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Acme Climbing - Choosing The Right Climbing Rope

The right rope for the job:
The first consideration when selecting a rope is matching the intended activity to the correct rope diameter and stretch. Most people will be looking for a rope to match the following activities: rappelling, toproping, sport climbing, alpine rock climbing, mountaineering, or ice climbing. If your intended activity falls outside of these categories and you don't know what you need give us a call and we will help you with the selection. Next we will discuss the different types, diameters, and treatments.

Single Ropes:
Climbing ropes that have a diameter of 11 mm all the way down to 9.1 mm are considered single ropes. There is one exception to this rule which is the new Serenity rope from Mammut which has a diameter of 8.9 mm. These are the ropes to use for toproping, rappelling, sport climbing, big wall climbing, and some people will choose this type of rope for multi-pitch trad climbing, mountaineering, and ice climbing but much less than double or twin rope set ups.

Topropers and rappellers will want to choose a rope in the diameter range 11 mm down to 10.2 mm. The most common will be 10.5 mm, 10.3 mm, and 10.2 mm. These beefier ropes are more durable and offer more friction when running through carabiners and belay/rappel devices. This means the user will have a rope that will last longer and and they will be able to control the rate of descent better when rappelling or lowering someone off of a climb. If the rope is to be used for nothing but toproping and rappelling then a static rope (also called "e;low elongation"e;) is a fine choice, although you can't go wrong with a dynamic rope, and if there are any plans to lead climb then the dynamic is the only choice.Check out our rope selection

Sport climbers will want to select a rope from the 10.5 mm down to 9.4 mm. The skinnier ropes have two advantages. First, because of the smaller diameter the climber gets less rope drag when pulling up to clip a draw. Second, the lighter weight means that the climber will have to exert less energy pulling the rope up to the clip. Both of these characteristics are important because if he/she is at a crucial clip just about anything could make the person fall. The main disadvantage to the skinny rope is the reduced friction which is mainly going to affect a newer climber who is not completely comfortable with lowering or rappelling.

Big wall climbers will go with ropes from 11 mm down to 10.5 mm for the majority of their climbs. These ropes can take the abuse of pitch after pitch aid climbing and "e;jugging"e; up the rope with ascenders.

Multi-pitch trad climbers and ice climbers will usually choose a double or twin set up, but not always. When they do select a single rope for their lead climbing they will pack along an equal length of 7-8 mm static cord (also called a "e;tag line"e;) so that they tie the two together and get longer rappells.

Mountaineers will normally choose skinnier ropes, but this can also depend on the type of routes they climb. Mountaineers who mainly pursue the classic glacier routes (also called "e;walk up routes"e;) will need a shorter rope, around 100 feet, of 8-9 mm. These diameters are sufficient for catching a team member's fall into a crevasse and because weight is a premium they don't want to carry any more rope than they need. Mountaineers who pursue steeper routes like headwalls, couloirs, and even ice mixed with rock will sometimes go with a single rope set up and carry a tag line to double up with the rope for rappels. Most often however, these climbers will choose a double or twin rope set up as they can use one of the ropes for any glacier travel then use both strands when it gets vertical. Check out our rope selection

Double Ropes
Double climbing ropes refer to dynamic cords that run from 9 mm down to 8 mm. Some 8 mm ropes will be designated as twins and some will be doubles, make sure and check the specs from that manufacturer. Double ropes are also sometimes referred to as half ropes, these are the same thing just different terms and should not be confused with a glacier rope wich is also sometimes called a short rope. Due to the impact force that double ropes have to be climbed with using "e;double"e; rope technique, which is basically where the climber is tied into both ropes and the belayer runs both strands through the belay device. Then when the leader is making his/her way up they clip alternate pieces of protection with each strand. This works great for routes that go all over the place as you can set it up so there is less rope drag and your falls can be fairly equalized. The down side to this technique is mainly that it requires better and more organized rope handling for the belayer. Double rope set ups are primarily used by alpine rock climbers, and ice climbers. This set up is perfect for them because they have two ropes to rappell on and if one rope gets damaged during the climb they can finish or rap on the other as an emergency situation.
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Twin Ropes
Twin climbing ropes run 8 mm down to 7.4 mm and as stated above some 8 mm ropes will be designated as twins and some as doubles depending on the manfacturer. Twin set ups are tied with both strands into the climber's harness and the belayer runs both ropes through their belay device. "e;Twin"e; rope technique differs from "e;double"e; rope technique in that the climber clips both strands into every piece of protection placed more like a single rope. This has the advantage of simpler rope handling and organization duties for the belayer and is also a little more straight forward for the lead climber. As with double rope set ups, twins are usually used by alpine rock climbers, ice climbers and carry the same advantages as stated above in the double rope section pertaining to rappelling and emergency situations.
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Fall Ratings
The fall rating stated on a rope refers to how many factor 1 falls that rope can take before it should be retired. Keep in mind that a factor 1 fall is a fall where the distance fallen is equal to the distance from the belay device to the carabiner fallen on. These types of falls are fairly uncommon and usually happen in the first part of the pitch when not very much rope is out. Also, be aware that when reading the fall rating for a double or twin rope the fall rating stated does not refer to each single strand but instead refers the fall rating of both ropes when climbed in their intended technique.

Dry Vs Standard
A lot of attention is given to the importance of a dry rope versus a standard non-treated rope. Dry or waterproof treatments come in two flavors, one type only treats the outer sheath portion of the rope while the other treats the sheath and the core. If you know you need a dry rope for ice climbing, mountaineering, or alpine rock climbing make sure that the rope is dry treated on the sheath and on the core as the sheath coating can wear off relatively fast leaving the core to soak up water like a sponge. For toproping, rapelling, and sport climbing a dry rope is far less necessary and paying tons of extra money for one could be a waste. However, if you can find a dry rope for close to the same price then it can be good because the treatment does to some extent lengthen the life of the rope. Because it makes the sheath more slippery and tight it keeps a certain amount of dirt out of the rope. Dirt molecules are primarily silica based which is basically glass, these sharp molecules abrade and cut the micro strands of the rope over time making it fuzzy and wearing it out faster.

Dos And Don'ts
There are several important things you should and should not do with your rope. One of the most important things to do with your rope is keep it clean. The biggest and best way to do this is to keep it out of the dirt and on a tarp when climbing at a crag. There are many choices for rope bags with tarps and they work great because the bag also gives a place to store the rope when it's not being used that will keep any sun light off of it. If you don't want to pay the price for a rope bag/tarp then go to the local hardware store and buy a cheap blue tarp. Another thing avoid is walking on the rope as this grinds dirt molecules into the sheath, shortening it's life span. When setting up a top rope try to hang the anchor in such a way that the rope isn't forced to run over any sharp edges as this can abrade a rope very badly. Always store your rope somewhere dark and cool, and never leave it in the direct sunlight for extended periods of time. If the rope becomes very dirty and you want to wash it, the best way is to put it in a large mesh bag and wash in a front loader with a very mild detergent then hang it out of direct sunlight to dry. The manufacturer's recommended life span for ropes usually runs 6 to 7 years. Many climbers will replace their ropes more often than this due to wear and tear.
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