Don’t hit the slopes yet without essential mountain climbing gear from EMS. Check out our great selection of ropes and webbing for all your ascending and descending needs. MORE
Slings & Daisy Chains
Hold fast to those rocks with quality-tested slings and daisy chains from EMS. Our great selection of performance mountain climbing gear includes these essential products and much more.MORE
Etriers & Mountain Climbing Gear
Scale that big wall one step at a time with performance etriers from EMS. Our selection of mountain climbing gear and etriers will make your next mountaineering adventure fun and hassle-free. BACK
How to Choose Climbing Ropes
When you start climbing, you may surprised by the large selection of rope. We carry rope for rock, ice, caves, rescue, and more. To help you buy climbing rope, here is expert advice from Charlie Townsend, manager of the EMS Climbing School.
Dynamic Climbing Ropes vs. Static Climbing Ropes?
If you're going climbing, always choose dynamic rope. You'll need the built-in stretch to soften your landing if you fall off. (Static ropes are for hauling loads, doing rescue work, pulling cars from ditches, etc. They stretch as little as possible; if you used one for climbing and then fell, you could snap like a twig.)
One Climbing Rope or Two?
Dynamic ropes are available in three types: single, half, and twin. If you're starting out, you'll want a "single" rope: that means you will be tying one rope between the climber and the belayer, not two. Half ropes and twin ropes have very specialized uses, and are often inappropriate for standard climbing and toproping.
Climbing Rope Diameter
Ok, so you're looking at the dynamic single ropes...what diameter should you choose? The skinnier the rope, the less durable and forgiving it is likely to be. Therefore, your first rope for toproping and early leads should be pretty beefy;say, something in the 10.4mm to 11mm range. It will put up with a lot of abuse, resist cutting over an edge, and probably last longer overall.
Climbing Rope Length
Ask around at your local crag will 50 meters do the trick? More often, you'll want 60 meters, as that has become the standard in most areas. Also, you can cut a worn bit off the end of a 60 meter rope and still have a decent length for most routes. Seventy meters is more rope than most of us need.
Climbing Rope Weight
Rope weight is given in "grams/meter." Since this is primarily a function of the rope's diameter, there is little reason to agonize over it. When toproping, you're not dragging the rope behind you anyway, so who cares if it weighs a bit more? And even leading, it's probably not the weight of the rope that's keeping you from cruising through the crux. It's something else.
The UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme) serves as the industry watchdog to ensure that ropes given their seal have satisfied the technical criteria determined as appropriate. That means that the elongation percentages, the sheath slippage, and the impact force are all in line with the UIAA's requirements. You should read up on all that stuff, but in the meantime, look for the UIAA label.
The UIAA Fall Rating is a good gauge for comparing similar ropes. In their testing, the UIAA simulates a sort of "worst-case scenario" by tying an 80kg weight to the sample rope and dropping it repeatedly over a carabiner-sized bar until the rope fails. The falls they simulate are unlike the falls you might experience, but the number is still useful for comparison: the higher the "falls held" number, the more durable the rope is likely to be.
Dry vs. Standard Climbing Rope
Most rope manufacturers offer some sort of "dry" treatment for their ropes. It is applied during or after the weaving process to discourage the rope from absorbing water like a sponge. If you get caught in the rain, a dry-treated rope will weigh less than a standard one. In the winter, that's a big deal, since a wet rope becomes a frozen rope pretty fast. Also, the dry treatment adds a bit of longevity to the rope, as well as allowing it to snake through carabiners with a bit less drag.
Climbing Rope Color
Rope color is a consideration for a few reasons. You don't want a rope that's the same color as your partner's, "No, I meant the OTHER green rope!" If you take photos, think about what will look good against the rock, or which colors are just plain ugly. Also, consider ropes that change color or pattern halfway through; you can find the middle faster for rappels, and keep from getting the ends mixed up.
Climbing Rope Price
It's pretty hard to find a real lousy rope, as the UIAA wouldn't approve it, and we wouldn't sell it. So, once you are comfortable with the various choices outlined above, go with whichever rope offers you the right specs for a reasonable price. With experience, you might develop preferences related to subjective concerns like "feel" and "handling," but in the meantime, choose the right rope for the job, take good care of it, and learn about when to retire it.