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Climbing Rope Buying Guide

Thursday September 19, 2019

The foundation of the basic rock climbing belay system is the climbing rope, and while every climber (except for pebble wrestlers) will purchase at least one, shopping for them can be a bewildering task. There are so many manufacturers, with so many different models, including various lengths, diameters, weave patterns, and water repellent treatments — it can be hard to make sense of it all! Luckily we are here to help! Our comparative testing over the years has taught us a lot about those specific ropes, which we shared in our Climbing Rope Review. Here we'll dive deeper into some specific things to look for when selecting a climbing rope, and we'll break down the various terminologies used to help make your purchase that much easier.

The climbing rope selection at Desert Rock Sports in Las Vegas  NV. While this store has experts on hand to help you choose the right one for you  the array of choices is still overwhelming.
The climbing rope selection at Desert Rock Sports in Las Vegas, NV. While this store has experts on hand to help you choose the right one for you, the array of choices is still overwhelming.

Kernmantle Ropes


First created by Edelrid in the 1960s, the modern climbing rope consists of two layers: a strong inner core (kern) and a protective outer sheath (mantle). The strange word they create, kernmantle, basically translates to core-jacket. The core is composed of strands of nylon twisted together that provide a dynamic stretch when catching a fall. A tube of woven nylon fibers makes up the sheath that is designed to protect the core and resist abrasion. The two layers combine to produce a rope that is strong and durable, yet light and flexible. It is the proper balancing of these characteristics that produces the best climbing ropes.

String Theory: A kernmantle rope has two parts  the hollow tube of the sheath (green) and the twisted fibers of the core (white). At the bottom you can see how they are arranged in cross section.
String Theory: A kernmantle rope has two parts, the hollow tube of the sheath (green) and the twisted fibers of the core (white). At the bottom you can see how they are arranged in cross section.

Static vs. Dynamic


A rope is static if it does not stretch when subjected to a sudden load. These types of rope are popular in industrial uses, for caving and sailing, and occasionally for certain situations in rock climbing. Belayed climbing, however, necessitates the use of a dynamic rope that can stretch to provide a soft and safe catch. This rope needs to temporarily elongate under load to help reduce the force on the gear and participants during a fall, which it does by adding twists to the core fibers hidden within the sheath.

Static ropes may look or feel similar to dynamic ropes at first, but their uses are entirely different. Climbers will occasionally use static lines in situations where no stretch is desirable, such as fixing ropes or hauling heavy loads on big walls, but they should never be used for lead climbing. We only tested dynamic lines in this review, but all ropes are tested for their dynamic and static elongation, just to make things more confusing. If you're not sure if the model you are looking at is a static or dynamic line, see if the specs have a dynamic elongation rating. All UIAA certified dynamic ropes have to have it, and it's displayed prominently on the packaging.

The Three Types of Dynamic Ropes


Dynamic ropes for climbing can further be divided into three categories, each with their own strengths and intended uses: single, twin, and half.

Single Ropes

The single rope system is the simplest and most common type. Each rope is rated to hold multiple falls by itself. The leader only has to tie into one rope and clip that rope into each piece of protection. Also, the second only has to manage a single line and can use a convenient assisted braking belay device, like Petzl's popular GriGri. The deficiencies of this method are increased drag on wandering pitches, no redundancy, and the need for a second rope or tagline to complete long rappels.

Single ropes are the single most popular option for most rock climbers.
Single ropes are the single most popular option for most rock climbers.

Twin Ropes

The simplest of the two rope systems is called twin. In this system, the leader ties into two ropes and clips both ropes into every piece of protection while they climb a pitch, treating the two ropes as if they were a single one. Neither rope is designed to hold a fall alone, but with their combined strength they can catch multiple falls. These ropes are usually very skinny, making it the lightest double rope arrangement, while also providing redundancy, and the ability to rappel a full rope length. Twins, however, are the least popular rope system because of the inconvenience of clipping both ropes and durability problems with thin diameters.

Twin ropes are thin and lightweight  but are only designed to be used in tandem and must both be clipped into each piece of protection.
Twin ropes are thin and lightweight, but are only designed to be used in tandem and must both be clipped into each piece of protection.

