How do I Choose Rock Climbing Rope?

How do I Choose Rock Climbing Rope?
Today's dynamic rock-climbing ropes are designed to withstand more stress than a falling rock climber can actually generate. Despite this fact, selecting the right climbing rope for your rock-climbing adventures can still be the difference between life and death. Even in less dire circumstances, having the wrong rope for the route can turn a perfectly good climbing day into a painstaking epic of horrific proportions. Avoid both minor mishaps and major accidents by simply picking the right climbing rope.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Climbing harness
  • Belay device
  • Locking carabiner
Step 1
Look for the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) certification on the climbing rope's packaging. This indicates that the rope has been tested to meet a stringent set of safety requirements.
Step 2
Determine the most appropriate rope diameter for your purposes. A skinnier diameter usually means a rope of lighter weight, which is preferable for hard redpoints or fast-and-light alpine ascents. Select a fatter rope if you will be top-roping, taking repeated falls on lead, or climbing in severe conditions.
Step 3
Choose an appropriate climbing rope length --- 50 meters, 60 meters, and 70 meters are standard --- for your rock-climbing purposes. Base your choice on the typical lengths of the routes or pitches in the climbing areas you frequent.
Step 4
Select a dry-treated climbing rope if you anticipate using the rope in wet or damp conditions, or if you simply want your rope to last longer, as observed in the article "Climbing Ropes" on
Step 5
Put on your climbing harness and test the climbing rope with your belay device and locking carabiner. Pay attention to how the rope feeds through the belay device and how easily it handles.

Tips & Warnings

For most rock climbers, a rope with a diameter between 9.8 mm and 10.2 mm suffices as an all-around climbing rope, as noted in the article "How to Choose a Climbing Rope," on
Dry treatment helps prevent a climbing rope from becoming saturated with water. A wet rope is heavier, harder to handle, and significantly weaker than a dry-treated climbing rope.
Ropes of a lighter color will fade faster and show dirt more noticeably than ropes of a darker color.
Do not attempt to use a rock-climbing rope without receiving proper safety training first. Rock climbing is an inherently dangerous activity that can result in serious injury or death even with proper safety training.
Do not purchase a static rope for rock climbing.
Climbing ropes with diameters smaller than 9.8 mm can prove more difficult to handle and control for belayers. They are also not approved for standard usage with certain belay devices.

Article Written By Alli Rainey

A professional writer since 1997, Harvard graduate Alli Rainey has written several books, including "Wyoming: An Explorer's Guide." Her articles have appeared in "Climbing Magazine," "Rock & Ice," and "Men's Fitness," among many others.

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