Your climbing rope is your savior – it protects you when you fall and is known as the most critical piece of gear in your climbing armament.
To ensure the long-term safety and longevity of climbing ropes, the climber will need to put in some time and work. Climbing rope care is essential to keeping the cord’s performance, durability, and your peace of mind through proper management, washing, and storing techniques. Climbing ropes must be replaced at the right time as well. And we’re going to talk about all of these things today.
Cleaning a Climbing Rope
To clean your climbing rope, you’ll need the following:
To begin, fill the tub or bucket with warm water, but not scorching hot. Next, add a few droplets of mild soap. You need it to be a little bubbly, but not to the point where it’s a bubble bath.
To clean your rope, you may also simply use some water. If your rope is excessively filthy, though, you can use a rope-specific cleanser. Follow the dosage recommendations on the bottle precisely. Do not use aggressive cleaning products.
Then, with a gentle flake, lower it into the tub. A few hours of churning in the tub is sufficient. With a little stirring of the water and rope, most filth should be washed away. Run the rope through your hands slowly to remove the rest of the dirt from the sheath. Scrub lightly with a sponge if you come across any sticky spots.
Be cautious and delicate if you’re running your bare hands across the rope. Rough rope sheaths will irritate the skin of your hands, so be careful when handling them. You don’t need a lot of effort to remove the dirt off the rope, but be patient and work slowly.
If you have access to a front-load washer, you may want to consider this option as well. To avoid the rope tangling in the washing machine, use a daisy chain or a loose coil, or even better, a loose coil in a mesh bag.
A few drops of mild soap and no spin cycle are all that is needed to clean your climbing rope in a washing machine in a warm setting. As soon as the cycle is complete, remove the rope from the washer.
The most critical stage of the process is to dry your rope properly. Ideally, your rope should be dried outdoors but not in full sunlight. A deck, patio, porch, or other outdoor areas where you may hang or lay out your rope for a few days is ideal for drying rope.
You can use a couple of towels on the floor if you don’t have access to an outdoor area or if you live in an area where several days of bright sun are scarce. As you flake the damp rope onto the towel, be sure to spread it out as much as possible. Drying the rope can take up to a few days.
A strong drying rack is also an option. Using metal gear shelves for flaking and drying can also be a nice alternative.
Storing a Climbing Rope
After a climb, it’s crucial to keep your climbing rope in a safe place. A rope bag is one of the most popular and easy ways to store a rope. You can store your rope in the bag when you’re not using it, and you can also keep your rope from getting tangled while you’re climbing.
To store your climbing rope safely, unzip the rope bag and unfurl the tarp that comes with it. One end of your rope should be tied to a loop on the tarp. Flake the rope onto the tarp and spread it out. Make a knot in the tarp at the end of the rope when you reach the other end. Wrap the rope and tarp into the bag by tucking the tarp’s edges under the rope pile. Close the bag with a cinch or zipper.
Just grab the rope bag before you leave the house, and you’ll be ready to go climbing!
Additionally, there are several additional considerations to bear in mind when it comes to storing your rope:
It’s best to keep your rope out of the sun as little as possible. Leaving your rope out in the sun for long periods can significantly weaken it, but sunlight from everyday climbing is not expected to cause any harm. Consider changing your rope if it is fading from the sun.
Keep your rope somewhere cool and dry. If you don’t have a rope bag, you can suspend your climbing rope from a sling girth-hitched around the entire rope or loop the rope over a dowel.
Avoid strong chemicals, such as battery acid, at all costs, as they can severely damage your rope. When keeping your climbing rope in the trunk of a car or a garage or basement, be aware of the dangers of tripping over it.
To avoid damaging the fibers, do not store your climbing rope in a car on a hot summer day.
Inspecting a Climbing Rope
Regularly inspect your climbing rope for signs of damage or deterioration. Routine inspections are the quickest way. Inspections are best done while cleaning your climbing rope or taking it out of the bag.
Inspect for soft patches and abrasion by running your hands along the entire length. Expect some outer fuzziness and dust, but watch for sponginess, which signals your rope’s core is damaged.
Never climb a core shot rope. You can cut and fix the sponginess on one end, but it’s time to abandon the rope if it’s in the middle. Remember, climbing ropes may be replaced, but not your life.
Repairing a Climbing Rope
You may be able to cut out a portion of your rope that has been damaged near one of its ends if you’re careful. You can do this by cutting it out with a knife at least a foot above the injured area and then using a lighter to seal it shut.
Remember that your rope is now shorter. This method has a problem since it results in an incorrect middle mark, which is particularly critical when dealing with a multi-color or bi-pattern rope because the middle mark cannot be changed.
Middle marks on climbing ropes appear bright and clear right out of the box, but experienced climbers know that they gradually fade over time.
While it’s acceptable to darken or relocate a center mark while repairing, you should consider using a rope-specific marker. Otherwise, you’ll risk badly compromising your rope’s integrity by using a conventional sharpie or marker. The chemicals can severely harm climbing ropes in sharpies and markers, so use caution when using these items.
Retiring a Climbing Rope
Unfortunately, your climbing rope won’t last for eternity. After inspecting your rope, if you find areas that are exceedingly fuzzy, cut, or flattened, you should definitely consider retiring it. If you cannot decide whether or not a rope should be retired, it’s best to err on the side of safety and do so.
Accordingly, here are some general suggestions for when to give up the ropes:
Immediately: after a large drop or other serious injuries
Up to a year: regular use (weekly)
One to three years: regular use (a few times each month)
Four to five years: Occasional use (once a month)
Seven years: infrequent use (1–2 times per year)
Ten years: never used
Keeping a journal of the rope’s purchase date, frequency of use, and number and severity of incidents will help you identify when it’s time to replace it.
As with every sport, climbing comes with its own set of risks and perils, but the rewards are undeniable. Taking proper care of your life-saving climbing gear is the greatest approach to reduce these hazards. We hope this guide has helped you to become a better rope steward. It’s time to put your newfound knowledge to use!