All you need to know about climbing ropes!

Want to be autonomous on the crag? A good climbing rope is essential for your safety! Double, single or twin? 30, 50 or 70 meters? 8, 9 or 10 mm diameter? In this guide, you'll find all the information you need to understand and choose the right climbing rope.
We'll take a look at..:

- What is a climbing rope?
- The different types of rope
- Technical data
- Coatings
- Which rope for which activity?
- How to maintain your rope


  • What is a climbing rope like?

A rope is made up of two parts: the sheath (often colored), made of woven synthetic fibers, and the core (white), made of braided fibers. The threads are made of polyamide for greater durability and rot-proofing.

The core gives the rope its mechanical characteristics: elasticity, strength and flexibility. The sheath protects the core from external elements (friction, dust, water, abrasion).

Some hyper-static aramid or dyneema ropes can be used for rescue, abseiling or caving. But these ultra-light and resistant ropes should not be used for roping, cliff climbing or any other situation requiring dynamic properties.

  • The different types of rope

Dynamic ropes:

With their low impact force and unique, innovative technologies, dynamic ropes absorb energy in the event of a fall, thanks to their elastic properties, enabling them to be used for most vertical activities: climbing, mountaineering, canyoning, both indoors and outdoors, ensuring your safety.
There are different types of dynamic rope for different uses: single, double, twin or multi-standard.


Single ropes: The sport par excellence!

Recognized by the symbol ① , it is used for one-length routes (in rind) on cliffs or indoors, it is used with a single strand. It can also be used on long routes when there's little draft and if you're descending on foot (no abseiling). There are 70m and 80m lengths, but there are also 40m lengths for gyms and 100m for 50m routes (particularly in the Tarn gorges)!
Single ropes can have diameters ranging from 9 to 10.5mm and weights from 55 to 70 g/m, making them rather heavy but robust and durable over time. Choose a diameter of less than 10mm to avoid having a rope that's too heavy.
Double rope: Aim higher!

Recognized by the symbol, this rope is used for climbing several pitches (known as "long routes"). The double rope allows you to climb two strands of different colors, and "abseil" down the same pitches as those climbed. Much thinner and lighter, it has a diameter of between 8 and 9 mm and weighs between 40 and 50 g/m per strand. This type of rope also allows you to limit the pull on the ascent, as the two strands are clipped alternately to the quickdraws, making it possible to belay two rope mates.

This type of rope is used for long routes, but also for mountaineering and ice climbing.
Previously, there were twin climbing ropes with the symbol . These require both strands to be tied in without dissociation, and must always be clipped together. They can still be used today for roping up on glaciers or as handrails when hiking.
Multi-standard ropes: Three in one!

This rope combines the three approvals: single, double and twin! It can therefore be used for both pitches and abseils, the aim being to have a rope that is thin and light for absorbing a fall on a double rope, but also sturdy for single use. However, this type of rope should only be used by experienced climbers, as belaying on a single strand is more difficult to control than on a single rope. It will also be more fragile and less resistant than a single rope. However, it is still a good choice for ridge running and snow couloirs, and can be used in conjunction with abseiling rope for descents.

Semi-static and static ropes:

This type of rope is not suitable for climbing. As the name suggests, they have no elasticity, so to avoid hip fractures, no climbing with semi-static or static ropes!
Some disciplines, such as caving, canyoning or working at height on ropes, require rigidity to avoid the yo-yo effect (when abseiling or ascending on ropes).
Recognizable by its white color, its elasticity is between 2 and 5% (in comparison, a dynamic rope is around 28-35%).

  • Technical data

Fall factor

The fall factor corresponds to the length of fall in relation to the length of rope available. In climbing, the hardness of a fall does not depend on height, since the longer the rope, the greater its absorption capacity.

In both cases, the fall height is identical, but depending on the length of rope available, it will be more severe in case 2, because the rope's absorption capacity is lower than in case 1.
However, this fall factor remains theoretical, and does not take into account the pull on the rope caused by quickdraws, rocks and belay systems, which prevent the rope from absorbing the entire fall. This is referred to as the real fall factor. When climbing, limit the rope's pull as much as possible. On long routes, it's advisable to use a belay point at the belay station.
You're much less likely to take a 20m lead than to zip to the second. Also, remember to cut off the ends of your rope once it has been damaged, as these areas are the most stressed during falls.
On each rope you'll see the maximum number of falls for a rope, which corresponds to falls of a factor close to 2.

Impact force

When climbers fall, they store kinetic energy, most of which is absorbed by the rope thanks to its elasticity. This part of the energy absorbed by the rope is called the shock force. This force is also absorbed by the belay system, the quickdraw and the climber himself, which means that the less force the climber has to absorb, the less violent the impact of the fall will be.

The elements taken into account to calculate the impact force are:

- m is the climber's mass in kg,
- G is the acceleration of gravity = 9.81m/s,
- h is the height of the fall in meters,
- v is the speed in m/s.