Half Ropes

More complicated than the single or twin methods is the half rope system. Like twin ropes, the leader ties into two ropes, each of which is rated to hold a fall on its own. They are skinnier than single ropes, which means they are less durable and cannot sustain repeated hard falls. In practice, the leader will be tied into both ropes and will alternate clipping each piece of protection with one of the two ropes they're tied in to. This provides a backup; should the first rope fail, they can be caught on the second. This system is more challenging to learn and creates rope management hassles, but it can significantly decrease drag if the leader is strategic about which rope they clip into particular pieces. Additionally, it can save time for a party of three by allowing two followers to climb simultaneously.

At the crag the consensus rope choice has settled on singles. In the mountains the debate still continues. Long pitches  wandering terrain  suspect gear  and mandatory rappels strengthen the case for twin or half rope systems.
At the crag the consensus rope choice has settled on singles. In the mountains the debate still continues. Long pitches, wandering terrain, suspect gear, and mandatory rappels strengthen the case for twin or half rope systems.

Further complicating this landscape has been the introduction of climbing ropes that are approved for all three systems. These are usually skinny single ropes by manufacturers who are willing to go through the cost and hassle of having their ropes tested for all three categories by the UIAA. The Edelrid Swift Eco Dry, Beal Joker, Petzl Volta, and Sterling Fusion Nano IX are such examples that are included in this review. We think this versatility is more of a marketing device than a practical feature. One of the greatest advantages of twin and half rope systems is the weight savings. This is sacrificed when the ropes must also be strong and heavy enough to be certified as a single rope. Two rope systems are great for particular applications like a party of three or routes with sharp edges that require a redundant system. Keep in mind that it is unsafe to combine twin and half rope techniques on any one pitch because it can cross the ropes and potentially damage them in a fall. Since twin and half ropes are specialized and not widely used systems, we chose to test only single climbing ropes in our review.

Single Ropes Examined


Single ropes are by far the most popular system and the primary focus of our review. But they are not all created equal. When shopping for a single rope, there are several factors to consider.

Diameter and Weight


Many shoppers focus on diameter when looking for a climbing rope, selecting the skinniest size their fear tolerance and wallet can handle. Manufacturers have responded to this behavior and begun to market thinner and thinner single ropes. But this trend ignores the reason why most climbers prefer a skinny rope in the first place: lower weight. Sophisticated consumers may have noticed that while rope diameters have gotten significantly smaller over the last few years, weight has only marginally decreased. This is because companies are weaving the sheaths tighter and tighter to reduce the diameter, but are still using the same amount of material to preserve the strength and durability. So the weight stays the same, while production costs and retail prices go up.

It is easy to understand why this is happening. Diameter is easier to see or feel in your hands than weight. It is also the primary metric used to advertise and discuss ropes. Black Diamond has now gone as far as naming their new rope line solely by their diameters. But, at the top of a long, pumpy pitch, extra ounces become the difference between sending and falling, not the diameter. The same is true in the mountains, where carrying a heavy rope can sap your energy long before you even get to the climbing.

Testing out the new Black Diamond 9.9mm. No name  just the diameter. This is an effective naming system  as most climbers discuss ropes by their diameter anyways. It does overlook the other key associated feature  weight  though the "Black Diamond 64 g/m" doesn't have quite the same cachet.
Testing out the new Black Diamond 9.9mm. No name, just the diameter. This is an effective naming system, as most climbers discuss ropes by their diameter anyways. It does overlook the other key associated feature, weight, though the "Black Diamond 64 g/m" doesn't have quite the same cachet.

Additionally, there is no standardized way of measuring diameter. It is not uncommon for climbing ropes from different companies with identical advertised diameters to look and feel dramatically different. Some are measured under slight tension, others have a slight oval-shape, but the point is that diameter by itself is not a reliable way to differentiate ropes. It is far better to combine it with the weight to get a better understanding of a rope's construction and performance. Moving past that rant, you still need to buy a rope, and ropes are still marketed primarily by diameter. Here is an overview of how ropes can be roughly classified using this as a metric. Take weight into consideration after you decide which size category is right for you.

Thick Workhorse Ropes (9.8 — 10.2 mm or >60 g/m)

These are usually the most durable options and will most likely outlast the skinnier competition.

