How to Buy a Rope?

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing climbing at Cascade Canyon with a Sterling Evolution Helix bicolour 9.5mm © Randy Gaetano

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing climbing at Cascade Canyon with a Sterling Evolution Helix bicolour 9.5mm © Randy Gaetano

Buying a rope is one of the more complicated decisions you will make when it comes to climbing gear. To help you decide, I’ve put together my two cents on the top things to consider when it comes to making a rope purchase.

1) What Diameter?

For single-pitch climbing I recommend a 9.8mm.

A thicker diameter rope is more durable and has increased abrasion and cutting resistance. A 9.8 mm will take the abuse of high-volume, single pitch climbing and hold up better if the rock where you climb is sharp.

For multi-pitch climbing you’ll want something skinnier like 9.2mm. Whether you’re leading or belaying, you’ll appreciate less weight hanging from your harness.

2) What Length?

The industry standard climbing rope length is 60 meters, just shy of 200 feet.

If the climbs are longer, like in the Ouray Ice Park, I recommend 70 meters (232 feet).

Lately, I’ve found it’s convenient to have an 80m rope. 80 meters often eliminates the need for 2 ropes on a multi-pitch descent.

3) What Features?

A bi-pattern is great for multi-pitch climbing. It saves tons of time and energy when you know where the middle of the rope is.

Dry treatments prevent ropes from absorbing moisture.

A wet rope is less strong, heavy and can freeze stiff.

I highly recommend splurging for a dry treatment if you’re an ice climber or you live in a wet place like the Pacific Northwest or the wild woods of the East coast.

4) Still not sure?

Get started with Sterling’s Evolution Velocity (9.8mm, 60m). The Velocity is a great first rope for mainly single pitch cragging. It’s also a great workhorse for top roping.

Go a little skinnier with the Sterling Evolution Helix (9.5mm, 60m or 70m) for a great all around rope on both single and multi-pitch.

Go big with the Sterling Evolution Aero (9.2mm, 70m or 80m, bi-pattern). This will be your “sending’ rope and it will get you up and down most multi-pitch climbs.

5) Add a rope bag to your shopping cart to keep that new cord of yours in tiptop condition over its lifetime!

1 reply
  1. Carolyn
    Carolyn says:

    Great advice for a quick, but thorough assessment of how to buy a rope. Another feature to consider is the “hand” of a rope. A stiffer rope will tend to clip easier and not wear out as fast. Whereas a softer rope can provide a softer catch, especially for women. Softer ropes may “fuzz” out more quickly than a stiffer rope. The two rope recommendations above are terrific examples of these options. The Velocity being a slightly stiffer option than the Helix. Both are great ropes! Thanks for this informtion!


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