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Imagine yourself fourteen stories in the air, standing on a flake 1/8 of an inch wide. You reach for your next handhold, stretching...
almost got it...
You have just slipped, and fallen eighteen feet through the air, and you are unhurt. Thanks to your wonderful climbing rope. A good rope is the most important part of any climbing system, besides communication between the climber and the belayer. You will take many falls on your rope, and it will keep holding you up.
Climbing ropes might look like ordinary rope, but they are not. Climbing ropes have a special kernmantle construction which make them stretch, unlike ordinary ropes. These ropes are called dynamic ropes. Ropes that don't stretch, like the tow rope for a car, or the ropes that the military uses to rappel out of a helicopter, are called static ropes.
Check out our shock force calculator to get an idea of how much force is exerted on your rope
To get an idea of why dynamic ropes are needed, take a look at this movie:
As you can see, falling about seven feet didn't do much damage. If he had taken the same fall on a static rope, the force would have seriously injured him. If you have done any climbing at all, you know what it feels like to fall on a dynamic rope. You seem to fall quickly, then slowly stretch and then come to a relatively gentle rest. If you want to feel a static fall, and we don't recommend it, clip yourself into an anchor with only one foot of webbing (absolutely no more!). Then move past the anchor and fall. You will be stopped as soon as you hit the end of your webbing, but it will be a jarring experience. This is why climbing ropes are special.
Most ropes are anywhere between 9.5 and 11 mm in diameter. The larger diameter ropes are slightly heavier, but are worth the extra weight in that they have a longer life and better resistance to abuse.
The standard lengths for ropes are 50 and 55 meter (165 foot, and 181 foot respectively) ropes. A longer rope is worth the extra cost for that extra long pitch. It can also help reduce the number of rappels down a route that you have to make.
Another important factor when deciding on a rope is how it is rated by the UIAA (Union Internationale desc Association d'Alpinisme). The UIAA set standards for climbing ropes, and tests them. Any rope that is UIAA approved should be fine for climbing.
Another thing to keep in mind when buying a rope is whether it is a dry or an un-treated rope. A dry rope tends to resist water just a little better than a normal rope, but it's actual advantage is the softer, smoother handle that the treating provides.
Taking good care of your rope will extend it's life. Some tips for caring for your rope:
You know it is time to retire your rope when it is fuzzy and has flat squishy spots in it. The flat squishies are internally damaged places on the rope. The fuzzies aren't as easy to decide - even a new rope will get some fuzzies after it's first week. If you can see a rope's inner core, then the sheath has worn from that spot, and the rope should be retired.
Even after you retire a rope, it still has use. Cut some off of the end and make a gear sling, or turn it into a tow rope into the snowier/muddier climates.[an error occurred while processing this directive]