Ideal Uses: gyms, big walls/aid climbing, extended top-roping, locations with rough rock
Durable
Best value
Provide added friction in a belay device, so easier for newer climbers to handle
Heavy
Bulky
Sometimes too much friction
Ropes in our test that fall into this category are:
The heavier workhorse Edelweiss Curve Unicore Supereverdry will last longer than our tendons on this route.
The heavier workhorse Edelweiss Curve Unicore Supereverdry will last longer than our tendons on this route.

Medium All-Around Ropes (9.4 — 9.7 mm or 55-60 g/m)

Medium diameter ropes provide the most versatility and are also the most popular.

Ideal Uses: Sport or trad climbing, multi-pitch, top roping, ice climbing, etc.… anything!
Good balance between weight and durability
Better handling
Generally more expensive than Workhorse ropes
Ropes in our test that fall into this category are:
Medium all-around ropes  like the Mammut Infinity  are versatile lines for a variety of styles. They're good performers for harder sport routes  but not too heavy for long routes.
Medium all-around ropes, like the Mammut Infinity, are versatile lines for a variety of styles. They're good performers for harder sport routes, but not too heavy for long routes.

Skinny Sending Ropes (<9.4 mm or <55 g/m)

Skinnier ropes come with a high price tag and lower longevity, but are the lightest you can buy.

Ideal Uses: Alpine climbing, hard redpoints or onsight attempts, freeing big walls
Lowest weight and friction
Easier handling
Decreased durability
Care needed to catch falls
Maybe too thin for some belay devices — check!
Ropes in our test that fall into this category are:
  • Edelrid Swift Eco Dry 8.9mm — Top Pick
  • Sterling Fusion Nano IX 9.0 mm

The last pitch of Voyage of the Cow Dog at Smith Rock follows a cool steep panel up one of the most exposed ridgelines in the park. The Volta is one of our favorite ropes for multi-pitch excursions such as this one.
The last pitch of Voyage of the Cow Dog at Smith Rock follows a cool steep panel up one of the most exposed ridgelines in the park. The Volta is one of our favorite ropes for multi-pitch excursions such as this one.

Length


During the foundational years of climbing, a 50-meter rope was the standard. The weight of a rack then composed of oval carabiners and chrome-moly pitons limited the amount of protection that could be carried and, accordingly, the sensible length of each pitch. Modern lightweight gear has reduced this burden and allowed climbers to safely protect longer and longer pitches. For a while, 60-meter ropes became the norm. Today, these are still fairly common and can get you up and down lots of routes. But their popularity is beginning to wane as more route developers place anchors that require a 70-meter rope to lower to the ground. Furthermore, among strong sport climbers, and especially in the more famous climbing areas of Europe, longer routes are trendy, and 80, or even 100-meter ropes are gaining acceptance, and are in some cases necessary.

Our best advice to first-time shoppers is to ask your climbing partners what length is ideal for your area. Many climbing areas are not 35 meters tall, and so having a 70m rope would be overkill, and you can save money with a 60m. That said, plenty of crags, especially newer ones, are set up with a 70m rope in mind. If you like to travel to different climbing areas, we highly recommend buying a 70m rope, as it is always a bummer to not be able to do a prized pitch because your rope is too short. Also, consider the type of climbing and intended grades. Generally, difficult single-pitch cragging or bold multi-pitch linking will require a longer rope, while the easier grades or more patient parties can get by with a shorter cord. While we know some people who still buy 60m ropes due to the cost savings, we have been buying 70s for the last 10 years or so due to the added versatility of being able to lower off 99% of the sport pitches in the US, while also being able to link many more pitches on long free routes, all while using the same rope.

If you are climbing on somebody else's rope, be sure to ask them how long it is before venturing up any old sport pitch or splitter you may encounter. If you need a 70m rope but your buddy brought a 60, you risk getting lowered off the end of the rope if everyone isn't careful. Tie knots in the ends!

The length you need depends on your main climbing area. We tested all 60 m lines in Ten Sleep  WY  and never had an issue  but other locales have longer routes that require 70 m and up ropes.
The length you need depends on your main climbing area. We tested all 60 m lines in Ten Sleep, WY, and never had an issue, but other locales have longer routes that require 70 m and up ropes.

