Rope length and rope diameter are two of the most important characteristics when choosing a climbing rope.

On average the ideal rope length is ~40 meters for indoor lead climbing and ~60 meters is a great choice for a first (2nd, 3rd, etc) rope that is an outdoor rope for top roping and leading (that will also handle indoor climbing just fine).

Below we discuss each of the main lengths available and why you might choose this length instead. We’ll assume the climber is from the US and is using a dynamic single rope to climb.

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The shortest ropes are ideal for glacier travel / mountaineering. Photo: Alison Dennis

20 – 30 meters

20 – 30 meter ropes are mainly used for mountaineering, when 2 – 3 climbers are tied together to cross glaciers. This is necessary for safety if one was to fall into a crevasse. Ideally, this rope would also be dry treated so it does not gain significant weight when wet and to limit rope icing – the UIAA has a Water Repellent standard that you can look for to ensure that both the core and sheath fibers of your rope are dry treated.

If you owned a 20 – 30 meter rope you could also use it to…

  • Scramble exposed low-grade mountain ridges with a partner (using a running belay / simul-climbing). This enables protection in case of a fall and also enables the ability for short rappels.
  • Protect a high ball boulder, to safely send or while projecting.
  • Short rope a kiddo in case of a fall on a scramble or low-angle climb.

Most climbers will not buy such a short rope specifically for the above bullet points. More often, a repurposed or cut rope would be used (or these are additional uses if they already owned a short rope for mountaineering).

Your local gym may have wall heights less than 40 feet / 12 meters where a 30 meter rope would be sufficient. BUT, many US gym walls are somewhere between 50 feet / 15 meters and 85 feet / 26 meters tall where a 30 meter rope would be insufficient to get back down. A 40 – 50 meter rope will give you more versatility in where you can lead climb indoors.

Below you’ll find a few examples in different diameters and lengths:

40 – 50 meters

40 – 50 meters is considered the best length for indoor lead climbing. This is because indoor climbing walls can easily require 30+ meters to be able to lower back to the ground, and you also need extra length for both climbers to tie in.

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Indoor lead climbing walls can vary in height. A 40-50 meter rope will be ideal in most cases. Photo: Jeff Jaramillo

Also, if you lead a lot, and especially if you like to project routes or happen to fall or hang a lot, the area of the rope where you tie your knot might become “weird.” The sheath and core fibers could separate a bit, or the sheath could get fuzzy, or other issues could appear. In this case, you could cut off the end of the rope to have a new rope area to tie into. This is possible with longer ropes, but not if you get a rope that just barely makes it to the top of the wall and back.

Typically 40 – 50 meters is not an adequate length for outside rock climbing, especially for many routes put up anytime after the 90’s (when 60 meters was readily available) as many rappels require 30 meters. There are many locations around the world with short walls, such as Reimers Ranch outside of Austin, Texas, where the climbs range from 25 – 45 feet that would be quite possible (and even preferred) to climb outdoors with a 40 – 50 meter rope. BUT be extra careful when reading route descriptions to ensure your rope is long enough for the area as a 60 meter rope is much more the expected standard.

Alpine climbing in Europe is often done with double / twin ropes (versus a single rope) to reduce rope drag and ~50 meters is a common rope length for this setup, as it enables 50 meter rappels (with the two ropes tied together).

Winter climbing is another use case. Mountaineers may prefer this longer length if 3-5 people will be roping up on the glacier. Ice climbers always prefer dry treated ropes that are water repellent. Often they also use double / twin ropes as a safety precaution – climbing with two ropes means that if their pointy crampons or sharp ice tools accidentally sever one of the ropes there is still a margin of safety with the other rope.

Here are some examples:

60 meters

60 meters is the most common rope length for outdoor climbing (top rope or lead). There are 250+ 60 meter rope options (that we’ve catalogued at WeighMyRack) in a wide range of diameters. The vast majority of climbers who climb outdoors will own a 60 meter rope. This is the do-most-anything, indoors and out, climbing length. It could feel a little long at the gym, but it’s not unreasonable by any means, just some extra rope to manage.

Outdoor climbiner top roping fun 3
To ensure you can climb at most crags, a 60 meter rope is ideal. Photo: Alison Dennis

If you are currently an indoor-only climber, but want and expect to go outside, buying a 60 meter rope will more easily enable that future possibility, without adding the burden of needing to buy a second rope.

Although there are many climbs across the country at 70 feet (manageable with 50 meters of rope), a 60 meter rope will cover the many climbs that are closer to 95 feet. And, often, the classic climbs are on the taller parts of the crag. Many guidebooks will list a “60 meter rope” as what is needed for the crag, and will not note the height of each route; another reason a shorter rope could be problematic.

