Rope Work Workshop
section is a guide about using ropes and associated equipment for security
on steep ground and for rock climbing, it is no substitute for proper
professional instruction. We are going to discuss and inform you about
the types of rope available and their individual strengths and qualities
as well as care and use of your rope together with the use of equipment
such as belay devices and karabiners.
A rope is the one piece of equipment that everyone associates with climbing,
and is the main thing you can rely upon to stop you in a fall. You can
set up a very adequate belay system with just a rope and your surrounding,
but without a rope all your other equipment such as slings, karabiners
and belay devices are redundant.
About The Rope
There are two main types of rope available for climbing the first is
Hawser-laid rope, which is constructed from three strands of
fibre twisted together. This type of rope was originally made from natural
fibre's such as manila and hemp, the low ability of this rope to absorb
the energy of a fall meant that the security this type of rope provided
was little more than psychological.
After the war hawser-laid rope made of nylon became available these
were a vast improvement as they could be relied upon to arrest a fall
without braking. However the new type of hawser-laid rope did have its
downside, it tended to stretch a large amount as well as kinking quiet
Hawser-laid rope is not used in rock climbing at all these days because
of the points raised above and because of new safety guidelines. For
this reason we are only going to deal with the second type of rope which
is Kernmantle rope.
Kernmantle rope gets its name from the way it is constructed because
it has a core of thin hawser-laid cords plated together to form the
kern, which is covered by a sheath which is known as the mantle.
What Length and Size?
The size of rope is usually a predetermined thing with ropes being sold
in diameters of 8, 9, 10.5 and 11mm anything smaller that 8mm is usually
classed as accessory cord and not strong enough to hold a fall.
If you were a mountain leader then you would probably use 8mm rope because
it will be lighter than the other diameters, where as a climber would
probably use either 9mm or 11mm rope.
Climbing ropes are usually single or half ropes, this is both a safety
and a style of climbing issue. Single ropes are generally 11mm and 10.5mm
and can be used on there own for climbing where as a 9mm ropes are generally
classed as a half rope and would need to be paired with a similar rope
to give the required strength, however as rope construction techniques
are improving some single 9mm ropes are apearing on the market. In order
to identify wether a rope is a single rope or a half which should be
used as part of a pair, take a look at one of the ends where the tape
will have the EN number and either a 1 or a 1/2 in a circle, the 1 representing
a single and 1/2 the half rope.
The length of rope is a very personal thing, shops tend to sell it in
three different lengths which are 40, 45 and 50 meters which are all
suitable for use on the crags or at your local wall. However if you
want a shorter rope for security on steep ground, or a longer rope for
use in the Alps of Himalayas then you are generally better buying of
Rope Wear and Care
The most important thing to remember about a rope is that
it is a very vital piece of equipment and that yours and many others
lives will and do depend on its proper care. You should endeavour to
use only ropes that meet the UIAA specifications, and keep a history
of your rope, as to how old it is, how many fall has it taken etc.
A nylon rope will not rot but it will deteriorate in time no matter
how it is treated. No-one really knows how long a rope will last but
a good guide to use is once the rope has reached 5 years old then it
should be destroyed, do not donate it to a local group as gesture of
good will as you could be endangering some ones life.
Damage to a rope can be caused by many things such as heat from the
friction of one rope running across another, many chemicals such as
bleach, oil and battery acid will also cause rope failure as can sunlight
and ultraviolet radiation. Ropes should be kept in a cool, dry and dark
place, this will not extend their life span past the 5 year limit but
it will make sure that you and your rope reach it.
Even with normal use a rope will become worn and abraded, as the sheath
wears fine fibres start to stick up and give the rope the appearance
of being furry, this will eventually reduce the strength of the rope
but may improve its handling.
Ropes can be damaged by running them over sharp edges or by grit entering
the rope in normal use, so be very careful when out on the crag to protect
your rope from sharp objects. Never stand on a rope as this can press
dirt and grit into the rope, which in turn will cut the fibres inside.
A rope that is dirty will generally be very stiff and difficult to handle,
it should be cleaned in warm water with a mild soap and then air dried
away from direct heat.