Everyone recognizes that ropes are an integral part of a climber's equipment, however, not everyone realises that not every rope is suitable for every facet of climbing.
On top of this the use of rope is not restricted to just climbing. Ropes are often of equal importance to walkers and even more so to cavers and roped access and rescue workers. Indeed, our selection of static ropes can be found within the Vertical Rope Access and Rescue section of the catalogue, even though they are equally relavant to certain aspects of climbing.
So what are these different types of rope?
As static ropes are in Vertical Rope Access and Rescue, they and their uses are described there.
What you'll find here are dynamic ropes. These have a degree of elasticity which reduces the shock to a falling body and also onto the anchors that are connecting the rope to the load bearing point-s, ie the protection or the anchor.
Modern mountaineering ropes are constructed of nylon and are composed of two parts, the kern (core) and the mantel (sheath). The core is what gives modern ropes their incredible strength, whilst the sheath protects it. The core can be made to different specifications by varying the core structure and thickness. The sheath construction can also be varied to give the required balance between abraision resistance and suppleness for different uses.
The first thing to evaluate when selecting a rope is the purpose for which it is intended. There are three main groups of ropes available:
It's worth noting that a UIAA fall is much bigger and harder than anything most climbers will ever take, so you certainly won't need to throw your rope away after half a dozen normal falls.
The first step in deciding which rope to use is to begin by choosing whether a single, two half or a pair of twin ropes are the best option before looking at the properties of each option.
Our recommendation is always to buy a dry treated rope, if your budget allows. For winter climbing it is almost essential, to prevent water getting into your rope and freezing it. For outdoor trad climbing a dry treatment will prevent dirt and grit from the ground ingressing into the rope and causing damage as it is used, as well as protecting it from the weather. Any rope will be weaker (and heavier) when wet, and will also wear much quicker if dirt gets into it. A dry treatment will help prevent this, and drastically extend the use you will safely get from the rope.
Most ropes that we stock have a standard surface dry treatment, but others such as Beal's Golden Dry, Edelrid's Hyperdry and Mammut's Superdry have a dry treatment that runs throughout the rope and is therefore more durable and effective.
Different Uses of Climbing Ropes
To choose between the above types of rope we first need to a look at what they will be used for. The different specific uses encountered by climbers and mountaineers are:
The properties of dynamic ropes that should be taken into account when evaluating a rope for a specific use are: diameter, mass per metre length, elongation, impact force, number of drops, knotability ratio, sheath slippage, static strength, dry treatment, abraision resistance, surface friction and handling.
Top - bottom roped climbing, where no leading will happen, does not produce high impact forces, nor does it involve large amounts of drag between running belays, and a single rope is definitely best. This method of climbing produces much wear on ropes and therefore a broader, poorer handling, but abraision resistant rope is ideal. For groups and outdoor centres, suitable examples are Beal Wallmaster or a length of Edelrid Python. Most individuals will want a rope that's also suitable for indoor climbing and basic leading (see below).
Indoor wall climbing requires the abrasion resistance of a top - bottom rope, but it also needs to have a higher fall rating to cope with repeated short leader falls. A good option is the recycled-sheath Edelrid Parrot (one of our most popular all-round ropes).
Single rope leading requires good handling, abraision resistance (although not to quite the same degree as for top-roping) and low impact forces. As we are operating outdoors, the weight of the rope becomes more important and therefore it might be nice to reduce the weight by stepping down from 10.5mm rope. The thinner you go, the more appropriate to higher standard climbing the rope becomes, but remember the less durable the rope will become, and also less easy for beginners to handle. Dry treatment should also be of interest, especially to those who operate regularly at sea-cliff venues. Ropes to look at are the Mammut 9.5mm Crag Dry or the Beal 9.4mm Stinger III. Going lighter than this, the triple-rated Beal 9.1mm Joker might be worth consideration.
Half rope leading has the same requirements as single rope leading, but of course the ropes can be narrower. A good example is the Beal 8.3mm Legend. Alternatively, for versatility, you could go for the Beal 8.5mm Opera, a triple-rated rope. Another specialist option is Beal Ice Line 8.1mm, which is stretchier than the other options and so as well as being light weight becomes ideal for winter climbs where protection is less reliable (the impact on the gear is less with this rope).
Alpine mountaineering generally falls into the same brackets as single, half and twin rock climbing ropes, however, greater emphasis must be placed on light weight. Longer lengths are also useful so that you can climb routes in less pitches, for speed and safety. Due to the all-day - multi-day nature of such routes and the presence of snow and extreme temperatures, good dry-treatment is a must. Recommendations include: Edelrid Merlin and Falcon, Mammut Revelation and Beal Cobra, Ice Line, Stinger, and Booster ranges in dry versions.
Glacier travel can be carried out using any rope (preferably dry-treated), however, to save weight for carrying in and out from the glacier and keeping bulk low many people use one half rope, eg Beal Cobra and Iceline or Mammut Genesis 8.5mm. Half ropes also mean extra stretch in the rope, which reduces shock loading on marginal ice and snow runners. Far better, however, is to use a single rope such as Mammut Revelation as it can be used for full lead use on rock steps as a single rope, thus making you fast and safe.
Winter climbing follows Alpine mountaineering somewhat, however, thinner ropes once again provide extra safety margins, this time due to the fact that they reduce the shock on dubious running belays (a fact of winter climbing). One important feature is that of extra length to enable rare rock belays to be reached. For the more extreme operations Beal Iceline is the one one to go for, but most people will prefer the greater lifespan of a Cobra or Genesis.
Scrambling has the same basic requirements as rock climbing for fall arrest. However, light weight is of increased importance as the rope may be carried all day without even coming out of the bag. At the same time, when in use the rope will invariably be run around a number of pinnacles and therefore will need to be fairly abraision resistant. The length of scrambling pitches are invariably short, so shorter lengths can be used to keep weight down. Check out the Ferrata and Edlinger from Beal.
Walking ropes are generally used as confidence ropes on tricky steps or when the weather makes easy passages treacherous. As with scrambling ropes, they need to be light. A rope specifically designed for this purpose is Beal Rando, a 30m 8mm walking rope.
For further information contact the BMC and ask about their "Ropes" information package.
Note that rope manufacturers change the colours of their ropes fairly regularly, and so the colours depicted in our images may not represent what we actually have in stock. If the colour if your rope is important, let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can inform you of what colours are available before you place your order. If you order two half ropes, we'll make sure you get two different colours.
Built for Adam Ondra, the Black Diamond 8.6 Ondra Edition is designed for use on his and your hardest redpoints. This 8.6mm single rope is dry treated throughout for extra durability and weather resistance. The middle marker is easy to spot while the 80-meter length is ideal for the pumpfest enduro routes that test your limits.
When Alex Honnold ropes up, it’s with the Black Diamond 9.4 Dry Honnold Edition. With high-end specs and a durable construction it handle's day in and day out use freely. A percentage of each sale goes to the Honnold Foundation for solar energy for a more equitable world.