Climbing rope

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A climber and a belayer using a climbing rope Rock Climbing Mississippi Palisades.jpg
A climber and a belayer using a climbing rope

A climbing rope is a rope that is used in climbing. It is a critical part of an extensive chain of protective equipment (which also includes climbing harnesses, anchors, belay devices, and carabiners) used by climbers to help prevent potentially fatal fall-related accidents.


Climbing ropes must meet very strict requirements so that they do not break in the event of an accidental fall. However, they also need to be light, flexible for knotting, and resistant to chafing over sharp and rough rocks; all that in all possible weather conditions. Although ropes made of natural fibres such as hemp and flax were used in the early days of alpinism, [1] modern climbing uses kernmantle ropes made of a core of nylon or other synthetic material and intertwined in a special way, surrounded by a separate sheath woven over it. The main strength of the rope is in the core, and the sheath of the rope represents only a small fraction of the overall strength of the rope.

Climbing ropes can be classified into three categories according to their elasticity: static, semi-static, and dynamic ropes.

Static rope

Static ropes are ropes that are specifically designed for little or no stretch. As a result, they are unable to absorb large shocks. They should therefore not be used to protect a climber against a fall. On the other hand, they are particularly strong and can withstand a large load under static load. They find their application in fixed ropes, zip lines and shuttles.

Semi-static rope

Semi-static ropes have limited stretch. They can absorb small shocks and are also statically loaded yet very strong. However, these ropes may not be used to protect climbers from falling. They are used as fixed ropes, for rescue operations, and in caving.

Dynamic rope

Dynamic ropes are used in sport climbing. They are sufficiently stretchable to safely absorb a fall. However, they are relatively weak in static loads and therefore should not be used for zip lines and amusement rides.

A falling climber quickly develops enormous kinetic energy. This energy is released as soon as the climber stops falling. Some of this energy goes to the belay chain, the rest is split between the belayer and the climber. The rigid parts of the belay chain are strong, but only absorb a limited amount of energy. The human body can also only handle a limited amount of force on the body (the so-called catch or impact value) without incurring a back injury. Dynamic ropes therefore are designed to stretch by a limited amount to catch falls. By stretching, a large part of the energy generated is captured so that the final capture impulse for a single rope is less than 12 kN, under testing conditions as defined in the CE standards. [2] UIAA rules mandate that stretching be less than 40%. [3]

Dynamic ropes can be single ropes, half ropes, and twin ropes, each with different specifications. [4]

Dry rope

Dry ropes are ropes that have been treated to repel water. To achieve a UIAA Water Repellent grade, a rope must not absorb more than 5% of the rope's weight. [5] This is in contrast to non-treated ropes which can absorb up to 50% of rope's weight in water. [6]

The dry treatment prevents dirt and other particulates from getting into the rope, extending the rope life. However, the dry treatment will wear off with extended use. [2] Dry ropes are more expensive than non-treated ropes, so they are typically saved for ice climbing or wet weather.


Ropes must be inspected regularly, and retired from use if significantly damaged or worn. [7]

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Figure-eight loop is a type of knot created by a loop on the bight. It is used in climbing and caving.

The Flemish loop or figure-eight loop is perhaps stronger than the loop knot. Neither of these knots is used at sea, as they are hard to untie. In hooking a tackle to any of the loops, if the loop is long enough it is better to arrange the rope as a cat's paw.

Climbing protection is any of a variety of devices employed to reduce risk and protect others while climbing rock and ice. It includes such items as nylon webbing and metal nuts, cams, bolts, and pitons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation</span> International sport governing body

The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation, commonly known by its French name Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme, was founded in August 1932 in Chamonix, France when 20 mountaineering associations met for an alpine congress. Count Charles Egmond d’Arcis, from Switzerland, was chosen as the first president and it was decided by the founding members that the UIAA would be an international federation which would be in charge of the "study and solution of all problems regarding mountaineering". The UIAA Safety Label was created in 1960 and was internationally approved in 1965 and currently (2015) has a global presence on five continents with 86 member associations in 62 countries representing over 3 million people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rope</span> Linear combination of plies, yarns or strands which are twisted or braided together

A rope is a group of yarns, plies, fibres, or strands that are twisted or braided together into a larger and stronger form. Ropes have tensile strength and so can be used for dragging and lifting. Rope is thicker and stronger than similarly constructed cord, string, and twine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of climbing terms</span> List of definitions of terms and concepts related to rock climbing and mountaineering

This glossary of climbing terms is a list of definitions of terms and jargon related to rock climbing and mountaineering. The specific terms used can vary considerably between different English-speaking countries; many of the phrases described here are particular to the United States and the United Kingdom.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ice climbing</span> Activity of ascending ice formations

Ice climbing is the activity of ascending inclined ice formations. Usually, ice climbing refers to roped and protected climbing of features such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock-climbing equipment</span>

A wide range of equipment is used during rock or any other type of climbing that includes equipment commonly used to protect a climber against the consequences of a fall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Belaying</span> Rock climbing safety technique using ropes