Middle Marks and Bi-Patterns


Another important factor affecting the price and functionality of climbing ropes is the marking of the middle. Easy identification of the middle allows you to quickly thread the rope before a single rope rappel or helps you measure whether you can safely lower a climber to the ground after a single pitch lead. There are a variety of middle marker options out there. The easiest to recognize is the bi-pattern, which will never fade! This is where each half of the rope has a contrasting pattern that is easy to visually differentiate. To make a bi-pattern rope, companies have to weave the separate patterns into one rope of the desired length, which takes time and increases the price.

A more affordable way for manufacturers to mark ropes is to do it after they have woven super long lengths of one continuous pattern. Individual ropes can be cut off of this uniform spool to the desired length. The middle of each rope is then colored in some way. We like the idea, but in practice, this mark is too often a 6" long, dull black smear that wears off quickly and is nearly impossible to see on a darkly colored or dirty rope. A few companies have recognized this nuisance and are now using longer-lasting methods with brighter colors. We applaud this.

Six different types of middle marks. From top to bottom: A factory bipattern  the rumble strip thread on the Mammut Sensor  faded factory middle mark  faded at-home marking pen  floss sewn through the sheath  and temporary chalk smears.
Six different types of middle marks. From top to bottom: A factory bipattern, the rumble strip thread on the Mammut Sensor, faded factory middle mark, faded at-home marking pen, floss sewn through the sheath, and temporary chalk smears.

If you ever need to mark a rope yourself, be it on a cheap unmarked rope, a worn away factory smear, or an asymmetrically shortened bi-pattern, there are several effective methods. A marking pen is one of the easiest, but use one designed specifically for ropes, not any old Sharpie, which may or may not damage nylon. This coloring will eventually wear away and need to be reapplied just like a factory middle mark. Some climbers foolishly use tape. This can jam in a belay device, or worse, slide away from the middle and dangerously change the mark. A more effective mechanical technique is to sew thread through the outer fibers of the sheath. Floss works well, although, this method can unsettle partners who haven't seen it done before.

These three ropes were purchased at the same time and used roughly the same amount  both at the crag and in the alpine. As you can see  the durability of the middle marker is seriously in question for two of the ropes  the Mammut Infinity (blue) and Revelation (orange)  while the middle marker remains nicely intact on the Petzl Volta (grey). This is a solid argument for why paying the extra money for a bi-patterned or duodess rope can be worth it  especially if you commonly alpine or multi-pitch climb and often need to rappel.
These three ropes were purchased at the same time and used roughly the same amount, both at the crag and in the alpine. As you can see, the durability of the middle marker is seriously in question for two of the ropes, the Mammut Infinity (blue) and Revelation (orange), while the middle marker remains nicely intact on the Petzl Volta (grey). This is a solid argument for why paying the extra money for a bi-patterned or duodess rope can be worth it, especially if you commonly alpine or multi-pitch climb and often need to rappel.

But what do you do on the top of a pinnacle after ignoring all these options when you realize you're facing ten rappels with an unmarked rope? The answer is simple, yet unknown to too many climbers: chalk. You will still have to measure the middle when threading the rope through the anchors the first time. Then mark the middle using a small pebble of the white stuff from your chalk bag. Use your fingers to really grind it in. Separate zebra stripes help make it obvious. Be sure to reapply at every other anchor or so because it will wear off. And, as you should anytime you're rappelling, always visually watch the ends of your rope and tie a knot in them.

Dry Treatments


According to the manufacturers, a wet climbing rope can lose a significant amount of dynamic strength, up to 30%. A thoroughly soaked rope also adds substantial weight. Therefore, it is definitely best to try to keep it away from water. Moisture, however, cannot always be avoided. Sudden rain showers, wet slimy seeps, or ice climbing in general, can all get your rope wet. To prevent it from absorbing moisture, a water-repellent coating can be applied to the fibers during the manufacturing process. Each company seems to have their own name for their proprietary treatment, but in our experience, they all perform about the same. A combined core and sheath coating is superior to a cheaper treatment of only a core or sheath.

Dry treating has further advantages beyond simply keeping a rope dry. These coatings also reduce friction—both on the surface and inside the fibers—which decreases rope drag and extends lifespan. Generally, a non-dry rope will be a little cheaper than the dry version. However, aside from exclusive use in the gym where dirt is limited, we feel the higher cost of a dry rope is justified by the performance benefits.

