Can you go rock climbing without any form of climbing ropes? Yes. Do we suggest it? No. There are few climbers in the world who don’t use a rope and unless you are a master of the bouldering craft, no climber should leave home without one.
Climbing ropes are made from thick nylon yarn, sheathed in colourful nylon fibres. They are designed to withstand the immense shock of a climber falling without breaking. Climbing ropes generally fit into two different categories, ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’.
Static climbing ropes don’t stretch and are only to be used with controlled descents, such as when abseiling. If you were to fall with a static rope, the rope would either break immediately when the line reaches maximum tension, or you come to an immediate impactful stop.
Dynamic ropes are far more common for climbers due to their ability to stretch under heavy loads. When a fall occurs using a dynamic rope, the rope will extend slightly under tension, cushioning the climber from the drop. Dynamic climbing ropes come in four different variants, single, half, twin and triple.
Single climbing ropes are mostly used in sport climbing where the path is simple and straightforward or solo indoor rock climbing. They are usually thicker than the other types of rope since there is only one of them.
Half climbing ropes are two thinner ropes that are able to be spread across multiple points on a climb. They are used when taking a winding path up the pitch, where each rope is anchored at alternating draws. Most mountain climbers use a half rope as they are very flexible in use.
Twin climbing ropes are two thick ropes that go into a single draw. They work similar to a single rope. They are great for ‘riskier’ climbs where the added security of a backup rope or extra stopping power is needed.
Triple rated climbing ropes are unique, as they can be used as any other type of climbing rope. A second triple rated rope is needed, however, to be used as a half or twin rope. These ropes are extremely versatile but have the high price tag to match.
Other aspects to contemplate when buying a climbing rope includes thickness, as thicker ropes are stronger and more durable, while thinner ropes weigh less. Ropes can also have two different coatings, dry or non-dry. Dry ropes are better for outdoor environments where the rope could get wet, while non-dry ropes should only be used indoors where there is minimal moisture.
Be sure to check a number of rated falls a rope is designed for before choosing your next climbing rope too. Most ropes have a lifespan of around a year when used constantly by professional climbers.