Belaying is a variety of techniques climbers use to create friction within a climbing system, particularly on a climbing rope, so that a falling climber does not fall very far. A climbing partner typically applies tension at the other end of the rope whenever the climber is not moving, and removes the tension from the rope whenever the climber needs more rope to continue climbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lead climbing</span> Competitive discipline of sport climbing

Lead climbing is a climbing style, predominantly used in rock climbing. In a roped party one climber has to take the lead while the other climbers follow. The lead climber wears a harness attached to a climbing rope, which in turn is connected to the other climbers below the lead climber. While ascending the route, the lead climber periodically connects the rope to protection equipment for safety in the event of a fall. This protection can consist of permanent bolts, to which the climber clips quickdraws, or removable protection such as nuts and cams. One of the climbers below the lead climber acts as a belayer. The belayer gives out rope while the lead climber ascends and also stops the rope when the lead climber falls or wants to rest.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Top rope climbing</span> Rock climbing technique

Top rope climbing is a style in climbing in which the climber is securely attached to a rope which then passes up, through an anchor system at the top of the climb, and down to a belayer at the foot of the climb. The belayer takes in slack rope throughout the climb, so that if at any point the climber were to lose their hold, they would not fall more than a short distance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fall factor</span> Mathematical ratio relevant to climbing safety

In lead climbing using a dynamic rope, the fall factor (f) is the ratio of the height (h) a climber falls before the climber's rope begins to stretch and the rope length (L) available to absorb the energy of the fall,

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock climbing</span> Sport in which participants climb natural rock formations

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, across, or down natural rock formations. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Knowledge of proper climbing techniques and the use of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Munter hitch</span> Adjustable knot used control friction in a belay system

The Munter hitch, also known as the Italian hitch, mezzo barcaiolo or the crossing hitch, is a simple adjustable knot, commonly used by climbers, cavers, and rescuers to control friction in a life-lining or belay system. To climbers, this hitch is also known as HMS, the abbreviation for the German term Halbmastwurfsicherung, meaning half clove hitch belay. This technique can be used with a special "pear-shaped" HMS locking carabiner, or any locking carabiner wide enough to take two turns of the rope.

Kernmantle rope is rope constructed with its interior core protected by a woven exterior sheath designed to optimize strength, durability, and flexibility. The core fibers provide the tensile strength of the rope, while the sheath protects the core from abrasion during use. This is the only construction of rope that is considered to be life safety rope by most fire and rescue services.

In rock climbing, an anchor can be any device or method for attaching a climber, a rope, or a load above or onto a climbing surface—typically rock, ice, steep dirt, or a building—either permanently or temporarily. The intention of an anchor is case-specific but is usually for fall protection, primarily fall arrest and fall restraint. Climbing anchors are also used for hoisting, holding static loads, or redirecting a rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rope drag</span>

In rock climbing, rope drag is the friction of the rope plus its weight that the climber feels when pulling a rope through a number of protection points, or over rock prominences. A large number of anchor placements, especially if they form a zig-zag rather than a straight line, can make the rope drag so bad that the climber can hardly move forward.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dynamic rope</span> Rope designed to stretch under load

A dynamic rope is a specially constructed, somewhat elastic rope used primarily in rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. This elasticity, or stretch, is the property that makes the rope dynamic—in contrast to a static rope that has only slight elongation under load. Greater elasticity allows a dynamic rope to more slowly absorb the energy of a sudden load, such from arresting a climber's fall, by reducing the peak force on the rope and thus the probability of the rope's catastrophic failure. A kernmantle rope is the most common type of dynamic rope now used. Since 1945, nylon has, because of its superior durability and strength, replaced all natural materials in climbing rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ice screw</span>

An ice screw is a threaded tubular screw used as a running belay or anchor by climbers on steep ice surface such as steep waterfall ice or alpine ice during ice climbing or crevasse rescue, to hold the climber in the event of a fall, and at belays as anchor points.

In rock climbing, a whipper is an especially hard or dynamic fall where the rope is weighed by a significant load. A fall is considered hard when the climber falls beyond at least one piece of protection, which in trad climbing would mean the last piece placed by the climber and in sport climbing would be the last successfully clipped quickdraw. The term whipper comes from the whipping motion a climber experiences when swinging into the wall after being caught by the rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Belay device</span> Mechanical piece of climbing equipment

A belay device is a mechanical piece of climbing equipment used to control a rope during belaying. It is designed to improve belay safety for the climber by allowing the belayer to manage their duties with minimal physical effort. With the right belay device, a small, weak climber can easily arrest the fall of a much heavier partner. Belay devices act as a friction brake, so that when a climber falls with any slack in the rope, the fall is brought to a stop.


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  2. 1 2 "Rope markings explained". Retrieved 2021-10-21.
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  5. "UIAA 101 Dynamic Ropes" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-12-09.
  6. "Climbing Technology". Retrieved 2021-12-09.
  7. "UIAA STANDARD 101 / ROPES  : Recommendations for Inspection and Retirement" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-11-11. Retrieved 2021-10-21.