What climbing rope should I use?
Welcome one and all to the wonderful world of climbing ropes. There’s a bunch of stuff to think about when looking at a new rope but a good rope is an investment that will look after you in the adventures to come. Check out Jahna’s (from Christchurch's best outdoor store, Further Faster) guide to get the skinny (about 7mm) on dynamic climbing ropes; what to look for in them and what they’re best for.
Twin ropes are a very skinny (7-8.5mm) pair of ropes that are designed to be climbed on together. When climbing on twin ropes, you tie into both ropes and clip both ropes into every bit of protection together. The main advantage of twin ropes is it enables longer rappels whilst being lighter weight than their half rope or single rope counterparts. However, twin ropes should never be used individually, they are not rated to be used on their own.There are ropes like the Edelrid Apus that are rated as both a twin and a half rope.
- Long rappels
Half ropes (also called double ropes) are normally about 7-9mm and are individually rated for falls, but still designed to be used together by clipping the rope into alternating bits of protection. This is fantastic for trad climbing or ice climbing where routes can sometimes wander. Strategic clipping can reduce drag and loading on the system in case of a fall. Another fantastic thing about using half ropes, is that you can clip the ropes individually. If you fall mid-clip you will not fall as far, because only one of the ropes will have been pulled up which reduces the slack in the system and the other rope can catch you sooner. This clever clipping can save you from some whippers on pumpy climbs, but it does require practice and good communication with your belay buddy.
Because half ropes are a dual rope system, they also have the advantage of enabling longer rappels which is especially useful in an alpine environment.
*Pro-tip when using a dual rope system, having different coloured ropes makes it easy to tell which rope you need to pull down/where the knot is.
- Trad climbing
- Ice climbing
- Long rappels
A jack of all trades rope which, will usually be 9-10.5mm. A thicker rope will generally be more durable and is great as a cragging rope that gets frequent use. However, at the top of a hard, pumpy climb, a thicker rope is heavier and this can be the difference between getting the send and taking a fall. A thinner single rope is more suited to pushing grades when you’re sport climbing, or in the alpine environment where you need to carry the rope a substantial distance. This is where light weight equipment is the name of the game and you will need to count your grams. A rope that is rated as a single rope can also be used in a dual rope system, the only drawback is that they are heavier than their half and twin rope counterparts.
- Indoor climbing
- Cragging/sport climbing
- Trad climbing
- Mountaineering/alpine climbing
- Glacier travel
Which rope for which sport?
Indoor Climbing Specific Rope – You won’t be worried about weight as much so any single rope that’s around 10mm is great. If the rope is only for indoor use it can be shorter too, 40m would suffice.
Sport Climbing/Cragging Rope – It is up to you how much weight matters, a thicker rope would be more durable, but a thinner rope is easier to climb with and to manage. I’d recommend something 9.5-10mm for most people. The length of the rope will be dictated by where you are climbing, but 50-60 meters will get you most places in New Zealand though. A dry treated rope is nice, but not strictly necessary. It will help keep out moisture and dirt adding to the longevity of the rope, but it is more expensive.
Trad Climbing – Any rope that is suitable for sport climbing is also good for trad climbing. However, if you are climbing with a good belayer and understand strategic clipping, half ropes are a real advantage on wandering routes. A good length for a trad rope is 60m and although dry treated rope is nice it is not necessary for this discipline.
Mountaineering/Alpine Rope – Here weight starts to matter more so I would recommend a single rope that’s 9.5mm or thinner and at least 60m, if not 70m long. Alternatively twin ropes can be used if you are expecting big rappels. Mountaineering ropes should be dry treated because they are likely to be used in a wet environment.
Ski touring/Glacier Travel Rope – thin single rope 40m, dry treated. For a glacier travel or ski touring rope a thinner single rope that is dry treated is the perfect length for tying between you and your adventure buddy. So, if you happen to put a crampon through your mountaineering rope, you might have just given yourself a new ski touring rope!
Ice Climbing Rope – For ice climbing you should be using half ropes and you want the ropes to be as long as possible, ideally 70m. Ice climbing belays take a long while to set up and so you want to get the most out of each pitch as possible. Because ice climbing ropes are going to be used in a wet environment having a lot of contact with ice and snow they should definitely be dry treated.
I hope that cleared up a bit of the mysteries of the climbing rope world. Remember, how to find the right rope for you depends on what you’ll be doing and where. The most important things to look for are; width, length, type (single/half/twin), and possibly dry treatment. The rope (or ropes) you get are an important investment and if you look after them, they’ll look after you. If you want some more advice on ropes and other climbing gear, come talk to us at our outdoor store in Christchurch or flick us a message online.
NOTE: *the widths given are a guide only, different brands have developed their own technologies so a twin/half/single rope can vary in width from company to company. Check the UIAA specifications for a comparison of fall strength and the g/m to compare the weight of potential ropes.