MOUNTAIN SKILLS: WHAT WEAKENS A ROPE

The latest extract from the UIAA Alpine Summer Skills Handbook focuses the factors which weaken a rope and features as part of a chapter dedicated to Equipment.

Limitations of a dynamic rope

  • A wet rope will be heavier and harder to use.
  • If your rope freezes, its performance capabilities diminish (by almost half compared to a dry rope).
  • A rope can easily burn or “melt” under severe friction (a large fall, an excessively fast rappel, rope-on-rope rubbing).
  • A burned rope has reduced performance capabilities.
  • Dust, especially grains of granite and sand, causes premature damage to the rope’s core fibers and shortens its lifespan.
  • Solar/UV rays speed up wear and tear.
  • Kinks and snarls render use more difficult.
  • Impact over a sharp edge can sever the rope, which is why double ropes are safest when trad climbing.

Extending a rope’s life span

  • Do not drag your rope through the dirt.
  • Do not let your rope snag on anything and arrange it neatly at belay stations.
  • Avoid running the rope over abrasive surfaces and sharp edges as much as
  • Alternate the belay and tie-in ends.
  • Wash your rope in lukewarm water with a very mild detergent.
  • Dry your rope in the shade, and store it in a cool, dry place.
  • Do not leave your rope out in the sun.
  • Use your rope only for climbing.
  • Inspect your rope regularly.
  • Store your rope butterfly coiled or loose in a rope bag.
  • Keep your rope away from chemicals and acids.

This article is an extract from the Climbing/Equipment chapter of the UIAA Alpine Skills Summer handbook. The handbook is a compendium of the essential skills one must acquire in order to become a hiking, climbing or mountaineering leader.  The purpose of the handbook is to present tried-and-true techniques that can be learned and mastered only through formal training. The entire guide is now available to purchase as a digital download.  To purchase the guide please click here.

Previous extracts from the Guide can be found on our dedicated Skills page.

About the UIAA Alpine Skills Summer Guide

The UIAA Alpine Skills Summer guide was first published in 2015. Produced in collaboration with the Petzl Foundation, the guide and has been well received worldwide and is currently available in five languages. To mark the launch of a digital version of the publication, the UIAA is running a series of articles from the guide designed to help hikers, climbers and mountaineers develop their skills and knowledge of the mountain environment.

The guide was developed specifically as a reference document for trip leaders and instructors of club and federations within the UIAA – an aide memoire for climbers and mountaineers who attend training courses delivered by instructors and guides who have gained qualifications accredited by the UIAA. Now open to the wider climbing and mountaineering world, the handbook’s four modules focus primarily on summer activities. However, a specific winter guide is currently in production.