Rock climbing, indoors or outdoors, requires a dynamic rope. A dynamic rope is made to stretch and ease the impact force on a climber when they fall. If the rope were a static rope with no stretch, the force of a fall on a climber could severely injure them, break their back, or worse.

Below we dive into the differences of dynamic and static ropes, how they’re tested, and how you can identify them.

Dynamic Climbing Ropes

We use dynamic ropes to keep us safe while rock climbing. Their ability to stretch makes them function as a shock absorber in any scenario where there is potential for a fall. When forces are absorbed by this rope stretch, they are reduced at other key parts of a climbing system, including the belayer, the anchor, and of course the climber who is tied at the end of the rope.

Dynamic ropes have many climbing uses including:

  • indoor climbing (top-roping, leading)
  • outdoor rock climbing (top-roping, leading, following)
  • ice or mixed climbing (top-roping, leading, following)

Below you can see an example of an outdoor climber leading on a dynamic rope. If the climber was to fall, the belayer would hold the rope to ‘catch’ her, and the rope would stretch to reduce the impact of that fall. The belayer would stay in control of the rope, and the climber would fall a bit, and the anchor point on the wall would feel very little force. Nice and safe.

Climbing on a Dynamic Rope
Veronica Baker (@theglobalclimbinginitiative) climbs while Cody Kaemmerlen (@cody.kaemmerlen) belays. Photo by WeighMyRack's Jeff Jaramillo (@unklhefe). Images taken in the Uinta Mountains on Eastern Shoshone and Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) territories.

Static Ropes

As the name would suggest, static ropes react very differently to dynamic ropes and have minimal stretch or bouncing. Static ropes are found in rope systems where things need to stay put, and tend not to fall. Because of their intended use, they are certified as “low stretch ropes.”

There are many climbing-related scenarios where you may use a static rope.

Static rope uses include:

  • hauling (like a route-setter hauls a bucket of holds or a drill or a big wall climber hauls up gear)
  • positioning (like a photographer who uses ascenders to get into position, but is not climbing)
  • rappelling (like in canyoneering or caving)
  • caving (like to fix a rope to get into/out of a cave using ascenders/descenders)
  • rescue (like to move a litter when positioning a rescue victim)
  • workout fitness gym (like when the rope is hanging from a ceiling)

When a static rope holds a person, that person is never risking a fall more than a few inches.

Routesetters static lines 1

In this photo you can see two routesetters that have just hauled up a large volume. In this static system, the volume was hoisted with a static rope and the routesetters are also on static ropes. The routesetters ascended these ropes using an ascender and are positioned in place with gear that allows them to stop and work at height. There is little to no risk of falling because everything is being held in position, so static ropes are used instead of dynamic.

Testing Dynamic and Static Ropes

When a manufacturer tests a rope, they have either made it dynamic or static and will test accordingly.

Dynamic ropes are certified CE EN892 / UIAA 101. To pass these certification tests there is a maximum impact force requirement of 12kN for single and twin ropes and 8kN for half ropes. It is commonly recognized in the climbing community that it is rare to have a fall with an impact force higher than 10kN. According to Petzl, these max impact force numbers came from military studies on paratroopers.

Static Ropes are certified CE EN 1891 / UIAA 107 and you can find more testing details on the UIAA website.

READ MORE
What are the the different rope types?
This post explains single ropes vs twin vs half ropes

Identifying Dynamic vs. Static Climbing Rope

A dynamic rope will not feel stretchy like a rubber band and it is hard to tell just by pulling a piece of the rope to see if it stretches, even if you use all your might.

The best way to identify a dynamic rope is to look at the rope end marker (see below). If the dynamic rope is sold in Europe it will always have CE #### EN 892 (the #### is the lab that certified the rope). Unfortunately, if the rope is certified by the UIAA it does not show the certification number 101, just the UIAA lettering. Fortunately, the UIAA allows you to find all the certified equipment on their website – you can filter for the rope brand and see if they have the Dynamic Rope certification for each model of rope.

CE EN UIAA Dynamic Rope 2
The end marker of a dynamic climbing rope will show CE EN 892 and/or UIAA certification markings. This rope is made by Maxim (whose parent company is Teufelberger) and is a single rope, thus the 1.

Static ropes will not show the dynamic CE EN certification number 892, but they may show a UIAA label if it’s been tested by the UIAA. Seeing the UIAA label signifies the rope has passed the UIAA’s tests, but does not detail whether it is a static or dynamic certification.

It’s also worth noting that static ropes have some color limitations (as stated by the UIAA). The sheath must be at least 80% one main color and any contrasting spiral threads my only spiral in one direction and have a maximum of two colors.

static rope color examples 3
These 3 ropes are static ropes. Note the one main solid color and the simple spiral pattern.

Climbing Rope Warnings

When buying a climbing rope online we always recommend going with an outdoor retailer directly and buying from a recognized climbing brand. You can also see and compare every model of climbing rope WeighMyRack.com/rope.

We’ve seen a growing number of “Climbing Rope Recommendations” online that include static ropes. Some of these posts are speaking to “climbing” a rope hanging from the ceiling in a fitness gym where there is no rock climbing wall.

In most other cases these posts are misleading, wrong, and dangerous and clearly were not written by rock climbers; we have an example here but we don’t link to any current examples directly because we don’t want Google to think we support these erroneous sites.

Hemp Fitness gym rope 4
A stock photo from Canva that showcases a Fitness Gym "climbing rope." This rope is static and is NOT made to be used while rock climbing on a wall.
Amazon untrustworthy for climbing ropes 5
This screenshot of a rope found on Amazon highlights in pink where the product page shows conflicting information.

Amazon also lists a lot of mislabeled and/or misleading “climbing ropes.” For example, I would never trust a company that used both the terms “dynamic rope” and “static rope” to describe a rope, even if it claimed a UIAA certification. Clearly they are confused and there is no way I would trust them with making personal protection equipment.

At WeighMyRack we never recommend buying protective gear on Amazon from a company we are not familiar with. The Amazon exception would be buying from a known climbing brand who is properly listing their certified products.

Bottom Line

Rock climbing is done with a dynamic rope. To ensure it’s safe to climb on it should be certified by the the UIAA / CE EN 892.

Static ropes are used in climbing-adjacent or advanced techniques in climbing-related situations where there is a maximum fall of only a few inches.

 

Cover photo: Features Nicki Simon (<a href=”https://www.instagram.com/nickisimon/” target=”_blank”>@nickisimon</a>) taken by WeighMyRack’s Jeff Jaramillo (<a href=”instagram.com/unklhefe/” target=”_blank”>@unklhefe</a> in the Uinta Mountains on Eastern Shoshone and Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) territories.

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