Climbing ropes

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How to choose the right climbing or mountaineering rope?

If you think all climbing ropes are the same, you'll be surprised at just how diverse the range is. To help you choose the climbing or mountaineering rope that's right for you, follow this guide.

What are the different types of rope?

There are three types of climbing rope:
  1. Single rope: This is a rope with a single strand. It can have a very fine diameter, ranging from 8.9 mm to 10.5 mm. It is recommended for indoor climbing or "couenne" (sport routes). The thinner the rope, the more suitable it is for experienced climbers.
  2. Double rope: This consists of two strands of rope of different colors, which can be used alternately to reduce the draft, or for an ascent in arrow form, i.e. with a leader and two seconds distributed over the strands. If one strand breaks, the other takes over. A double rope is recommended for mountain climbing or long routes, as it enables abseiling. It's also the type of rope recommended for mountaineering in glacial environments, where the rope can be attached to the anchor point on one strand to limit the impact force.
  3. Twin rope: Like the double rope, it is made up of two strands, but the two parts must always be attached together at the carabiners. It is mainly used for long routes, mountaineering and hiking.

Different technologies

Climbing ropes are manufactured in different ways. The oldest involves combining a core (the center of the rope strand) with a colored sheath. The core of the rope is made up of nylon filaments, while the sheath is made up of numerous tightly braided threads. The sheath plays an essential role in resistance to friction and wear.

The proportion of the core to the total diameter of the string determines its dynamic character. The larger the core, the more dynamic the string. On the other hand, the thicker the sheath, the more resistant the rope. However, it can happen that the sheath is severed when passing over a sharp edge, which can cause it to slide down the core and lead to a fall. Another observed phenomenon is the loosening of the sheath, which can become longer than the core, altering the rigidity of the rope strand. To remedy these problems, a number of technologies have been developed.

The first technology you may encounter when choosing your climbing or mountaineering rope is Unicore, developed by Beal. Unicore is the best-known and most widespread technology. It consists in joining the core and sheath, thus reinforcing their strength.

Another technology is Edelrid's Swift Protect Pro Dry, a single-dynamic rope with cut protection thanks to the high-strength aramid fibers integrated into the sheath during braiding.

The third technology you may come across when choosing a climbing or mountaineering rope is Millet's Triaxial technology. This provides ropes with a very practical flat-folding method, with no knots or tedious unfolding before the first use, and no strands afterwards.

The different criteria

Diameter

A climbing rope is considered thick when it exceeds 9 mm, whether single or double. If you're new to climbing, it's advisable to choose a rope in this category, as they are both resistant and offer good braking thanks to good support by the belay devices. However, they tend to be heavier. As a result, once you reach an intermediate level, you'll quickly feel the need to switch to thinner ropes, especially for long routes where overly heavy equipment can become a handicap. Don't forget to check that your rope diameter is compatible with your belay device.


Rope length

Your choice of rope length will depend on your climbing style and location. For sport climbing on cliffs, a rope length of 70 to 80 meters is recommended. However, if you're climbing in a climbing gym or on smaller crags, you don't need to bother with such a long rope - a 50 or even 40-metre rope will suffice.

As far as double ropes are concerned, the classic length is 50 meters, although 60-meter models can offer certain advantages. For example, they enable worn rope ends to be cut off, while retaining a sufficiently long length for rock climbing or long routes.

So it's important to choose the right rope length for your specific climbing practice and the types of routes you plan to climb.

Weight

When you practice in a climbing gym, the weight of your equipment is not a crucial factor to take into account. However, for mountaineering and long routes, it's best to choose a lightweight climbing rope, as every gram counts when you have to carry it over long distances. Single ropes generally weigh between 55 and 70 g/meter, while double ropes weigh around 40 to 50 g/meter per strand.

It is therefore advisable toopt for a lighter rope when planning mountain activities, where reducing the weight of your equipment can make it easier to move around and climb more efficiently.


Shock force

Measuring shock force is an indication of the amount of force that will be transmitted to the climber in the event of a fall. It is determined in the laboratory using a specific length of rope and a defined height. The lower the shock force figure, the more effectively the rope will absorb the energy of the fall. It's important to note that this measurement is primarily used to compare rope models within the same category. In reality, during a fall, the belayer and harness also contribute to dispersing the force of the shock, which reduces the impact felt by the climber.


Number of falls

Fall resistance, established in accordance with EN 892, indicates the number of falls by a factor of 2 that the rope can withstand. In simple terms, a single rope carrying a load of 80 kg on one strand must withstand 5 successive falls (fall factor 1.77). Twin ropes are tested with a load of 80 kg on two strands, and must withstand 12 successive falls. Double ropes are tested with a load of 55 kg on one rope strand, and must withstand at least 5 falls. In addition, for single and twin ropes, the maximum force experienced by the climber must not exceed 12 kN, while for double ropes, the limit is 8 kN.

Making the right choice for your climbing style:

Indoor climbing : For indoor climbing, we recommend using a single rope with a length equivalent to twice the height of the wall. In terms of diameter, opt for at least 10 mm and a reinforced sheath to withstand use in top-roping.

Outdoor sport climbing : For outdoor sport climbing, a single rope is generally used. A rope length of 70 to 80 meters is recommended. As for rope diameter, we recommend choosing between 9 mm and 10.2 mm, opting for a thinner rope if you are an experienced climber.

Long routes and rock climbing : For long routes and rock climbing, it's best to use a double rope. A rope length of 50 to 60 meters is recommended. When it comes to rope diameter, choose between 8 and 9 mm. Bear in mind that the thinner the rope, the lighter your equipment will be, but it will also be more delicate to use and less resistant.

Ice climbing : when practicing ice climbing, a double rope is also used. A rope length of 60 meters is recommended. As far as rope diameter is concerned, opt for a rope between 8 and 9 mm, with a hydrophobic treatment to cope with wet ice conditions.
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