Dragging the rope through the melting snow on alpine glaciers is one way to really put their water repellency to the test. We found that Mammuts dual dry treatment  which impregnates both the sheath and core  works great  but wears off of the sheath fairly quickly after a few days of climbing on rough rock.
Dragging the rope through the melting snow on alpine glaciers is one way to really put their water repellency to the test. We found that Mammuts dual dry treatment, which impregnates both the sheath and core, works great, but wears off of the sheath fairly quickly after a few days of climbing on rough rock.

UIAA Specs


Any rope sold for climbing should be approved by the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) and include on the packaging the scores measured for each of the few required tests. While it may be tempting to geek out on these numbers, it is most important just to know that the rope is UIAA certified. We will try to explain the tests as best we can, but for a complete explanation see the actual UIAA Safety Standards.

UIAA Fall Rating


This test uses an 80 kg (176 lbs) weight attached to a 2.6-meter length of rope. The weight is repeatedly dropped from a height of 2.3 meters and takes a 4.6-meter fall, creating a harsh, 1.77-factor fall. The final fall rating is simply the total number of these falls a rope was able to catch before failing. These falls are extremely severe and unlikely to occur often, if at all, in a real-world setting. In fact, there has yet to be a confirmed case of a UIAA approved climbing rope failing from the force of a fall alone. Therefore, as long as a rope passes the UIAA minimum five fall requirement, we believe this number is of little importance. It certainly doesn't mean that you can only take 5 "regular" falls on your rope (less than one fall factor), and if you do take a "hard" fall (1.77 factor or greater), you'll want to consider retiring that rope regardless.

Some have argued that this number can indicate the overall lifespan of a rope; a higher number equating to more durability. While it would be convenient if this were true, in our experience ropes are more often retired from damage to the sheath (partial or full core shots), or declining handling, than from an actual reduction in strength. A good example of this contradiction is illustrated by the Sterling Fusion Nano IX (9 mm) and Sterling Marathon Pro (10.1 mm). Both withstood 6 UIAA falls, but the Marathon Pro's higher weight, diameter, and massive sheath makes it undeniably more durable. To summarize, we think the fall rating number is a good a measurement of core strength but does not tell you much about the most likely cause of retirement, the sheath.

Impact Force


Impact force is the amount of force exerted on the weight during the rating falls, in kilonewtons (kN). The lower the number, the lower the impact will be on you during your own falls. Additionally, a smaller impact force will also reduce the load on the top piece of gear. For clipping beefy bolts this is of little consequence, but it could be an important consideration with questionable gear or when ice climbing. In practice, though, the weight and actions of your belayer can have an even greater effect than the rope on whether a catch is "hard" or "soft."

While the stretchiness of this dynamic line will help dissipate the force of this whipper  so too will the actions of the belayer.
While the stretchiness of this dynamic line will help dissipate the force of this whipper, so too will the actions of the belayer.

Stretch


The elongation of a climbing rope is measured under two different circumstances. Static is the amount a hanging rope stretches when the 80 kg weight is added. Dynamic elongation is the length of stretch when the same 80 kg weight undergoes the first UIAA test fall. For the label, both are converted to a percentage, so a 60-meter rope with 7.5% static elongation will stretch 4.5 meters (~15 ft) under an 80 kg load. This is a good spec to look at when shopping for a rope specifically for top roping or one that you will be jumaring up. In those instances, the less static elongation, the better, as you will conserve time and energy by not having to fight the stretch when belaying or jugging. Dynamic elongation appears to be closely correlated with impact force, and the same considerations for marginal protection should apply. Additionally, the more dynamic elongation, the further you'll go in a fall, which is something to consider if you have a stretchy line and there's a potential for a ground fall or hitting a ledge.

If you're purchasing a line specifically for top roping  look for one with less static elongation (5-7.5%). It'll be easier on your arms  and safer for the climbers.
If you're purchasing a line specifically for top roping, look for one with less static elongation (5-7.5%). It'll be easier on your arms, and safer for the climbers.