70 meters

Needing 70 meters is not particularly common though it absolutely depends on the outdoor crag where you’re headed. Since the 2010’s this length has been been slowly becoming more available and some route developers have used this as an opportunity to create longer new routes that weren’t possible with a 60 meter rope.

60 meters is still the standard, but there are now some great single pitch (often sport) routes that require a 70 meter rope. For example, Ten Sleep, WY has a number of routes that are necessary to have a 70 meter rope. Often, but not always, this extra-long length is noted in the guide book or on Mountain Project.

Sometimes experienced climbers also like this length because it allows them to connect two pitches together when climbing long multi-pitch climbs.

70 meters can be totally unnecessary (money wise) and a pain to deal with on shorter routes (weight, bulk, extra maintenance). Compared to a 60 meter, a 70 meter rope will add about 2 extra pounds to your pack.

Also, the elongation of ropes at this length can make it much harder for a tight belay, especially on top rope. Although it can lead to a nice soft catch during a fall.

80 meters

80 meters is becoming more accessible to buy, but it is typically only bought for very special or very specific routes (the climb, the rappel, or both). Although Ondra and Sharma will constantly need this size for their latest project, it’s an incredibly uncommon rope length for the average climber, especially in the US.

80 meters is cool for some special projects like a desert tower in one pitch instead of two or specific routes at a certain climbing area, like some 130 feet / 40 meter climbs in Indian Creek. Experienced multi-pitch climbers also can choose this size if they are looking to constantly connect pitches (up and down) like in the High Sierra or the Grand Teton. It can also be useful for speed ascents where a climber can climb further faster by skipping belays or simul-climbing.

One way an 80 meter rope can make sense for us mere mortals, is if you often climb in an area where you’d normally need a 70 meter rope and are projecting a lot. The ends of the rope get worn out and/or damaged a lot faster from falls than any other area of the rope. In this case you can cut off the worn end(s) to extend its life and still have plenty of rope for the 70m climbs.

90 meters+

Manufactures are now making and packaging 90, 100, and 200 meter ropes although few retailers are carrying these options. Again, these would be for extra special projects, for people who heavily use ropes (and need to cut them) or somebody looking to cut a rope into multiple lengths (including gyms and guides).

Ropes can also come on spools of 200 – 600 meters. This is commonly what gyms buy as well as some guide shops. This length is rarely available directly to the consumer, but sometimes they can be custom ordered from the manufacturer (or through a helpful retailer/gym).

Outdoor Example: Jumbo Love (5.15b) is a whopping 75 meters (one way!). While projecting the route Chris Sharma used a non-standard, longer (and wider diameter, 9.8mm) rope to be able to lower to the ground. For the final send a lighter 80 meter (9.2mm diameter) rope was used.

Final Rope Length Notes

Most brands sell rope models in multiple lengths. Sometimes the retailer will not buy all the lengths, but if you like a particular model, it is likely sold in at least 50, 60, 70 meter lengths (some brands also have 30, 40, and 80 available). The lengths vary per model. Gym specific ropes or ice climbing specific ropes might be sold in one or two lengths, while a popular 9.8 or 9.6 diameter rope may have every length option possible.

Most ropes aren’t exactly the length listed on the package. Don’t worry, nobody is skimming off the top here, it’s actually the opposite. Due to ropes being able to shrink slightly over time, depending on the environment, many rope manufacturers add 1 – 6 feet (0 – 2 meters) extra as a safety margin. Each brand is different (ugh!) but just know not all ropes are made equal. The only downside here is that a climber bolting a route / adding anchors, may assume each rope length is the same, and add anchors at the end of their 60 meter rope. Your rope could be shorter, and your rope might barely make it to the anchors. This is not a common situation, but is helpful to be aware of, especially when climbing/rappelling tall multi-pitch climbs.

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The necessary rope length for a climb should be listed in the guide book (in the beginning under required gear or per climb). Photo: Alison Dennis


Indoor lead climbers will often only own one rope, that is 40 – 50 meters in length, depending on the height of the gym walls. It may not even be necessary to own a rope if your gym requires you to use their ropes for lead climbing.

Outdoor climbers (including indoor climbers who aspire to climb outdoors) will be best suited with a 60 meter rope as it will satisfy most climbing needs.

The majority of climbers won’t ever need more than 60 meter ropes. It very much depends on the areas in which you’d like to climb, so it’s a good idea to research the height of those areas.

70 meter and above ropes are usually for very specific climbs. Most crags have 0% and some crags have 1 – 2% (a non-scientific estimate) of the climbs requiring a 70 meter length, so you won’t be terribly limited with your 60 meter rope. And don’t forget the possibility of borrowing your friend’s 70 meter!

Winter climbing can have different needs entirely, whether you’re mountaineering or ice / mixed / alpine climbing and we suggest reaching out to your local guides or climbing clubs to learn more and get recommendations for your particular area.