Advice - Ropes

Buying a rope is one of the most satisfying shopping trips you can have, though it can be a confusing affair. I’ve tried to break it down to its bare essentials.



First of all, nearly all the climbing ropes mentioned here are Dynamic ropes. This simply means that they stretch when loaded, as much as 30%. The alternative are Static ropes which have some specialist uses that most climbers need never worry about.


Single / Twin / Half or Double?

Here is where the confusion begins.



Single ropes are the kind of ropes you find in your average climbing gym. They vary in thickness from 9,5mm to 11. In general the thicker the rope it the longer it will last however this has to be offset against the extra weight.


The length of single ropes can vary from 50m to anything up to 100m. The minimum that should be considered for sport climbing is 60m. 70m is obviously much better. Of course the length needs to be offset against the extra weight and of course price.



Twin ropes are 2 ropes of around 7,6mm in thickness. They are designed to be treated as a single rope, and clipped through every quickdraw in the same way you would clip a single rope. These ropes are rarely used for sport climbing and are mostly used for ice climbing, Alpine climbing.


Half or Double:

Confusingly called half ropes, or double ropes these are 2 ropes, usually around 8,0mm or 8,6mm thick. For your average sport route they are completely unnecessary. They are clipped into separate pieces of protection and should never be clipped into the same piece (Unlike Twin ropes) Their main use is in Trad climbing, where clipping your protection with a single rope would cause so much rope drag that climbing higher would be impossible. There are various advantages to these ropes when traversing, Trad climbing or Ice climbing.


Dry Treatments:

Each of the rope types above will come with different treatments applied. Confusingly each manufacturer uses a different description for this, but a Dry treated rope is treated with a coating to stop it from absorbing water. To cut to the chase, if you are EVER planning on using your rope outdoors outside of desert regions of the world you definitely want your rope to be dry treated. A Water logged rope will become unmanageable and incredibly heavy. It costs extra but is definitely worth it.


Fancy stuff:

Many manufacturers these days produce ropes that change patterns or colours half way through. This can be a great help when abseiling or for knowing if the leader can make it up and get lowered off on 1 rope. Nearly all ropes have some sort of marking, as a belayer it’s important you know how to spot when you’re at the half way mark.


Splashing the cash:

Before choosing what rope to buy it’s important you have a good hard think about what you’ll be using it for. It’s impossible to buy one rope to suit all possibilities, and as you climb more you’ll quickly realise if you have a need for a second, third or even fourth rope.


As a general rule, only buy climbing rope from a reputable retailer and a reputable brand and don’t buy a second hand rope – you will NEVER know how it has been treated.


Breaking it in:

New ropes in my experience always need a bit of time to settle in. To begin with they twist and kink frustratingly causing a fair bit of trouble for the belayer. If you find your rope too ‘kinky’ for you, don’t despair it doesn’t last forever. Take every opportunity to pull the entire rope length through the top belay, never use an Italian hitch for belaying and before you know it the kinks will be no more. How long your rope lasts for will simply depend on how much you use it. Check the manufacturers website for guidelines.


Best friends:

Simply put, your rope is your best friend – it is your life line, treat it badly and it will not treat you well in return. Care for it, love it and make sure you respect it at all times.


Some simple rules:

· Don’t stand on your rope if you can help it.

· Wash your rope regularly (see manufacturers guidelines)

· Regularly inspect your rope for damage.

· Dry it out thoroughly if it gets wet.

· Store in a dry place away from chemicals / cleaning products.


Still reading:

Well if you’re still reading by this point, here are some handy links to manufacturers’ websites that are helpful.

Mammut ropes are the industry standard, particularly when it comes to double ropes.


They are available at Mountain Network Amsterdam, as Amber members you are entitled to a 15% discount.


Sterling ropes are used by Chris Sharma, what better reference.


They are available at the Bergsportshop for a great price.


Beal make excellent value for money ropes.


They are available at the Bergsportshop for a great price.

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