Your rope won’t last forever. Follow these tips to increase the service and life of your climbing rope.
Don’t Step on Your Rope!
Besides climbing and lowering, nothing wears out your rope faster than stepping on it. Besides possibly cutting the sheath on rocks underfoot, stepping on the rope also grinds dirt and dust into the sheath and core, which increases unseen internal damage to the rope. At the cliff base, especially if you have a bunch of newbies with you, impress upon them the importance of not stepping on your rope and damaging their lifeline. Show some respect brotha!
Use a Rope Bag
Use a good rope bag that unfolds into a spacious tarp for your precious rope to lie on. A good rope bag keeps dust and dirt from finding its way inside your rope. Dirt impairs the strength, safety, and performance of your rope. It wears it out faster too. A rope bag increases the life of your rope. Buy one and use it. Most of them also neatly fold up and can be carried over the shoulder with a strap or secured to the top of your pack. It’s especially important to use a rope bag at popular cliffs where lots of people stand around, leaving fine pulverized dust on the ground, or at sandstone climbing areas where lots of sand blankets the ground below the routes.
Run Your Rope Freely
Make sure your rope runs freely whenever possible. There’s nothing that will trash a rope like sharp edges or rough corners. If you’re leading, use lots of slings to keep the rope well away from the cliff face. If you’re top-roping, make sure the master point that the rope is looped through is extended well over the edge of the cliff. Also remember that a fall onto a sharp edge can seriously damage or slice through a rope.
Switch Ends After Falling
If you sport climb a lot, alternate which end of the rope you use to lead and fall on. Avoid taking frequent falls at the same end of a rope if you’re working it. Falls stretch it out. Switch ends and allow the rope become more elastic again. Also allow the rope to take a rest if you’ve taken a big whipper on it. Alternating rope ends will prolong its life.
Washing Your Rope
When your rope gets dirty, wash it. Washing your rope increases its life by getting abrasive dust out of the sheath. It also helps the handling of the rope. If you climb a lot, aluminum oxide is deposited on a rope’s sheath from running through all those aluminum carabiners. Your hands will get filthy black just belaying. Regular washing helps alleviate that black-hand syndrome.
How to Wash a Rope
To wash a rope, I put it in a mesh bag and seal the top with a drawstring. Pop it in the washing machine and wash it in cold water on a long cycle. Afterwards, I take it out and drape it loosely in a washbasket and let it air dry in a cool dark place for a few days. Don’t put it in sunlight to dry. Some folks use a mild non-detergent soap to wash their rope.