So you’re thinking about buying a new rope, but there are so many options, from the diameter, static or dynamic, and the length! How do you know what to buy if you haven’t even been to some of the recommended rappelling routes yet. Follow along and I’ll share with you my rappel rope length recommendations.
There are several common rope lengths on the market, ranging from 60 meters to 90 meters, even up to 180 meters. Recently, sport routes have been requiring ropes longer than 60 meters for safety purposes, and subsequently 70-meter rope is becoming the standard. For that reason my rappel rope length recommendations is 60- 70 meters. I can tell you right now, you probably will not need the 180 meter length rope. That is about 600 feet. Unless you are in an intense rescue mission, or are a very experienced cave rappeller, you probably won’t be needing a rappel that long. For reference, the space needle in Seattle is 605 feet high.
Standard Climbing Rope Lengths
Standard climbing rope lengths are 60 (about 200 feet) and 70 meters (about 230 feet). For reference, and a shout out to one of my favorite places, the Coit Tower in San Francisco is 210 feet high. The Golden Gate Bridge stands about 220 feet above water. (Pause while I add rappelling on the Golden Gate Bridge to my bucket list. I could make it down my rope just far enough to touch the water, then ascend back up. Who’s with me?!) I would not recommend buying a rope any shorter than 60 meters. Many of the routes in popular climbing areas are made for 60-meter ropes. If your rope is too short, you’ll have a hard time getting all the way back down. Literally, a hard landing. (Always tie a stopper knot!)
As I said above, sport routes have been requiring ropes longer than 60 meters for safety purposes. For this reason, the 70-meter rope is becoming the standard for sport climbing and rappelling. There are so pro’s to having a longer rope, besides the fact that it may be required at your next climbing and rappelling spot. First, a longer rope, such as the 70-meter rope, can extend the ropes life. The ends of the rope can wear faster than the rest of the rope from constant knot tying. Simply cut off the ends, and sear the end with a lighter to keep the end from fraying, and you will still have a rope to meet the sport-climbing standards.
My Best Rappel Rope Length Recommendations
If I were buying a rappelling rope for the first time, I would buy a static rope, 10.5 mm in diameter, with a length of 70-meters. (You can read more on this here – Choosing the Right Rappelling Rope.) This is a very standard rope. If you are unsure of the length of your rappel, check before you go. I’ve mentioned a little as to why I would by the 70-meter length rope above, (its becoming the new requirement at many climbing areas) and anything longer is going to get a bit heavy to carry, and will cost extra.
Why, 10.5 mm, you ask? Well, allow me to go a little off topic for a minute as this article is dedicated to best rappel rope length recommendations. First, you don’t want anything too small. You want your rope to have some friction with your rappelling device. If you have too wide of rope, you’ll have too much friction and you’ll have a hard time getting your rope through the device. I have found 10.5 mm ropes to be that happy medium. The 10.5 mm ropes are extremely strong and you will be feeling very confident in your ropes ability to support you.
How to Tie Ropes Together For Increased Length
So lets say you do come to a pretty long rappel and you’d like to have enough rope so you can retrieve your rappelling rope with out having to hike back to the top of your rappel to fetch your rope. (Click for instructions on how to retrieve a rappelling rope.) (Always check locally before you go to make sure you have enough rope. Read up on your route before you go!) This happens sometimes and you need a rope longer than my rappel rope length recommendations.
There are a few knots you can use to tie two ropes together, but I like to use the figure 8 bend.
- This rappelling knot is commonly used to tie two separate ropes together because of its superior strength and ease to untie after being weighted.
- Create a loose figure 8 knot in one of the ropes.
- Pass the second rope through the tail of the first figure 8 knot to create a parallel knot in reverse.
- Dress the knot so that each outermost loop is snug around the adjoining turn.
- Back up with a half double fisherman’s on each side
- Double Fisherman’s – Also known as the grapevine knot. This rappelling knot is commonly used to join nylon cords into a loop to make a cordelette (cordelette is a large sling that uses accessory cord and is created using the Double or Triple Fisherman’s Knot). The Double Fisherman’s knot can also be used to securely join two ropes together in a double-rope rappel. This knot has been tested as the best joining knot and is commonly used as a backup knot after you have tided yourself to your harness using a Figure 8 follow through knot.
- Wrap the tail end of the knot around the rope, coming back over itself.
- Wrap the tail end around again, to create an X.
- Pass the tail end through the loops and push up on the knot to tighten.
- Back up with a half double fisherman’s on each side.
We have a whole list of must know rappelling knots if you’d like to see more options.
A Few Last Tips on Rappelling Ropes
When to Dispose of your Rope
Regardless of how long your rope has been used, you should always retire your rope if.
- It has come into contact with chemicals, especially acid.
- The sheath has become damaged and the core is visible.
- The sheath has worn and has become frayed.
- The sheath is beginning to slip.
- The rope has become stiff, has indentations, has hard or weak spots.
- The rope has been subject to heavy loads and hard falls.
- The rope has become dirty and you are no longer able to wash it completely clean.
- The rope has had sun damage, heat damage, or has been damaged by abrasions or friction.
- Lastly, the recommended service life stated in the instruction manual has expired.
It is important to note the service life regardless of use. Read my article on how to care for your rope to get the most out of your rope’s life.
Use a rope protector to extend the life of your rappelling rope. Often ropes are rubbed up against rough rocks and can wear the sheath down quickly. If you know you are going to be in an area with rough rocks, make the investment in a rope protector. I highly recommend them to protect your ropes and get the most life out of them. Petzl Protec Rope Protector. Its very durable PVC plastic with Velcro to make it quick and easy to wrap around your rope. Your rope will thank you. And you will thank yourself for taking care of your ropes.
Conclusion – Rappel Rope Length Recommendations
With so many variances in rope choices, it can be overwhelming to know exactly which rope is best for you and especially what length of rope you’ll be needing. When in doubt, go with the 70-meter rope. Its always a safe bet and required by many sport-climbing and rappelling sites. Most routes are set up for a 70-meter rope. Remember to check the routes before you go. You can usually find message boards or guides online where people outline their routes and how long each rappel was. Many places, even more obscure routes will have something written on what to expect during the rappel. I hope you have found my rappel rope length recommendations helpful to you.