climbing, rope, break, core, inside of a climbing rope

Climbing rope break

People often scare when you pull out a 10.2 rope out of your car, because they heard some “expert” friend speak of them as if they were some sort of evil bulky heavy nightmare. Truth of the matter is, some thinner ropes are constructed in such way that when you look at the technical specifications, they are heavier than a thicker one.

Take for example this chart of rope brands, which are almost the same in weight. As you can see the Petzl Contact, regardless of being on the thicker side – is lighter by 2 grams per meter than even the new Black Diamond 9.6.

Brand Diameter Weight (per meter)
Black Diamond 9.6mm 62 grams
Sterling Evolution 9.8mm 62 grams
Blue Water Pulse 9.9mm 62 grams
Edelrid Hawk 10.0mm 62 grams
Edelrid Parrot 9.8mm 62 grams
Petzl Contact 9.8mm 60 grams

I did a comparison

A while back, when trying to decide between a 60 and a 70 meter rope in sizes 9.8 and 10.2, I was amazed to find out that the different in weight between the two ropes was just 0.66 pounds (for the 60m) and 0.77 pounds (for the 70m). That is less than 1 a pound! That is less weight than a climbing guide book or even your own helmet! So what are you going to do NEXT to save on weight? – leave your helmet at home?!

So the math spoke freely

And now is time to dig deeper into what else is a deciding factor when it comes to picking out a rope. Lets evaluate strength and, very important, how much does the sucker stretches. I am not sure about you, but I prefer not to bounce an extra 5 or 10 feet lower, just because I love looking and clipping a pretty rope.

Brand Diameter Weight (p/m) UIAA Factor Falls Dynamic Elongation Impact Force
Black Diamond 9.6mm 62 grams 7 34.2% 8.2 kn
Sterling Evolution 9.8mm 62 grams 8 26.4% 8.8 kn
Sterling Evolution 10.2mm 67grams 8 31.1% 8.8 kn
Blue Water Pulse 9.9mm 62 grams 7 35.5% 7.8 kn
Edelrid Hawk 10.0mm 62 grams 6 32% 8.9 kn
Edelrid Parrot 9.8 62 grams 7 32% 8.8 kn
Petzl Contact 9.8 60 grams 7 35% 8.4 kn

BUT WAIT! There is more!

What about the percentage of sheath?

I mean, you can have a great rope in your hands, but if the sheath is super thin, it is going to rip off as soon as it rubs up against cheese grader rock or sharp edges.

The sheath is the outer layer that protects your rope. If you are using a rope with smaller sheath volume, just make sure you take good care of it and avoid having too much contact with the walls or sharp edges. Of course that is something you should do with any climbing rope, regardless of sheath thickness, but you get my point. Also, after a few falls, the higher the dynamic elongation – the faster the sheath will become weaker over time.

Brand Diameter Weight (p/m) UIAA Factor Falls Dynamic Elongation Impact Force Sheath
Black Diamond 9.6mm 62 grams 7 34.2% 8.2 kn Endurance
Sterling Evolution 9.8mm 62 grams 8 26.4% 8.8 kn 35%
Sterling Evolution 10.2mm 67grams 8 31.1% 8.8 kn 33%
Blue Water Pulse 9.9mm 62 grams 7 35.5% 7.8 kn 31%
Edelrid Hawk 10.0mm 62 grams 6 32% 8.9 kn 36%
Edelrid Parrot 9.8 62 grams 7 32% 8.8 kn 40%
Petzl Contact 9.8 60 grams 7 35% 8.4 kn 40%

The photo attached to this article is just for demonstration purposes. The rope used here is dynamic 9.8mm that was not broken during climbing. I want you to get a clear image of what is on the inside of a dynamic climbing rope. See those white cords? Well that is what is actually taking the majority of your falls. The outer layer (sheath) is just there to hold the insides together (like your body does with you intestines), to protect it from dirt and abrasion.

How did it break? Well, funny thing is – we used it to rappel. Even with a high master point and having several people rappel on it, there was this one funny individual who who kept walking side to side while lowering down the wall. As he was going over the edge, we noticed him sort of “dancing” side to side. Not on purpose, but he was trying to get a feel for how to walk down vertical walls (first timer) and kept walking down in such funny way that it would make the rope rub against the edge of the rock formation and pretty much break the sheath. I think we saw 3 breaks happen to the same rope on the same day! A record! Same guy too. So you see? It doesn’t take a whale to break the sheath of your rope, a few rubs the wrong way on edges will do it.

Flake your rope!

There is a reason for it, every time. Flake your rope as much as possible and while you do so touch the entire line. Squeeze on it, so you can check for flat spots. A break inside of your rope is less obvious than a break on the outer part. So you need to inspect your rope before and after every use, to ensure it’s “intestines” are still connected. Fold the rope in half, on those areas that may seem flat – if it bends flat like a book, cut it or retire it.

Climbing ropes come in multiple variations; dry treated, blabla Some work better on wet conditions, some don’t.

There are many other factors to consider when choosing the right climbing rope for your outdoor project, but take note – don’t only take into consideration the diameter. And please, don’t be scared of 10mm ropes either! Nine times out of ten, your climbing pants carry way more extra unnecessary weight than a thicker rope ever will. haha

Climb on!