Static or Dynamic? When choosing a rope, the first distinction to make is between dynamic and static ropes. For most climbing- whether its top-roping at the gym or crag, sport climbing, or setting trad routes, you need the stretch and bounce of dynamic ropes. Static ropes do not offer any stretch, so are not used for activity in which the rope catches the weight of a falling climber-for instance in canyoneering, where the ropes are used for rappelling rather than climbing vertical routes. Static ropes are also used in rescue, hauling, caving and climbing fixed lines.
Modern dynamic ropes get their strength, durability, and stretch from a kernmantle structure: from the German words kern, meaning “core,” and “mantel,” the sheath. The sheath protects the load-catching nylon core from abrasion and deterioration, and there are different materials and treatments that enhance the extent of protection at both levels. The amount of elongation for your typical climbing rope starts around 30% when catching a fall, and 5-10% for static loads. This is plenty to soften the “catch” of a falling climber so the force is lessened in all elements of the system, from climber, to belayer, to the gear and rock. Consider this while recovering from the sticker shock of a good climbing rope- while many ropes claim to be suitable for dynamic/climbing uses, we wouldn’t recommend even considering something without a UIAA certification and rating- the risk is simply not worth what you may save in money.
The international governing body of climbing and mountaineering is the UIAA (the French acronym for the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation), whose Safety Commission develops and maintains safety standards for climbing equipment. In particular, the UIAA fall count rating is an important measure of a rope’s strength and durability- determined from a standardized test in which 80kg of weight is dropped 4.8m before experiencing a reaction force against a carabiner-resembling piece of metal, from the 5.1m of rope being tested. Therefore, weight is falling below the fixed end and there is minimal rope to stretch and absorb the force. The UIAA fall count rating is the number of times this test is repeated before the rope breaks, and a minimum score of 5 is required to be certified. This is not to say that this is the number of falls the rope can catch before needing to be retired, as the factor 2 fall replicated by this test is not indicative of typical falls found in regular use.
The diameter of the rope is probably the next factor to consider- the single ropes used for most climbing are around 9.4 to 10.2, and suitable for top-roping, sport, and trad. These thicker ropes are great for beginners, easy to handle through belay devices, and often more durable and lasting than thinner ropes. The primary downside is the higher weight, which is something to consider with long approaches and multi-pitch adventures. Thinner ropes down to low 8's may still be rated to catch a fall on their own or be used as half ropes- (sometimes called double) where the climber ties in to both ends, the belayer feeds both through the belay device, and the climber alternates clipping the ropes in gear on lead. This technique is usually used in mountaineering, ice, or multi-pitch climbing, and is useful to reduce rope drag on long meandering or traversing routes, although is more complicated rope work for the belayer especially. This method is also useful to move a party of 3 climbers up pitches faster. Below 8mm, twin ropes are used in alpine and mountaineering, typically not rated to hold a fall individually, can be difficult to use with many belay devices, and must be paired and both clipped in to each piece of protection.The benefit to this is redundancy in case of a fall, but added weight overall.
Side-by-Side specs on ropes we carry:
|Diameter (mm)||Weight (g/m)||UIAA Falls||Dynamic Elongation (%)||Static Elongation (%)||Impact Force (kN)||Type|
|Fusion Ion R||9.4||57||6||33.1||7.2||8.7||Single|
|Black DIamond Dry||9.4||58||7||34||8.4||8||Single|
|Black Diamond 9.9||9.9||64||6||32||7.6||8.4||Single|