This gives us the following formula: Impact force = Mg (1+√(1+2Ks/Mg fc))
Imbuvable, isn't it? Especially as this formula doesn't take into account a number of variables:

  • The climber's body, which also absorbs energy
  • The harness
  • The roping knot
  • belay points
  • Rope friction
  • The actual fall factor...
The impact force of a rope is noted on its instructions, and must be as low as possible to limit the stress on the belay points and ensure the climber's comfort on impact. Moreover, the fall factor is only one component of the impact force, but has the same repercussions for the latter. We must therefore be vigilant and limit the pull as much as possible.


Standard 892

All ropes are lab-tested against a given shock force (generally 12kN), in accordance with the EN 892 standard. This means that your rope is capable of withstanding a force equal to the weight of a 1.2-ton object. For double ropes, the impact force must be less than or equal to 8kN.

Please note that, depending on the activity, the type of rope is not the same and the maximum shock force authorized by the standard is different.

Each climbing rope can absorb a maximum number of falls, and these values are indicated on the rope. So remember to have your rope checked when this number is reached. However, this value corresponds to lab conditions (repeated falls without giving the rope time to fully retract).
According to EN 892, here is the number of falls each type of rope must withstand for a fall factor of 1.77 and a mass of 80 kg (55kg for double ropes on 1 strand) with an elongation at the first fall of less than 40%:
  • Single strand: 5 falls,
  • Double strings: 5 falls,
  • Twin strings: 12 falls.
  • Rope treatments
In addition to its mechanical characteristics, a climbing rope can be chemically treated to enhance its performance. These include water-repellent, anti-abrasion, marking or welded sheath and core treatments...
Untreated rope can absorb up to 50% water. This makes it heavier, and its ability to withstand a fall is reduced by around 10%. If you add cold to the water, the rope can freeze and become much less resistant and difficult to handle.

Sheath wire treatment before manufacture

  • Mammut: Dry
  • Petzl: Duratec Dry
  • Beal: Dry cover

Increases the rope's resistance to friction and dust. Rope absorbs less than 15% moisture

Hydrophobic chemical treatment of core wire and sheath before manufacture.

  • Edelrid: Pro Dry, Eco Dry
  • Petzl: Guide UIAA Dry
  • Tendon: Complet Shield, Eco Shield
  • Mammut: UIAA Dry
  • Beal: Golden Dry

Waterproofs core and sheath threads by polymerization, making the rope more durable against water and dirt. Will not freeze and absorbs less than 3% of moisture.


Some ropes feature a bonding process between the core and sheath to prevent movement of the core in the sheath (also known as the "sock" effect). This finish also makes the rope more durable (less swelling, less risk of bursting at the end of the rope).
  • Petzl: UltraSonic Finish: the core and sheath are joined at their ends, thanks to an ultrasonic finish called UltraSonic Finish.
  • Tendon: Patented TeFIX® technology permanently binds the sheath to the core.
  • Beal: Unicore® technology

  • Which rope for which practice?

Indoor climbing

  • Single ① rope,
  • Length: route height x2 (between 40 and 50m, or even more in larger climbing gyms).
  • Rope diameter: around 10mm, (prefer a sturdy rope for wear and tear in top-roping).
  • Untreated or sheath-treated



Sport climbing

  • Single rope ① ,
  • Rope length: between 70 and 80m (can go up to 100m)
  • Rope diameter: between 9mm and 10.5, thinner for experienced climbers
  • Recommended sheath treatment



Long routes and mixed mountaineering

  • Double or multi-strand rope

  • Rope length: 50 to 60m

  • Diameter: between 7.1 and 9mm; the thinner the rope, the lighter it will be, but the faster it will wear out!

  • Treatment: Sheathing recommended, core + sheathing for greater comfort and durability.


Ice climbing

  • Double or multi-strand rope
  • Rope length: 60m
  • Rope diameter: between 8 and 9mm
  • Core treatment + hydrophobic sheath highly recommended



Hiking, via ferrata, glacier roping

  • Single, double, twin or multi-strand rope
  • Length: depends on the number of people to be roped 50m for 3 or 4 people
  • Diameter: fairly thin for less weight
  • Treatment: hydrophobic recommended for glacier trekking

corde-mammut-95-crag-dry-rope-blue-ocean corde-triple-normes-edelrid-swift-48-pro



  • How to care for your rope

To increase the lifespan of your rope it's imperative to take care of it to avoid deterioration due to time and the elements.

Check your rope:
Before each use, remember to check your rope by sliding it along its entire length between your hands to detect any cuts, nicks or irregularities. If the core is visible in certain places, or the rope is deformed or has suffered too many falls, it's best to reform it. If in doubt, have your rope checked by a specialist or directly by the manufacturer.

Rope maintenance :
If you take your rope out on the crag in a dusty, dirty area, remember to clean it by hand with lukewarm water and mild soap (Marseille soap). For drying, leave your loose rope in the shade in a cool, dry place. Be careful not to leave it in the sun, and don't wring it out!

Storage :
Once clean, store it in a rope bag in a dark place (UV rays degrade nylon fibers), away from all humidity!


The lifespan of a climbing rope varies according to the manufacturer, but averages around 10 years. Obviously, this figure should be treated with caution, as nothing beats a visual inspection of the rope. Moreover, this value decreases with the number of falls the rope undergoes during use.

There are recycling solutions for ropes that are too old and worn out. Contact specialized stores or brands such as Edelrid or Mammut to find out more!