Climbing ropes are an essential part of the protective equipment for recreational climbers, adrenaline junkies, and even rescue workers. There are two main types of climbing ropes: static and dynamic. Choosing a climbing rope that meets your needs can be grueling, so in this article, we’ll attempt to explain climbing ropes in depth. We will also answer the question: ”Can you use a dynamic rope for ascending?”
Ascending on a dynamic rope may be slightly more difficult due to bouncing and stretching, but it’s possible. Dynamic ropes are mainly used in rock climbing, lead climbing, and mountaineering. They are elastic and will help absorb the impact of a potential fall. In the absence of a static rope, you can use a dynamic rope even for rappelling.
Rock climbing can be a dangerous sport. That is why it’s vitally important that rock climbers secure themselves. Using the right type of climbing rope plays a massive role in securing a rock climber. Let’s learn the ropes of rock climbing together!
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What do you use a dynamic rope for?
Thanks to its elasticity, a dynamic rope can absorb the impact of falling and diminish the risk of injuries. Therefore, it is widely used in rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. These are three main types of dynamic ropes:
- Single ropes – the name indicates that this type of rope is to be used by itself, rather than with other ropes. Single ropes can be thick, mid-range, or thin. They are used in a wide range of climbing disciplines by the majority of climbers. Depending on their length and diameters, they can be used for big wall climbing, top-roping, sport climbing, and multi-pitch climbing.
- Half ropes – these ropes are best for ice climbing, mountaineering, and trad climbing. Half ropes are basically two ropes that run parallel and straight. They reduce rope drag and abrasion and prevent a climber from falling too far. Half ropes are heavier than single ropes and require more effort to manage.
- Twin ropes – twin ropes consist of two ropes that are best for non-wandering routes. With twin ropes, there is more rope drag than with half ropes. Twin ropes are thinner and lighter than half ropes. They provide backup if one rope fails. Twin ropes can be used for descending or rappelling, as they allow you to go farther than single ropes.
Dynamic ropes are typically more expensive than static ones. Their making requires significant craftsmanship, attention to detail, and scientific engineering. Most importantly, they need to pass vigorous safety standards. So we would say that their hefty price is justified. You can read more about why climbing ropes are so expensive in our blog.
Can you climb on a static rope?
A static rope is a fixed rope that has a minimal amount of stretch. That being said, it is neither designed nor tested for lead climbing or top roping. A static rope is suitable for these types of activities:
- Hauling a load up
- Lowering an injured climber
Static ropes should never be used to protect against a fall. If you accidentally fall while on a static rope that doesn’t stretch, you can either cause it to break due to too much force, or you can sustain severe spinal injuries due to an extremely abrupt stop. Check out our blog to learn more about static ropes, as well as find out if static ropes are stiff.
Can you rappel on a static rope?
A static rope stretches minimally under load, which makes it your ideal choice for rappelling. It is less expensive and more durable than a dynamic rope. A static rope remains tight and it enables a smooth and easy descent.
Static ropes are typically made from nylon and are considered low-elongation ropes. You can read why parachutes and ropes are made from nylon in our blog. Static ropes have a diameter from 9 to 13mm. Thicker static ropes are more durable and resistant.
Keep in mind that a static rope is most suitable when you don’t want any stretch in the rope. It is less multi-functional than a dynamic rope. You would be ill-advised to use a static rope for climbing, as it won’t flex in the event of a fall. Static ropes aren’t tested or certified for the impact that climbing has on a rope.
Can you rappel with a dynamic rope?
It is safe to use a dynamic rope for rappelling in the absence of a static rope, or in the event of an emergency. However, keep in mind that your descent will be awkward and more difficult due to the stretching properties of a dynamic rope. Some climbers find the bouncing of a dynamic rope inconvenient and they deem it necessary to exercise extra caution when rappelling with a dynamic rope.
Dynamic ropes are perfect for rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. In these situations, you can also rappel with a dynamic rope. If you are on a climbing expedition, with just enough space for one rope, you can safely use a dynamic rope for both climbing and rappelling down, when you cannot hike off the top of your climbing route.
Nevertheless, some factors such as the presence of water and wear and tear can have a negative effect on a dynamic rope. If a dynamic rope gets wet, it loses its strength under tension and water can cause rotting at the core. Water can significantly shorten the lifespan of your dynamic rope.
When you rappel down, certain devices, such as Figure 8 and different types of ascenders create friction against the rope in order to slow you down and give you more control. They might increase wear and tear on your rope, which may become an issue if we talk about a dynamic rope that is typically a bit pricey. In our blog, you can also find out how often climbing ropes break.
What’s the difference between static and dynamic rope?
These are some of the main differences between static and dynamic ropes:
- Elasticity – static ropes are often referred to as low-elongation ropes (EN 1891). They have minimum elongation and maximum strength. Most static ropes have an elongation of less than five percent. Dynamic ropes (EN 892), on the other hand, have an elongation of at least thirty percent to protect climbers from the force of impact.
- Color – most static ropes are typically black, whereas dynamic ropes are more colorful, though this may vary by brand.
- Variety – dynamic ropes have a wide variety of lengths, diameters, and stretch levels, as opposed to static ropes.
- Use – both static and dynamic ropes are designed with a specific purpose in mind. Dynamic ropes are better for climbing, as it carries a risk of falling. Static ropes are suitable for activities that require more controlled ascents and descents, such as rappelling and rescue operations.
What are fall factors?
A fall factor (f) is defined as a ratio of the length of fall (H) to the working length of the rope (L). This means that, according to the UIAA, ropes are tested to determine how many falls they can hold before failing. The UIAA tests create a much greater force than you are likely to experience when climbing.
All single and half dynamic ropes must withstand a minimum number of five test falls to be certified. In addition, to be certified, twin ropes must withstand a minimum of 12 falls.
A rope with a higher fall rating will typically last longer than a rope with a lower fall rating. However, all ropes that meet the safety standards set by UIAA are safe for climbing. To be on the safe side, after a severe fall, always inspect your rope closely for any damage.
What is rope dry treatment?
Dry treatment prevents water absorption. A wet rope gets heavier which negatively affects the rope’s ability to withstand forces generated in a fall. If the absorbed water freezes due to the cold, the rope becomes stiff and hard to manage.
Dry-treated ropes are covered in a special coating to make them safer to use in wet conditions. If you plan to just sport climb and go home when it rains, your non-dry rope will suffice. If, on the other hand, you plan to go ice climbing or mountaineering, you are likely to encounter rain, snow, and ice. In that case, you are well-advised to invest in a quality dry-treated rope, that can be a bit pricey.
We hope that our article will help you make an informed decision on the type of rope you should use. We’ve answered the question ”Can you use a dynamic rope for ascending?” and we’ve given you valuable pieces of information on both dynamic and static ropes’ uses.
Should you need more info on rock climbing and rock climbing gear make sure to check our blog posts and find out how many pairs of climbing shoes you need or how long a GriGri last. Now that you’ve learned the ropes of climbing, we won’t leave you hanging. Go enjoy your climbing adventures and always think of safety first.