern ropes are manufactured using kernmantle construction . Essentially the rope has two parts, an inner core and a protective sheath. The core is constructed from Polyamide filament yarns that have been spun together to form a twine. Three twines are then twisted together to form a strand and the core of the rope is constructed from several strands. The core is then protected and held together with a durable sheath constructed by braiding more twines around the core.

The Sheath will affect the handling and durability of your rope. The tighter the sheath braiding the stiffer and more abrasion resistant the rope. A looser woven sheath will improve the handling of the rope enabling ease of tying knots,hitches and clipping gear. But lower it's abrasion resistance and consequent lifespan.

Types of Ropes

This is where you really need to consider what you are going to use the rope for. There are three types of ropes used for climbing;

Single ropes will be clearly marked with a '1' at either end. Single Ropes are often used for traditional climbing where the line of a route is fairly straight. However Single ropes are best suited to Sport and Climbing walls where a line of pre-placed bolts are followed to a lower-off.

Currently these ropes range from 8.9mm to 11mm in diameter. When sport climbing you will reach a chain or bolt belay form where you lower off. Remember your rope will have to be at least twice as long as the route. If you know your chosen sport crag has routes between 20m and 25m you will need at least a 50m rope or ideally a 60m rope to be sure.

View our range of Single Ropes.



Half Ropes (also known as Double Ropes) are the best choice for the Traditional climber, particularly for multi pitch routes. Ideally the ropes are clipped into protection alternately but in reality a climber will clip the same rope into protection in a natural line before clipping the other rope to protection further away. This separation of ropes reduces drag allowing the climber to move freely. However a pair of Half Ropes do weigh more than a single rope so on longer pitches they will become quite heavy. Also Half Ropes have greater stretch so less load is placed on runners during a fall.

Half Ropes are currently available in diameters from 8.1mm through to 9mm. The thinner the rope the lighter it will be but it will take fewer falls and will have a shorter life span. Most climbers today use Half Ropes between 8.3mm and 8.6mm.

View our range of Half Ropes.



Twin Ropes are for use in the high mountains or for serious ice-climbing. They should never be used as Half Ropes as they are not designed or rated for this type of use. The Twin Rope is used in the same way as a Single Rope in that both ropes are clipped into every piece of protection. The advantage of Twin ropes on mountain routes is that generally they are safer, should one become damaged you will always have the other to fall back on. Also when retreating from the mountain abseils are easier to arrange by tying the two together.


Walking and Ski Touring Ropes

Ropes used by walkers and ski tourers are lightweight ropes that are strong enough to hold falls into crevasses or from ridges. Used for security in these situations they also add a level of confidence. The Beal Rando rope is ideal for this type of use. It weighs 37g per metre and is tested to take up to 5 falls on a single rope. Though they are rated as Twin Ropes they are usually used as Single Ropes. These ropes should not be used for climbing.

View our range of Scrambling and Ski Touring Ropes.



Length

Ropes come in varying lengths from 30m - 60m, though 70m ropes are becoming popular with Sport climbers travelling abroad where longer routes can be encountered. When buying a Single Rope for Sport climbing please remember to consider that lowering off requires a rope twice as long as the route. As a result most Sport climbers do tend to buy 60m ropes. A word of warning; If you have any doubt over the length of your rope when lowering off then tie a knot in the end.

UK traditional climbs, whether multi or single pitch, can mostly be climbed using a pair of 50m Half Ropes. 60m ropes can be used but generally this just means more rope to carry and pull up that just is not needed. However, if you are heading for the Alps or are using the ropes for winter conditions then 60m ropes will be a better option providing you greater flexibility, especially where belaying.

Strength

All types of climbing ropes are UIAA (International Union of Alpine Associates) and CE tested. The tests are very similar but the UIAA test is the more stringent. For a Single Rope or pair of Twin Ropes an 80Kg (average weight of a climber) weight is dropped to simulate a Factor 2 fall.The rope must withstand at least 5 falls before it snaps. A Half Rope is tested with a 55Kg weight and again must withstand at least 5 falls of factor 2.

A Factor 2 fall is the most serious fall as it loads more weight and energy through the rope. Most falls taken on a climbing rope will be Factor 1 or less which do have an impact on the life of a rope though a lot less.

Fall Factor = Height of Fall/Length of Rope which Holds it.

Impact Force

A rope's impact force is a measure of it's ability to absorb the energy of a falling climber and so reduce the load on protection. A lower impact force means that less energy is transferred to the protection and so gear is less likely to fail - hence the lower the rating the better.

Further Facewest reading

Our climbing rope comparison chart provides you with an overview of the ropes we sell making selecting the right one a little easier. And when you have taken delivery of your new rope please take the time to read our climbing rope care article.