How to Maintain Rock Climbing Ropes

How to Maintain Rock Climbing Ropes
Climbing ropes are literally a life-line in rock climbing or mountaineering. They are also a symbol of trust between your climbing partner and yourself. In order for a rope to perform the way it is meant to, you must do your part in maintaining your dynamic climbing ropes properly. The following will guide you in preventing damage to your rope, keeping your rope clean, storing your rope properly as well as how to decide when your rope should be retired.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Rope wash Rope storage bag
  • Rope wash
  • Rope storage bag
Step 1
Prevent your rope from becoming damaged by using it with care. Do not step on it as this damages the rope's filaments from having particles ground into its core. Be extra careful when using crampons around your rope. Don't toss it in the dirt when it isn't being used; keep it in a rope bag. Also, do not spill anything on the rope. Chemicals or other compounds can severely weaken the rope even though damage may not be visible to you.
Step 2
Wash you rope when it is dirty. Place the rope in a bathtub or large bucket of warm water and use a mild rope wash or soap. Do not use detergent or put it in a washing machine, as any bleach residue can damage the rope. Follow the directions on the rope wash and gently rinse the rope with clean water until no more dirt comes out of it. Dry it for several days in a place with indirect sunlight as UV rays can also damage rope.
Step 3
Store your rope only when it is completely dry. Store it in a clean storage bag that is free of any chemicals, acids, heat or sunlight. Coil the rope loosely and do not leave tightly tied knots in it when storing. If you have pets, be sure the rope is stored in a place where they can't urinate on it as this can also weaken the rope.
Step 4
Coil your rope properly. Learn how to do the mountaineers coil or the butterfly coil, whichever suits you. Pack your rope coiled in your backpack en route to a climb. Not only does this make the rope easier to flake out but ensures that it is always neat and tidy.
Step 5
Retire your rope when it's ready. Examine the sheath of your rope routinely to check for any soft spots, fraying, cuts or tattering. If it has any of these it may be an obvious choice to retire it. If it is simply old, take into account how many falls it has taken, how it has been cared for and how much overall use it has had. Many new ropes are certified to take only five UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinsime) falls. Use your best judgment.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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