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The Rope Work Workshop Part 1

This 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 This type of rope was originally made from natural fibre's such as manila and hemp, the low ability of this rope to absorb the energy of a fall meant that the security this type of rope provided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 badly.
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.

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 the reel.
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.


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