In rock climbing and rappelling, every piece of equipment has a purpose. To minimize the amount of equipment we have to lug with us, we try to take short cuts and find multipurpose uses for our gear. There are times when this is perfectly safe to do, and there are times when its best to use the intended gear for the intended purpose. So let’s say you get to the top of an awesome climb and your ready to rappel back down the cliff. You used the proper dynamic rope to climb up but, but can you rappel with a dynamic rope back down?
The short answer is yes, you can rappel with a dynamic rope. Many people use their dynamic ropes to rappel back down after climbing to the top of a cliff with out a problem. Some people really don’t like the bounce of a dynamic rope during their rappel, so most people only use rappel with a dynamic rope when it is convenient. I wouldn’t bring a dynamic rope if I only planned to go rappelling that day. I would use a static rope and save the dynamic rope or a low stretch rope for when I need a multipurpose rope.
Can I mix a Static and Dynamic Rope for Rappelling
Now, I’ve seen a few people ask this, but mixing a static and dynamic rope to rappel is something I would not suggest. Why, you ask? There are a number of reasons why I would not tie a static and dynamic rope together and rappel down them. The first and foremost, static and dynamic ropes have different friction and stretch. Their differing properties will cause the knot at the anchor creep and you will get to the bottom of one rope before the other. You will fall the remaining distance, which could possible cause a catastrophe. To make sure you don’t fall off one end of the rope, tie a knot in the end of both ropes. Another safety check would be to place your big knot joining the two ropes together on the dynamic rope side of the anchor. This will help to keep the ends even.
Ultimately, my advice here is, try not to put yourself into a situation where you would need to mix a dynamic and static rope to rappel. Clearly its not a great option. Know your course before you go and plan what gear to bring accordingly so you and your buddies can stay as safe as possible.
Static Vs. Dynamic Ropes
To the blind eye, dynamic and static ropes look about the same, but they have different properties and are designed for different purposes. Static ropes are defined as ropes that have a maximum elongation of 6 percent or less when weighted at 10 percent of the ropes minimum breaking strength. It is a very low stretch rope and can be hard to manipulate because of their stiffness. In climbing situations, these ropes are usually only used for rappelling. Using a static rope to rappel will give you more control while you descend.
Dynamic ropes are designed to have much more stretch and made for situations where the rope may become subject to a high-impact force. These situations include rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. While a static rope will not absorb much of the force from a fall, a dynamic rope will absorb the force, leaving less of an impact for the user. Dynamic ropes usually stretch about 26 – 36 percent when subject to a high impact force, and will stretch between 7 and 11 percent under body weight. Which rope would you want to catch you during a fall?
For more information on ropes, how they are tested, when to use them, and so on, read our article on Choosing the Right Rappelling Rope.
When to Rappel with a Dynamic Rope
Because of their elasticity, dynamic ropes are best used in any situation where you would want to protect someone from falling. As mentioned before, rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering are the situations that come to my mind first. You can also use the dynamic rope for belaying. You can rappel with a dynamic rope without a problem, just expect some bounce on your descent.
If you have climbed up an awesome cliff and you’d like to rappel with a dynamic rope back down because you didn’t want to carry a static rope up with you, you are not the only one! Just use extra caution and make sure your rope won’t slide too quickly through the rappel device.
While it may be fun to bounce on your rope while descending, try to avoid this. Bouncing on your rope will cause unnecessary pressure and wear on the anchors and equipment.
When to Use Static Ropes
Static ropes are just what they sound like. Static ropes are not supposed to stretch. For this reason, they can be very stiff and difficult to manipulate. They are best used for rappelling.
A static rope should never be used in situations where it may be put under high pressure. The static rope is not designed to absorb the impact of a fall. As a dynamic rope stretches under pressure, it absorbs the force of the fall, putting less force on the person falling. Whereas a static rope is designed to give very little bounce. This will first and foremost, cause more damage to the person falling, and secondly, really damage the integrity of the rope.
Only use the static rope when elongation will not be required. Again, those situations would be rappelling and only rappelling in climbing situations. Do not use a static rope for lead climbing or belaying.
You would also want to use a static rope to ascend. It will be twice as hard to ascend with a dynamic rope because of all the stretch. Imagine trying to climb up a bungee cord. You’ll get to the top eventually, but it is going to be a lot of work, and you will not make any vertical progress before you have taken all the stretch out of the rope.
Another application of the static rope is hauling or lifting heavy loads. Obviously, you don’t want to haul on a stretchy dynamic rope. You want something more sturdy. Speaking of hauling, static ropes are also used for rescue work. Usually the larger diameter ropes are used in rescue situations, such as a 13 mm rope. Zero stretch in this work is a must. Usually the victims are being hauled up with injuries, and you don’t want to cause them any more pain.
Low-stretch ropes are defined as ropes that stretch from 6 to 10 percent at ten percent of the rope’s maximum allowable breaking strength. These low-stretch ropes usually only stretch from 3 to 4 percent with body weight applied, making it very versatile. Its an all around multipurpose rope. Its great for activities when you need some shock absorption, and great for a rappel too.
Yes, you can rappel with a dynamic rope without a problem. Expect some bounce, that you may or may not enjoy, but try not to make a game out of bouncing on your descent and causing unnecessary wear on your rope and equipment. While the dynamic rope can be pretty versatile and have a lot of uses in the climbing world, I suggest investing in both static and dynamic ropes.
Always know your course before you lead yourself blindly into a situation where you will need equipment that you don’t have. For more on Static and Dynamic ropes and how to pick out a rope, check out our article on Choosing the Right Rappelling Rope.