Sheath Slippage


This UIAA test pulls 2-meter segments of rope through an apparatus that exerts pressure from multiple angles to measure the amount that the core and sheath stretch compared to each other. Sheath slippage can be an annoying real-world problem as the two parts separate during rappels, creating floppy, sheath-only ends that necessitate chopping. But we're not sure if this test is an effective way to measure it. All of the ropes tested received a 0 mm score except the BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro, which got 1 mm. We didn't experience any slippage during our testing period, but it can start to occur later in a rope's lifespan.

The Decision Making Process


While the information provided above should go a long ways toward helping you cull down the options when purchasing a rope, we also want to give you a quick run-down of the questions you might ask yourself before you buy, and what direction you should look depending on your answers.

Best Rope for My Needs? Or As Cheap As Possible?

If you want the best rope for your needs, then you don't need to limit yourself simply by shopping by price tag. This is the route we recommend for anyone who can afford it, but point out that even the most affordable ropes are safe and usable in nearly any situation, they simply have a some drawbacks. Generally speaking, the most affordable ropes have fatter diameters, 9.8mm and above. These ropes tend to last longer as well, which is why we call them workhorses, so you get even more value for your less expensive purchase. You can save money by buying a single pattern weave, and foregoing the dry treatment. You can also save some cash by buying a 60m instead of a 70m (don't be tempted to opt for a rope as short as 50m), and will likely be happy you have a shorter rope to lug around, so it isn't as heavy.

Is This My First Climbing Rope Purchase?

If this is your first climbing rope — congrats! And welcome! We recommend you buy one of the workhorse ropes listed above, for a variety of reasons. They are more affordable, which may be appreciated if you have lots of other climbing gear to buy. But they are also generally more durable, and since you haven't owned a rope before, you may not be an expert at preventing situations that will wear your rope out unduly quick. If you blow it and core shot your rope, at least you won't have spent the most you possibly can. Buy a rope bag! Finally, workhorse ropes are fatter, which means there is more friction inherent in every aspect of the system. For experienced climbers this can be exasperating, but for greenhorns it makes everything safer, especially belaying. Adding friction for safeties sake while learning the ropes is a very good idea!

Will This Be My Only Rope? Or Do I Have Many Ropes in Circulation?

If you only have one rope that you use at any given time, rather than a closet full of specialty ropes to choose from for every situation, then we recommend buying a Medium Fat All-Around rope, such as our Editors' Choice winning Mammut Infinity. Something in the 9.4mm-9.7mm range of ropes. These are the most versatile, and usually the best choice no matter what type of climbing you are doing. They are our go-to sport climbing ropes when we will be working projects, and are great for any sort of cragging. They last a long time if you manage to take care of it well and avoid a core shot, and are also light enough that lugging around a 70m isn't that big of a deal. They slide through the GriGri easier than a workhorse, which most experienced belayers appreciate. If you are replacing a worn out All-Around rope, we recommend getting another one of this same type.

I Already Have a 9.5mm All-Around Rope, but Want Another Rope for X Purpose

If we were to recommend buying a second rope to add to the quiver, here is what we would choose, depending on purpose:

Gym Climbing — If you must bring your own lead rope to the gym, we recommend getting one of the workhorse ropes, cause you are more than likely going to trash that thing. Most companies sell short 30m or 40m gym ropes for considerable savings, but be sure to check with your gym what length you need before you buy. Don't try to bring this rope to the crag!

Sport Climbing — If you already have a 9.5 for use on your projecting and working days, pick up a skinny 8.9 or 9.0, such as the Edelrid Swift Eco Dry or Sterling Fusion Nano IX for sending days. Consider buying an 80m, so you have the added versatility of linking into all those cool looking extensions, or so you can climb at those Spanish and Greek crags you have been hearing about. However, don't buy one of these and think you can dog all over with it, you will trash it long before you can figure out your beta. Hold it in reserve for those special moments, and make your friends climb on their own ropes.

At Chulilla  Spain  walls of 40m+ long tufas will leaving you begging for mercy well before you clip the chains. An 80m rope is essential or you won't be touching any of these ET necks. The Swift Eco Dry is a perfect choice for these fantastic routes  and other European sport adventures.
At Chulilla, Spain, walls of 40m+ long tufas will leaving you begging for mercy well before you clip the chains. An 80m rope is essential or you won't be touching any of these ET necks. The Swift Eco Dry is a perfect choice for these fantastic routes, and other European sport adventures.

