How to Care for Mountain Climbing Rope

How to Care for Mountain Climbing Rope
Climbers that wind their rope carelessly before chucking it in the dust are doing more than saving a moment of time. They are putting their lives at risk. Like your climbing shoes, you should treat your climbing rope as a delicate tool. Dirt, excess sunlight and harsh treatment will shorten the life of your rope and could cause it to fail when you least expect it. On the contrast, a rope that is kept clean and is well cared for can last up to four years.


Difficulty: Moderate

Winding and Unwinding Your Rope

Things You’ll Need:
  • Climbing rope
  • Rope bag
  • Rope tarp
  • Nondetergent soap
Step 1
Uncoil a new rope by having someone hold the spool while you pull the rope out and randomly pile it on a clean surface. Do not twist or bend the rope.
Step 2
Coil the rope using a backpack or butterfly coil to prevent kinking. Start by doubling the climbing rope. Take one end of the rope in one hand, and go back and forth across your hand or the back of your neck to stack the remaining rope.
Step 3
Store your uncoiled climbing rope in a rope bag for convenient storage and protection. If you are not using a rope bag, hang your climbing rope on a dowel. Do not allow your rope to be exposed to sunlight for days on end because the UV rays can reduce its strength.

In the Field

Step 1
Inspect your rope by running the length through your hands. Check for cuts, fraying and damage to the sheathing. The rope should feel solid underneath the sheathing; a mushy spot could indicate damage.
Step 2
Lay your rope on a rope tarp while climbing to protect it from dirt or other debris that could weaken its integrity. Do not step on the rope or allow it to come into contact with acids, bleach or other chemicals.
Step 3
Use caution when climbing with crampons and ice axes to keep the rope from becoming harmed.
Step 4
Treat your rope prudently. Never loan your rope to another climber or use jerking or yanking motions when rappelling or belaying.
Step 5
Keep track of how long your rope has been in service, and any falls on it. In general, a climbing rope that is used infrequently can last four to five years. If you take your rope out every weekend, it will last two to three years. According to REI, heavy climbers who experience lots of falls should replace their rope in three to six months. Retire your rope immediately if it catches a large fall; when a rope stretches significantly to catch this weight, it becomes stretched and weakened.

Washing Your Rope

Step 1
Place the rope in a mesh bag that is large enough to allow all segments to get wet.
Step 2
Put the rope and bag in a bathtub. Add cold water and a nondetergent soap.
Step 3
Wash the rope by hand and rinse.
Step 4
Remove the rope from the bag and lay it out or hang it to dry. Keep it out of the sunlight, and be careful not to twist sections of rope while uncoiling.

Tips & Warnings

Never use your climbing rope for any other purpose besides climbing.

Article Written By Sarah Shelton

Based in Oregon, Sarah Shelton has worked as a freelance writer since 2008. She enjoys covering travel, home and garden, and automotive topics. Her articles have appeared nationwide with Internet Broadcasting, Adventure Travel and Real Estate Experts. With a major in biology, Shelton received her Bachelor of Science from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

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