You’re working on your project, about to nail the crux, and nope! There goes your foot and you’re falling once again. This is not just draining for your brain my friend, but also your gear!
The climbing rope has saved your life once more and maybe it’s time to check just how well it’s doing by now. A damaged or weakened rope is a real safety issue, but there’s no need to get a new rope immediately and toss your old one if it has a damaged part. You can just cut a climbing rope and keep using it!
And here is how:
Can You Safely Cut a Climbing Rope?
Yes! But there are a few things you need to know before you start snipping away.
First, and obviously, cut it while you’re not climbing and ideally at home where you have a clean and dry surface to flake out your rope. You will need some basic equipment like climbing tape, a sharp knife, something to mark where you want to cut, and your rope, of course.
We’ll cover the steps of cutting a rope below, but once you have identified a damaged area, keep in mind to cut the rope about a foot away from the damaged spot.
This way, you can make sure that the rope you are left with is damage-free.
How to Properly Cut Climbing Rope in 4 Simple Steps
If you don’t happen to live near a climbing gym or gear shop that can cut your rope for you, don’t worry, it really is not as hard as it seems! Here are the 4 easy steps on how to cut a climbing rope.
All you need is a sharp knife, tape, a lighter, and of course, your climbing rope.
1. Identify the Damaged Spot
The damage might be easy to see from the outside or might be invisible at the core of the rope. Regular maintenance helps you to quickly identify any problematic damage to your rope so you can act on it before you go out climbing with the damaged gear.
Once you know where the damage is, mark a section of the rope about a foot away from the spot.
2. Tape It Up
Wrap the section where you are going to cut the rope tightly in climbing tape. Tape the rope along the length of about 5cm and make sure the tape slightly overlaps.
This helps to keep the strands of the rope in place when cutting.
3. Cut It With A Sharp Knife
Get a really (really!) sharp knife ready. Arrange the rope on the floor so you can step on it with both feet or knees to have it nice and taut where you want to cut it with your knife.
Now cut it with your knife (no scissors please) and there you go, almost done.
4. Seal The Ends
To stop the rope from undoing itself, you have to seal the ends of the rope. Read on to find out how to do just that!
How to Properly Seal a Climbing Rope
Climbing ropes are made of tiny strands of synthetic fibers that get woven together into a thick rope. When cutting it, you need to seal the ends so the sheath and core don’t start to come undone.
The Anatomy of a Climbing Rope
A climbing rope consists of two parts that are both essential for the proper functioning of the rope.
The sheath of the rope is what is visible to us from the outside. It is the colorful “skin” of the rope that can have multiple colors or patterns and even a middle mark most of the time. These fibers are woven together around the core of the rope and protect it from abrasion, sunlight, water, and dirt. Everything, really.
The core of the rope is the part that does most of the hard work. It is a thick, twisted system of nylon strands that catch your fall and make the rope stretch when loaded.
How to Seal a Climbing Rope’s End
When cutting a climbing rope, it is important to seal the endpoints so the fibers don’t start to unravel by themselves, as this can weaken the sheath and core of the rope.
As climbing ropes are usually made of nylon fibers—which melt together under heat—you can easily seal the end of a climbing rope by using a lighter or other small flames.
Cutting Dynamic vs Static Climbing Ropes
There are a lot of different climbing ropes out here, some are called static, and some dynamic. But what does that mean?
The Difference Between Dynamic and Static Ropes
The main differences between static and dynamic ropes is that Static climbing ropes do not stretch when loaded, which means that they should not be used for rock climbing. They are generally used for rescue situations, caving, hauling, or rappelling.
Dynamic rope is what your standard climbing rope will be like. This means that it has some elasticity and catches your fall in a much smoother way than a static rope would.
How to Cut Static Climbing Ropes
Static ropes are made of nylon fibers just like dynamic ropes, so the cutting process is pretty much the same.
Make sure to mark where you will cut the rope and wrap the section with some tape before cutting it. Since the rope is also made from nylon, you can melt the ends to seal the cut just like with your dynamic rope.
When Do You Cut Your Climbing Rope?
Most climbing ropes will see damage in the first 3 meters of the rope, as this is where it gets the most wear and tear over time. This happens by:
- Tying into the rope
- Falling when leading
- Clipping the rope into the quickdraw
- Lowering after climbing (ideally, you should rappel to keep the friction of the moving rope over sharp rocks or metal gear to a minimum)
But even if you take very good care of your rope, it is a piece of gear that you will have to replace eventually and get a new one. However, you can often first try to just cut a climbing rope to get rid of the most damaged parts and keep using it for shorter routes!
How to Tell Where the Damage Is?
Part of your gear maintenance should include checking your climbing rope for any fuzzy sections or even visible damage to the sheath of the rope (if you can see the core, for example) on a regular basis.
But the damage can also be internal and invisible to you from the outside, so it is important to really examine the rope in more detail.
To do this, run the whole length of the rope through your hands so you can feel if there are any knots, bubbles, or even “empty” spots on the ropes, which can indicate a shot or damaged core.
You can also do an elasticity check by bending the rope to see if the core is still stable and robust enough.
A rope that is in good shape should be smooth, easy to bend, and a bit elastic, but should not bend too easily either. If both sides of the rope touch each other just a few centimeters below the bending point, it is time to say goodbye.
When to Retire Your Climbing Rope
If your rope has some damage, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to retire it completely and get a new rope. But keep in mind that if the damage is close to the middle of the rope, or if there are many damaged sections, or if you can see the core close to the middle, it’s time to go and look for a new one.
There are some other factors that will indicate that it’s time for your climbing rope to go.
- Obvious cuts or damages to the core
- Sections where the rope is much thicker than the rest
- Sections where the rope feels super soft or very stiff
- Strong discoloring (this might indicate contact with chemicals that can damage the rope without you noticing)
What to Do With Your Old Rope
You’ve pampered, washed, and cut your climbing rope but there’s no other way now, its climbing days are over. It happens, don’t worry. There are many things you can do with an old climbing rope.
Check out our full article on it for more info.
How to Increase the Lifespan of Your Climbing Rope
For your climbing rope to last as long as possible, it’s gonna need some TLC every once in a while! There are a few things you can do to make your rope last as long as possible, from uncoiling it correctly when you buy it to more regular maintenance tasks like checking it for abrasions and washing it!
Uncoiling Your Rope
It is important to uncoil the climbing rope correctly to avoid any unnecessary twisting. Here is a video on how to do that:
Storing Your Rope
Once you’ve started to use your rope, it’s important to store your rope correctly in your home to make sure it’s safe from exposure to direct sunlight, humidity, or any damaging chemicals.
The best place is a clean and dry space, but don’t keep it in the garage where there is a risk of it getting in touch with acid from your car battery, oil, or other chemicals that can cause invisible damage.
When climbing, use a tarp to keep the rope off the ground and avoid stepping on it.
Also, don’t let your canine friends use it as a bed for their afternoon siesta, cute as it might be. They can carry dirt and dust onto the rope, which can get in between the fibers and cause damage over time.
Unless you are using a dry-treated rope that has a special water repellent treatment applied either to their core or sheath, or both, avoid getting your climbing rope wet, and if it does, dry it out properly once you get home before you store it away.
Washing Your Rope: The Necessary TLC
You should be periodically washing your rope. Don’t overdo it though, but also don’t let your climbing rope change color completely before you give it a wash for the first time!
In addition, you should ideally take your climbing rope out and check it for any damage. That way, you will notice the slow change of the material over time and also notice if there’s any new damage.
Hi there, I am Mirjam and have recently discovered rock climbing for me while backpacking in Colombia. Originally from Switzerland I currently live in Venezuela and work as a freelance writer and translator. I have always loved being in nature and the mountains and am stoked to explore more of the world’s best climbing in the years to come!
You can find me at @mirigoesround or www.bosstranslations.com