Rope is the most recognizable symbol of climbing and represents the trust climbing partners must have in one another. In the early days of climbing, ropes were mostly made of natural fibers. During World War II, nylon ropes were invented, which changed how climbers use ropes. Different varieties of climbing rope are designed for different types of climbing.
Dynamic ropes are made of nylon and are the standard for climbing ropes. A dynamic rope has a certain amount of stretch to it so that if a climber should take a fall, the rope will reduce the force of the fall by stretching with the person for a bit instead of bringing them to an abrupt and painful halt. Today, dynamic ropes are made in a kernmantle construction, meaning a core of braided or parallel nylon filaments are encased in the smooth outer sheath of colorful woven nylon.
Kernmantle ropes are the only ones approved by the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme). Dynamic ropes come in common diameters of 8mm to 11mm. Ropes measuring 8mm and 9mm are usually used as part of a twin rope system in rock or ice climbing. Standard length is 50 meters, or 165 feet with a stretch of eight or seven percent.
Water-repellent ropes, also called dry ropes, are dynamic ropes that have been treated with a water-repellent finish. Usually this is made of a silicone-based coating or synthetic Teflon-like coating. These treatments help the ropes to stay dry in wet conditions and improve the abrasion resistance of ropes. According to "Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills," wet ropes hold fewer falls and have about 30 percent less strength than a rope that is dry. Dry ropes are of course more expensive to buy than regular climbing ropes.
Some forms of static ropes are used in climbing but never for climbing itself. Static ropes should never be used as the rope to hold a lead climber's fall. Static ropes do not stretch and cause injury and anchor failure on a fall of only a few feet. These ropes can be used for fixed lines on expedition climbs or as haul lines for aid climbing, as well as for caving and rescue lines.
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.