Choosing and Caring for Climbing RopesThe first consideration when selecting a climbing rope is what you intend to use it for.

Climbing ropes can be broken down into 3 main groups. There are dynamic mountaineering ropes which are used for arresting falls, low-stretch ropes or static ropes which are used for abseiling, ascending and rigging and accessory cord for when running belays when used with a dynamic mountaineering rope for arresting falls.

Various Types of Rope

Single ropes are the most common type of ropes and can be used for most conditions where a route follows a relatively direct line and where no abseil descent is required.

Half ropes (or double ropes) are designed to be used in pairs. In half ropes you can choose between twin rope technique where both ropes are running parallel through the protection or you can opt for half rope technique where both left and right ropes run separately through different protection points. They are ideal for routes which take wandering indirect lines which might include traverses and/or a lot of abseiling.

Twin ropes must only be used in pairs which both have to be clipped together into each piece of protection. Often associated with alpine climbing or on bolted multi-pitch climbs where an abseil descent is needed, they have tended to have been replaced these days with newer low weight half ropes.

A good climbing store can help to guide you in your choice of selection but you should look out for the recognised CE and UIAA symbols which mean that the rope meets the approved standard.

Ropes are manufactured in a large variety of lengths and diameter usually somewhere between 45m and 100m in length with a diameter between 9mm and 11mm. For a rock climbing trip, a rope of about 60m is usually adequate.

Caring for Your Rope

A climbing rope will suffer from wear and tear after a while so it’s important to maintain its longevity by caring for it properly. There are special bags for storing them in and for carrying and you should try to minimise the amount of contact it has with the ground to prevent dirt, sand and dust from getting into its kernel.

Dry treatment ropes help to reduce dirt entering the weave and they tend to last longer as they don’t absorb water. Also a wet rope is heavy to carry, unpleasant to work with and, if the weather is cold, it can also freeze the rope.

You should get into the habit of checking your rope after every use. Feed it from one hand to the other, inch by inch to check for damage. Inconsistencies in how it feels between your fingers as you work your way along can often indicate damage. Clean your rope regularly using warm water and let it dry away from direct sunlight. Make sure you store it away from anything that can damage it, e.g. petrol or chemicals if you’re keeping it in a shed.

Lifespan of Your Rope

You will get to learn when it’s time to replace your rope the more you work with it and get to understand its properties. You should keep a log book of each time the rope is used and what kind of purpose it was used for. After a while, you may start to think that the rope doesn’t handle as well. A good climbing store should be able to help you in identifying damage that necessitates its replacement.

However, the lifespan of a rope can vary tremendously by how often it’s used and for what kind of activity. There are no hard and fast time limits but in general, if you’re only going to be using it occasionally such as on holidays, a good rope should last between 2 and 4 years. Weekend climbers can usually expect to get about 2 years use out of a rope but if you’re climbing intensely almost every day, you may need to replace your rope every three months or so.