You always want a dynamic rope for climbing. Why? Because when you fall and the rope fed out from your belayer catches you, the rope goes tight. A dynamic rope means it has stretch and it’s this stretch that absorbs the impact force of your fall.
Doesn’t a static rope stretch? Short answer Yes. Longer answer - Not Enough. If you climbed on static rope and fell on it, the rope would very likely cause some serious damage to your body because there’s not enough elasticity in the rope to absorb the shock of the fall.
Remember when we fall it’s not just our standing weight that the rope is catching. Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration.
If you’re interested in understanding more about fall factor and impact force click on the link below to an article by Petzl.
A Static rope on the other hand, does not stretch and for that reason is used to set up a fixed line for ascending, canyoning/caving, rappelling and for rope access/rigging work.
When we first start climbing we can’t expect to have everything down to a fine art. This includes a number of techniques and skills when climbing rope; falling, belaying or protecting a climb. How you do the aforementioned, all has an effect on your ropes wear.
The more you fall on your rope the quicker you will wear it. In theory if you have a thicker rope (10 - 10.2mm) it should take you longer to destroy it because it’s got more strands in the core; it’s the core that makes up the strength of a rope.
The thinner the rope the quicker it will move through yours or your partner's belay device. Whilst you and your buddies are still getting this whole belaying and catching thing down pat, you want a rope that’s not going to slip quickly through your hands. If it does slip having a thicker rope means it shouldn’t speed as quickly through your device.
The type of climbing you're doing will change how your climb is protected. Rock is a natural formation and has ledges, overhangs, aretes and edges. As you climb you will find that rope drag could become an issue. The more experienced you get the better you will be able to understand what type of protection (draws, slings, trad pro or natural gear) will be best to reduce this drag but until then it may wear your rope faster than ideal because it will run and rub against the rock. Having a thicker rope means the rock should have a harder time getting through it.
When you’re first starting out we recommend considering a 10 - 10.2mm rope. If you feel you’re a bit more experienced or you’ll be getting out a lot then something from a 9.7 - 9.8mm rope could be okay. Try and figure out if you will be setting up top ropes too as it’s better using a thicker rope for this.
Where and what you will be climbing have an effect on what length rope you decide to get.
If you’re only climbing indoors and don’t want to go outside you will likely not need a super long rope. There are now specific ropes designed/cut for indoor lead climbing.
On the other hand, if you’re heading outside the minimum length we at Climbing Anchors recommend is 60 metres. We often will talk to you about considering a 70 meter one too. Why?
When you’re being lowered from the top of the climb you need double the amount of rope to get to the ground. When rappelling on single rope doubled over to the base of a climb your rope length is halved.
In addition to this your rope is not running straight end to end. When climbing you’ve got a rethreaded figure of 8 knot to attach it to you and then a stopper knot at the other end. This takes up some of your rope length. So if you plan to climb a 30 meter single pitch sport climb you are likely going to want a 70 meter rope for everyone's peace of mind.
Lastly your rope will most likely wear quicker at the ends because they will be the most used portion, or you may even end up damaging the core on a sharp rock about further in. This means you’ll need to cut your rope. Depending on where you have to cut there’s still plenty of good mileage left in the non-damaged section, so having a longer rope could mean you don’t have to allocate it straight to the gym rope side of things.
A treated rope means it has gone through extra processes which ensure the core has protection against dust and water. Both these things can have a negative effect on the materials and construction of a rope.
Where you’re climbing will affect which direction you go in. If you’re climbing near the ocean or in a dusty environment frequently then I would recommend going treated. If you’re only using this rope indoors then untreated should be fine.
Just to be clear; a treated rope doesn’t mean your rope won’t get fuzzy over time or that you’ll never cut it on sharp rock. It simply helps protect against the elements of nature.
Whichever one you choose you will still need to practice rope care.
I often get asked which brand is best and every brand we sell is great in my personal opinion. This might seem like a cop out but it’s not. As with most gear, whether technical or not, I believe it largely ends up coming down to personal preference. If this is your first rope then you might not have this yet but you will develop it over time. If you’ve been using your friend's gear, find out the brand and the diameter. Ask around at the gym. Do some research but remember that someone else’s opinion of a brand or rope doesn’t make it true. 10 people will hear about a bad experience but maybe only 2 will hear about a good.
Hopefully this helped you understand a little bit more about ropes and which direction you should go in for your first. If you still feel unsure don’t hesitate to contact us for help.
Down below you’ll find a breakdown of the symbols and numbers you might find on a rope packaging to give you a deeper understanding of what a rope goes through to get to the selling stage.
Single rope: when only one rope is used for ascending. The most commonly used and basic method when climbing.
Half rope: Separate ropes are anchored in alternating anchor points. This system reduces the risk of rope breakage by falling rocks and provides maximum protection in alpine conditions or on tough climbs. Eds Note: confusingly also referred to as double ropes.
Twin Rope: The same ropes are always used in pairs, secured at common protection points. Twin ropes guarantee a high level of safety, especially for classic alpine climbing.
Standard: An untreated rope. No extra processes have been applied to the construction of the rope. Can also be known as classic or nature.
Treated: A treated rope means the materials used in its construction have gone through an extra process to protect the sheath and core against dust and water, both of which could harm your rope. A rope that is treated will generally have a longer lifespan if taken care of and used correctly. Each company will use different terminology for treatment as their processes will be individual and there might not always be a symbol but most companies will include it in the name or features.
Treatment may be named as;
If you want to read in more detail the exact way the UIAA specifies that dynamic ropes be tested to meet its requirements you can find it through the link below: https://www.theuiaa.org/safety-standards/
I’ve been climbing on & off for about 5 years; a lot of that time spent as a gym rat. I started devoting myself more to the sport about 2 and a half years ago, taking my climbing obsessions to new heights (haha), I’m now fully immersed by spending my days at the Sydney store, evenings training and days off at a crag somewhere. I love feeding the stoke and getting people fully on board with how amazing this sport is - no matter how you partake in it!