Multi-Pitching — While a 9.5mm or similar works fine while multi-pitching, we like climbing with something lighter, such as the 9.2mm Petzl Volta. On multi-pitch routes we are far more likely to climb further than half a rope length, so the weight of the rope really begins to matter. Buy a 70m so you can link pitches if possible or desirable, and do longer single rope rappels. Get the dry treatment, which will help with longevity. This rope can also serve as your sendy sport rope, but once again, don't do any serious dogging on it if you expect it to last.

The Mammut Revelation is a skinny 9.2mm rope that is ideally used on alpine climbing and multi-pitch missions. Ben Hoyt coiling the rope over his harness as he prepares to belay up the second on a finger crack variation to the Beckey-Chouinard in the Bugaboos.
The Mammut Revelation is a skinny 9.2mm rope that is ideally used on alpine climbing and multi-pitch missions. Ben Hoyt coiling the rope over his harness as he prepares to belay up the second on a finger crack variation to the Beckey-Chouinard in the Bugaboos.

Alpine Rock Climbing — This depends on your strategy as well as preferences of your partners. One tactic is to choose a thin single line in the 8.9 to 9.2mm range, dry treated of course, used in conjunction with a 6mm or similar tag line. With the tag line you can haul the pack if desired, and it is safe to use it as the second rappel rope. This is the most common tactic amongst North American climbers for large alpine rock routes in areas such as the Bugaboos, Sierras, Wind Rivers, Rocky Mountain National Park, or the Black Canyon. Another tactic is to use half or twin ropes, although this doesn't work well if you might need to jug for any reason, or want to haul a bag, but can provide added security in areas with bad rock, like the Black Canyon, or if you might need to rappel but don't want to lug along a tag line.

Climbing a wide fists and offwidth pitch high on the Beckey-Chouinard in the Bugaboos  using the Volta  which survived better than the competition after a week of running over the very course and abrasive alpine granite that this wonderful climbing area is known for.
Climbing a wide fists and offwidth pitch high on the Beckey-Chouinard in the Bugaboos, using the Volta, which survived better than the competition after a week of running over the very course and abrasive alpine granite that this wonderful climbing area is known for.

Big Wall Climbing — These days the term big wall climbing could just as easily mean free climbing as aid climbing. We saw more free parties on El Cap last time we were in the meadow than aid parties, my how times have changed. We are going to assume if you are freeing big walls, you know what to buy. If you are looking to aid climb big walls, then get a thick, workhorse rope. 60m is almost always long enough, because most static haul lines are bought this length anyway. A thick workhorse is most likely more durable, but also helps allay some for the fear as you conduct lower outs and jug a single rope with thousands of feet of air beneath your feet. Even if you buy a fat rope, don't be surprised when it gets nicked and dinged all over from jugging, and consider yourself lucky if you finish the wall with a rope that is in good enough shape for another one.

Ice Climbing — For ice cragging in a place like Ouray or Vail, a normal single rope of any diameter, dry treated of course, will work. However, most ice climbs in places like the San Juans, Cody, or Hyalite are multiple pitches, and require rappelling to get off. This is where half or twin ropes can really shine. Not only do they provide the length needed to get off quickly, but also the lower fall forces and alternate clipping options that can help ice protection actually stay in the ice and catch you if you are so unlucky as to fall.

Conclusion


We hope this buying advice article has been informative and aided in your quest to buy a new rope. Most climbers will end up owning countless ropes in their lifetime, so there is plenty chance to try different types or brands if something doesn't work out perfectly for you. Ask your friends or other people at the crag what brand rope they use and like, because even once you settle on a certain type of rope, different brands feel quite a bit different when using them. As always, remember to double check your knot and belay, stay safe out there, and happy climbing!

While it costs a fair amount  the Volta presents good value compared to other thin alpine specific climbing ropes due to the solid durability both of its dry treatment  and the sheath itself. Here climbing finger cracks high on the Beckey-Chouinard  Bugaboos.
While it costs a fair amount, the Volta presents good value compared to other thin alpine specific climbing ropes due to the solid durability both of its dry treatment, and the sheath itself. Here climbing finger cracks high on the Beckey-Chouinard, Bugaboos.


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