Saturday, 20 June 2015

How to choose your first climbing rope

As with many sports, gear can get pretty specialized:
  •   Skiers fill up their storage rooms with a variety of ski types for a wide range of conditions.
  •  The sheds of cyclists are often over stuffed with road, cross, town, mountain, you name it bikes
  • We won’t even begin to address the amount of tackle avid anglers gather over the years

 But, if you’re new to a sport, you need to stockpile slowly and sensibly. When it comes to choosing a climbing rope, knowing a few details before you buy can help you build up your climbing arsenal affordably.

Rope specs

Climbing ropes come in an array of lengths, diameters and handling characteristics. What you predominantly intend on using your rope for will help you narrow things down a bit.

Here’s a general (note the word GENERAL) guideline to the spec ranges ropes can come in:

Weight g/m
Fall rating
(# of UIAA falls)
Workhorse Single Ropes
All-Around Single Ropes
Skinny Single Ropes
Half Ropes
Twin Ropes

What type of rope is best for your needs?

The workhorse
A workhorse is just that – durable, hardworking and tough. These ropes are great for areas with sharp rock edges and are the easiest to hold.  The drawbacks? They can run less smoothly through your belay device and they tend to be heavy.

The all-around
An all-around rope is the most common type of rope used for sport, trad and alpine climbing because they are of average weight, diameter and fall rating.

Skinny ropes are for situations where weight matters:
  •       long routes with lots of belays
  •       alpine routes where you are coiling extra rope around your shoulder
  •       on-sights and red-points

Since a fall can be harder to catch with a skinny rope, make sure your belay device can supply lots of friction and is rated for the smaller diameter of a skinny rope. Practicing catching a fall in a safe situation (ie: the gym) will help you get the feel.

Half ropes
Half ropes are ideal for routes where the protection is not in a straight line or the route wanders. The more your rope meanders back and forth, the bigger the rope drag. By clipping each rope alternately, you can minimize rope drag.

You can also minimize the potential length of a fall by taking up slack in the rope that’s running from the piece of pro that’s the farthest away. Double belay distances and the extra protection of two separate ropes in the case that one is severed are additional benefits.

The downside is the extra weight of carrying two ropes. Make sure you never clip both ropes to the same piece of pro because it doubles the amount of fall force on both your and the pro.

Twin ropes
Twin ropes are best for ice climbing and wandering routes with lots of belays. While they are lighter and less bulky that half ropes, you need to clip both ropes into each piece of pro, which can cause more rope drag.

Let’s go climbing!
While this blog has– hopefully – helped you understand the basics around the types shapes and sizes of climbing ropes, it’s no substitute for expert advice, experience and training.

If you are new to climbing, seek out a professional or an experienced friend to learn more about how climbing ropes are used and which type is best suited for which purpose.

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