Rope work and rope care for sport climbing
Look after your rope
If you're betting your life on it, you need to know your rope is in good condition. Sand and dust grains can work their way into the rope and will increase wear, and when they lie on the rope's surface it much reduces the handling quality. Use a rope bag or mat to keep the rope out of the dirt.
Run the rope through your hand before climbing. To cure a rope that keeps twisting and kinking, pull the whole length through the belay or better still, drag it fully stretched out through a grassy field.
When belaying, it helps if you lie out the rope in loops on the rope bag.
As a belayer, ensure you can pay out the rope smoothly. The leader will not appreciate a tangle in the rope or a snag around a rock at a critical clip. It helps if you lie out the rope in loops on the rope bag.
Care of both rope and quickdraws is directly linked. The soft metal of karabiners is quickly worn and burred by bolt edges (particularly the Petzl-style hangers). Ensure each quickdraw has a 'rope end' and a 'bolt end'. A fall onto a badly burred karabiner will dramatically increase rope wear. A bent gate on the 'rope end' prevents confusion and makes clipping slightly easier.
Tip from a rope manufacturer
- New ropes should be hung on (eg. by lowering off or top roping) a few times to 'bed in' first.
- Dogging (ie hanging on a rope and working a route) and falling on a brand new rope will reduce the overall life span.
- Ropes don't last forever but they rarely become dangerous. Sport climbers who fall off a lot will note that the last four or five metres are by far the most worn. Check your ropes regularly and if they are worn, simply cut off the worn section and seal the frayed end with a lighter and some tape.
Steve is a professional climber and coach with a lifetime's experience under his belt. He is undoubtedly one of the best rock climbers in the world and has pioneered the hardest climbs in the UK including 'Overshadow' (9a+) and 'Mutation'. His climbing takes him around the world and, when back in the UK, is available for coaching - see his website
for more details.
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