Obviously, it is essential to know how to choose a good climbing rope. It is one of the most important pieces of your gear that literally saves you from falling to the ground. Properly chosen rock climbing rope can also make your climbing experience comfortable and smooth compared to a total misery when using a wrong rope.
In this article, you will find a few tips from Rockbusters on what are the criteria you should use. With a well chosen rope you will gain the necessary confidence when climbing hard or high. Keep the criteria in mind when you're out there buying a new rock climbing rope.
As most of you probably know, we use dynamic ropes for rock climbing. Static or semi static ropes will find their use in climbing as well but they will never be used for the activity itself. Such ropes are used for taking photos, rigging or houling. Never use them for belaying as taking falls into such ropes can be fatal.
Dynamic rope will stretch when taking a fall and that will reduce dramatically all the forces hitting the climber as well as the whole security system, e.g. bolts or trad gear that climbers use where there is no fixed protection.
Sport climbers will look for a single dynamic rope that will be of our main concern in this article. As the term implies, a single dynamic rope is used on its own, as most of you are used to or have seen. It is used for indoor and outdoor sport climbing as well as for not too complicated multi pitch climbs.
Other types of ropes used for climbing are half ropes and twin ropes. When using these ropes, climbers always tie on two pieces of rope. Half ropes can be clipped independently into a piece of protection, whereas twin ropes always need to be clipped together into one piece. These types of ropes are used for trad, mix or multi pitch climbs when you need to reduce the drag or a danger of rope being damaged, eg. by falling rocks, sharp edges, etc. These ropes can be tied in one for abseiling, thus providing almost twice longer abseil option.
Let's have a closer look at single dynamic rock climbing ropes where the need for good tips could mostly be needed because of lack of previous experience with climbing.
Diameter (the thickness of the rope)
Single dynamic rock climbing rope will be marked with a number 1 in a circle (see the picture above). The diameter of a single dynamic rock climbing rope can range between 8.6mm to 11mm, and as mentioned before, such a rope will be used for outdoor and indoor sport climbing mostly.
Let’s not make big science out of this. We recommend a diameter around 9.3mm to 9.8mm for outdoor sport climbing. Thinner ropes will be lighter and will create less drag. On the other hand, thicker ropes will last longer. The difference will be noticeable when climbing really long routes (40m - 50m / 130ft - 160ft) or when projecting something very hard, as taking many falls will be wearing off the rope a lot.
For indoor climbing, I personally use my old rock climbing ropes which have been shortened so much they don’t have any outdoor use for me. Well, you don't want to waste your nice 80m thin rope on 10m - 15m climbs in a gym, right? If you don't have any shortened outdoor rope to be transferred for indoor use, buy a 40m dynamic rock climbing rope with a diameter of 10.5mm to climb indoors. It will last forever, and it will save many days of your thin, light outdoor rope.
The most common mistake with severe consequences in sport climbing is dropping a climber down when lowering, or falling down when abseiling because the rope is not long enough. It has happened to the best rock climbers out there and yes, there is an easy and effective solution: ALWAYS MAKE A KNOT ON THE LOOSE END OF YOUR ROPE. ALWAYS!!!
Choosing the proper length of your rock climbing rope is not that complicated. Always think where you will be climbing and check how long the routes are. Double the length of the routes, and add 10m so you can happily cut the ends as they will wear out faster.
Nowadays, the trend is to bolt long single pitch routes. Some will be even up to 50m long, and 35m - 40m routes are already pretty common in any climbing area around Europe. As climbers tend to travel a lot, and visit new climbing spots, it is hard to predict how long routes one will find. With a single sport climbing rope, 70m - 80m long with a diameter of 9.3mm - 9.5mm you will be sorted almost everywhere. Let me remind you once again: ALWAYS MAKE A KNOT ON THE LOOSE END OF YOUR ROPE. ALWAYS!!!
At Rockbusters, we use the Singing Rock Icon 9.3mm rope to sport climb and nail our projects. It’s a very good rope manufactured by a small Czech producer of cool climbing gear.