Why Are Nylon Ropes Used In Rock Climbing?

Nylon is resistant to tearing and is elastic. This prolongs the fall and significantly reduces the force acting on the body, the rope, and safety equipment when compared to a fixed rope. As a result, falls are quite common when rock climbing nowadays, owing to the safer, more elastic rope. Another additional benefit of an elastic nylon climbing cable is that anchors and other securing devices are less likely to be ripped off than they would be with a fast, stationary pull.

The strength-to-weight ratio of nylon is a measure of its resistance to complete failure (breaking) when subjected to tensile stress. It is extremely strong in this regard, stronger by weight and volume than steel, and is capable of withstanding recurring loading without experiencing significant fatigue. This means that you can repeatedly fall onto a nylon rope or sling without experiencing a significant loss of strength in comparison to other similar materials. 

Nylon has an exceptional elongation property. Apart from the construction of the rope, the chains of polyamide molecules that comprise nylon fiber have a greater ability to stretch and relax than many other synthetic fibers. 

A Climbing Rope’s Tensile Strength 

Due to the fact that rock climbing ropes are considered safety equipment, they are subjected to strict regulations and must possess specific features. Naturally, one of the most critical properties of rock-climbing rope is its tensile strength. Tensile strength is measured in terms of the number of times the rope can withstand a normalized fall, not the maximum force that will cause a tear. The UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) and European standard EN 892 define the guidelines for this standardized fall.

A carabiner deflects the fall, which is carried out with a specific weight from a specific height. The fall is static since the rope’s end is fixed. During normal climbing, such a fall with such a high degree of stress does not happen. For safety-related tests, the worst-case scenario is often used. 

Before a standard rock-climbing rope breaks, it must withstand five such falls. Multi-fall ropes, for example, must be able to withstand at least ten falls. 

It is extremely rare for a rock-climbing rope to snap during normal use. Accidents involving a broken rope can still be traced back to a faulty rope. Make sure the rope isn’t being guided over a sharp point. The climbing rope may be broken and, in the worst-case scenario, torn if it rubs against a sharp edge with the force of a falling individual.

Diameter And Length 

There are numerous lengths and diameters of dynamic rock-climbing ropes. The majority of rock-climbing ropes are between 40 and 70 meters in length. Additionally, there are 80 to 100 meters long ropes available for extremely long distances. 

If you are climbing exclusively in indoor climbing facilities, short ropes (approximately 40 meters) are perfectly adequate. If you would want to climb outdoors, you should indeed be prepared with a 60-meter-long climbing rope. You can cover a lengthy distance with that. Knowing the height of the rock faces ahead of time enables you to better adapt your ropes to the conditions.

A climbing rope has a diameter of between 8.3 and 11.5 mm. The thinner the climbing rope, the less resistance it has to falls and the more vulnerable it is to damage from other sources. While thicker climbing ropes are more robust and durable, they also weigh more. 

Beginners should always begin in the upper middle range, between 10 and 10.5 mm. This diameter is robust, durable and has excellent handling characteristics.

Some Of Nylon’s Downsides

Nylon is highly corrosive to oxidizing acids and ultraviolet light. Nylon, whether treated or untreated, is not the ideal material for items that are regularly exposed to sunlight. Additionally, it was determined that at least one failure mode of a nylon climbing rope was caused by exposure to sulfuric acid, most likely from a lead/acid automotive battery leak. 

Nylon has a lower melting point and strength-to-weight ratio than other high-strength artificial fibers from the ultra-high molecular weight polyethylenes (Dyneema/Dynex) and aramids (Technora, Kevlar).

Nylon has a higher coefficient of friction than the above-mentioned high strength fibers. This can be beneficial or detrimental, depending on the application.

Ways To Care And Maintain A Rock Climbing Rope

Here are a few basic tips for extending the life of a rock-climbing rope and ensuring its safety over time. 

1. Never throw the rock-climbing rope on the bare ground. Between the floor and the rope, there has to be a protective layer. This can be achieved with a piece of fabric, a tarp, or a rope bag. To prolong the life of the rock-climbing rope, it should avoid contact with dust, sharp-edged stones, and other dirt. The crystalline, razor-sharp dust penetrates the individual fibers and acts similarly to sandpaper. The fibers are permanently rubbed away and lose strength as a result of the friction between the stretching rope and the dust.

2. Never step on the rope. Apart from the probability of cutting the rope with a sharp edge, you could press dirt and dust into the rope’s sheath with your foot. This results in unseen internal damage to the climbing rope.

3. Following a rock-climbing session, use a brush to clean the first and last 2-3 meters of the rock-climbing rope. This increases its lifespan by removing dirt, needles, dust, and, most importantly, climbing chalk.

4. Occasionally, wash the rope. You can wash climbing ropes if certain conditions are met. The water should always be lukewarm, never hot. Climbing ropes should be cleaned with specialized detergents. The climbing rope can be hand-washed or machine-washed. The washing machine should not be used above 30°C and should be set to the wool or fine wash cycle. If washing by hand, special attention should be paid to both ends. Drying the climbing rope in the air is required. It is critical to keep the rope out of direct sunlight, as UV rays can destroy the rope’s fibers.

5. When not in use, the rope must be kept in a cool, dry, and dark place. A rope bag is an excellent storage solution. The majority of rope bags can be held comfortably as a bag or backpack and do an excellent job of protecting the rope.

6. Chemicals and acids must be kept away from the climbing rope. These can cause internal damage to the rope, which is especially serious because it is not visible to the naked eye.

In two climbing sessions, always switch sides. Both ends of the rope are affected differently by the load of a fall and other stresses encountered when climbing. Thus, the ends of the climbing rope should be switched each time to spread the tension equally and increase the overall lifespan.

When Should A Rock-Climbing Rope Be Retired? 

This extensive lifespan data can be used as a best before date for personal use. Extending the recommended lifetime does not always result in rope failure; however, properties such as stretch, and handling deteriorate over time. You must determine when to discard the climbing rope.

In either case, you should discard your climbing rope if one of the following occurs:

1. Chemicals have come into contact with the climbing rope. Acids are especially harmful. 

2. The sheath is extremely worn and frayed. 

3. The sheath has deteriorated to the point where the core can be seen. 

4. The sheath slips over the core.

5. The climbing rope has become so filthy that it cannot be cleaned. 

6. The sun or heat wreak havoc on the climbing rope. 

7. The climbing rope is either stiff or has abrasive spots. 

The climbing rope has already been subjected to several severe falls. Consider the rope as a spring. The more frequently it is stretched, the less flexible it becomes. At some point, the elasticity is lost, and a fall can be fatal. It is necessary to replace it prior to this point. 

In conclusion, nylon is used to make rock climbing ropes because it is elastic and robust. A nylon climbing rope extends to 40% of its original length and gently catches the falling climber. This minimizes the load on climbers, ropes, and other safety equipment. Climbing ropes are made to endure many hard falls over the course of their lifespan. At the present time, climbing ropes only snap if they are dragged over a sharp edge during a fall or if they have already been seriously damaged. When selecting rock climbing ropes, you must first determine the length and thickness. We recommend 40 meters for indoor climbing and 60 meters for outdoor climbing for beginners. The diameter could range between 10 and 10.5 mm.

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