Up the road from our new training centre at Bamford is Castleton. In Castleton, hidden 280 ft beneath the imposing 11th Century ruins of Peveril Castle is the even more impressive Peak Cavern.
The Devil's Arse as it is known locally is largest natural cave entrance in Britain, some 60 ft high, 100ft wide and 340 ft long. Quite large, yes. But what has this to do with choosing a climbing rope you may wonder?
Well, for around 500 years, until the early 20th Century, Peak Cavern was home to the country's last remaining troglodytes (cave dwellers). Families who built their homes in the cave entrance (the soot from their chimneys still marks the roof in places) and took advantage of this huge enclosed space to earn a living making rope to sell in the village, often to the local mining industry. We don't use their ropes on our courses and I'm not sure what the UIAA fall rating would be either, so letâs crack on.
At the end of every rope you see in a climbing shop is a label, seemingly understood only by the initiated (the staff). Fear not though friends! Choosing a rope can indeed seem fiendishly complex but in reality is very simple as long as the right question is asked.
This may seem incredible, but climbing ropes are safe and actually work. Even cheap ones. However, they are all manufactured with a specific use in mind so ask yourself, what will it be used for most of the time?
There are 2 types of rope you will come across in climbing, dynamic (stretchy) and static (not stretchy). Use dynamic for climbing and static for rigging belays.
For the rest of this article we'll be discussing dynamic ropes, which range in thickness from around 7.1mm to 10mm. Thinner means lighter, but less durable and can be so slick as to make belaying and handling difficult. Thicker means tough, but heavy and sometimes stiff, which can make belaying and knotting harder.
A good all round length for a climbing in The Peak is 60m. You can get away with shorter, especially on the gritstone edges, but it isn't like you've got miles to walk in so why worry about the extra weight?
Ropes are also available 'dry treated' - a chemical treatment which helps prevent a rope from getting wet. Big deal, you may think. However, the strength of a rope when wet can be reduced by as much as 30%. And wet ropes can freeze, making handling tricky. They also wear out faster from picking up grit and dirt. So, although dry treated ropes tend to be more expensive it can be worth it in the longer term.
For The Peak District a good first rope would be 60m long, between 9.5mm and 10mm thick and rated for use as a single rope (shown by a '1' within a circle on the label). This would serve well for grit routes that don't wander around too much, sport climbing and down the wall. Being a single rope also makes belaying easier, and you can use an assisted braking device too, like a GRIGRI.
Another popular choice, especially for Peak trad climbing, are 2 half ropes (shown by a 'Â½' within a circle on the label). Again, 60m is a good length and 8.5mm thick a good compromise between weight and durability. Half ropes are designed to be used in pairs and clipped into alternate pieces of protection.
They have a number of advantages including a shorter fall if your top piece of gear rips, lowering rope drag on wandering routes, allowing full length abseils when tied together and a degree of redundancy in the event of a rope becoming damaged or cut. They are trickier to belay with, especially for beginners, and a bit of a faff when sport climbing or down the wall.
The third type of rope you will find is the twin rope (marked by 2 overlapped circles within a larger circle). Twin ropes are used as a pair with both strands clipped together into protection. They are mainly used in alpine climbing as they are light, offer redundancy if damaged and allow full rope length abseils. Twin ropes are rarely used for general rock climbing in the UK.
Of late, there has appeared a rope so tech it was previously only dreamed about by generations of misty eyed (drunk) climbers ensconced by the fire in the Pen-Y-Gwryd, and surrounded by the relics of a bygone age. The triple rated rope.
As if by magic, manufactures are now able to produce ropes rated for use as single, half or twin with a diameters as low as 8.5mm.
Remember our question from earlier? Ask it again.
Yes, you can dog a sport route with a super skinny triple rated rope, but not for long. Instead use it for on-sights within your grade or the occasional hard redpoint.
Triple rated ropes really come into their own for anyone multipitch climbing as a three and using double ropes, for example guides or instructors. They allow a leader to bring up each second on one of the two ropes, with each being rated for use as a single rope.
This article is intended as an introduction, a guide, to buying a rope. But there is much more to choosing a rope than weâve had the opportunity to discuss here.
For the full monty read this excellent, in depth piece from the BMC: