Are ropes about to get thicker again?

Posted by Dan Middleton on 08/11/2012
Beal explain the importance of impact force

Lyon Equipment has been showing the BMC's Dan Middleton the latest developments in ropes at a recent seminar held at their impressive new facilities at Tebay in Cumbria. Dan joined other experts for a series of presentations and demonstrations from the Lyon team and rope manufacturer Beal.

The day was full of useful insights into the way ropes are made, and how this affects their properties. New technology is now enabling  production of very slick and supple ropes.

This allows thicker, more secure ropes to perform as well as a thinner, lighter rope but without the drawbacks such as more difficult belaying and reduced cutting resistance. It will be interesting to see if this reverses the recent trend in ever thinner ropes!

A vast amount of ground was covered, including an explanation of the manufacturing processes that makes ropes either dynamic or static. The yarn used for dynamic ropes is heat treated in a steam oven. This reduces the strength but increases the elasticity.

The seminar also revealed that fall factors in outdoor climbing are much higher than the theoretical fall factor would suggest. Friction through carabiners and against the rock reduce the amount of rope that is available to stretch. The result is higher impact forces on the top runner whilst the belayer often feels nothing.

This causes more damage to the rope, less comfortable falls for the climber, and can result in trad gear pulling out or failing! The solution? Keep the rope running free, and avoid zig-zags by using longer extenders and careful runner placement.

Thanks to Lyon Equipment and Beal for the event.


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1) Anonymous User
19/11/2012
Thick ropes are more reassuring.Any way to use lighter material?

Mitch. New Mills
2) Anonymous User
20/11/2012
This sounds very interesting... Are Beal and Lyon Equipment doing any more of these presentations? More and better knowledge would be great for those on the live side of the rope!
3) Dan Middleton (author comment)
20/11/2012
Mitch, ropes will continue to be made from nylon as this has the optimal properties required. As the seminar showed, reducing weight doesn't give you much, it's more about reducing the amount of friction.

I don't think any more demo's are planned for now - but expect to see some of the ideas filter down through mountain training and retailers, as these groups were the target audience. I've got some good ideas regarding educational videos for climbers from this event - watch this space!
4) Anonymous User
11/01/2013
"This allows thicker, more secure ropes to perform as well as a thinner, lighter rope "
What is meant by 'perform better'? The reason I have skinny ropes for mountain routes is to minimise the weight I have to carry, not for any performance advantage (whatever that might involved).

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