Best Rope For Scrambling: A Beginner’s Guide

Just the other day, I was researching about scrambling routes. That’s when I noticed how terrifying some of those can be! For anyone that’s new to scrambling, we need all the help we can to help overcome our fears. So I looked into how using a rope can help me climb more safely and confidently.

So what is the best rope for scrambling? The best rope of scrambling would be 30 to 35 meters in length and 9mm to 10mm in diameter. This length is ideal the short steep sections you would normally encounter on a scramble. Ropes used for scrambling generally have more wear and tear. A thicker rope will last longer.

I am sure you still have many other questions. Isn’t a longer rope better? Should you use a dynamic or static rope? What other equipment do I need? Read on to find out more. 

This is Part 2 of 3 of the Introduction To Climbing Ropes Mini-series:
Part 1What Are Differences Between Double/ Half And Twin Ropes?
Part 2: What Is The Best Rope For Scrambling?
Part 3: How To Set Up Top Rope Anchors With Static Ropes?

How To Use A Rope For Scrambling

Before you choose the type of ropes you need, let first see how you will be using ropes during a scramble. 

Most of the time, climbers use their ropes for belaying. There are several belaying techniques when you are scrambling:

Direct Belay

A direct belay is a typical belay technique for most climbing activities today. In the simplest term, if a climber falls, the impact will be transferred directly to the anchor point (this will usually be a rock).

Here you can see how to do a direct belay:

Body Belay 

But if you cannot find a decent anchor point, you will do a body belay instead. The belayer will act as the main anchor point. The belayer then fastens himself to a secondary anchor point. If the climber falls, the belayer will catch the impact first. If the belayer also loses balance, the secondary anchor point will act as the backup.

Here you can see how to do a body belay:

Choosing The Right Length Of Rope For Scrambling

You can find climbing ropes ranging from 30 to 80 meters (100 to 260 feet). The typical lengths used for rock climbing is between 60 to 70 meters (200 to 230 feet).

Generally, you will need a piece of rope that is at least twice the length of the route you will be climbing. For example, if you are climbing a 15-meter high wall, your rope should be at least 30 meters long.

When scrambling, you are usually dealing with shorter sections.

You usually can’t go wrong with having a longer rope. Having excess rope is always a better problem than having one that’s too short. However, a longer rope will be heavier and take up more space in your backpack. 

Choosing The Right Diameter Of Rope For Scrambling

In the videos above, the climbers tied in their ropes onto the carabiners. But in some cases, you may have to belay the ropes directly on the rocks instead of through a carabiner.

You can see that here:

Wear and tear is usually quite high for scrambling ropes so a thicker rope of 9 mm to 10 mm in diameter will last longer. 

There are 3 types of climbing ropes — single, twin and half ropes. 

You can tell them apart by their labels. These labels are usually on the ends of the ropes.

The labels will have 1 of the 3 symbols below:

  • The number 1 indicates that it is a single rope.
  • The infinity symbol indicates that it is a twin rope.
  • The number ½ indicates that it is a half rope.

You can use single ropes by themselves. But you have to use twin and half ropes in a pair. You can read more about the differences here. 

Single ropes are generally thicker, ranging from 9 mm to 11 mm. The typical diameter is 10 mm. 9 mm single ropes are lighter and you may need to pay a premium for that. 

Twin and half ropes are thinner, ranging from 8mm to 9 mm. Some climbers may use a 9 mm twin or half rope in place of a 9 mm single rope since the half rope is cheaper. However, this is not advisable. Twin and half ropes are designed to be used in a pair. One 9mm twin or half rope will be weaker than a 9mm single rope. 

Other Considerations When Choosing The Right Rope For Scrambling

But of course, one size does not fit all. There are many factors that may determine that right rope for your scramble:

Profile Of The Trails Or Routes

Some trails or routes only have short sections of scrambling dispersed throughout. Others may be closer to rock climbing where you need to scramble over long sections from start to finish. The longer the scramble, the longer the rope needs to be. 

Profile Of The Climbers

Climbers who are competent and comfortable with scrambling may not need ropes for their scrambles. They sometimes bring along ropes for emergency use only. In such cases, climbers may sometimes even just bring a shorter 15-meter to 20-meter rope with a diameter of 8 mm to 8.5 mm.

If you have some beginners in your group, you may require longer ropes to cover longer sections of the routes. In such cases, a longer rope will give the lead climber more flexibility. 

It is important that at least 1 climber in the group is competent and has experience with climbing and scrambling. Using a rope which is not anchored or belayed correctly is even more dangerous than not using one. 

Using The Scrambling Rope For Rappelling Or Abseiling 

If you are planning to do some rappelling or abseiling during your climb, you will need a longer and thicker rope. This same rope can be used for your scramble. 

Sometimes, rappelling or abseiling can also be useful for climbers who are not comfortable going down a steep route. Rappelling or abseiling allows them an option to turn around quickly. 

Should You Use A Dynamic Or Static Rope For Scrambling?

A dynamic rope can stretch and absorb impact while a static rope cannot. 

You should always use a dynamic rope for scrambling and climbing. In the event of a fall, the rope will absorb the impact partially. You are less likely to get an injury. 

You should only use a static rope for transporting equipment or doing a rescue operation.  

Rope labels usually do not specify if a rope is dynamic or static. But since all climbing ropes are dynamic, the easiest way to tell is to check if the rope has a single, half or twin rating. Only dynamic ropes have these ratings. Static ropes will not have any such ratings. 

Do You Need Dry Treatment For Your Scrambling Rope?

A dry treatment will increase the water resistance on a rope. This is useful when you expect bad weather or rocks that are wet from ice or snow.

Without the dry treatment, the ropes can absorb water very quickly and become heavy. A wet rope is also harder to use and may not absorb impact as effectively. 

Recommended Ropes For Scrambling

It is quite difficult to find 30-meter ropes in the market. They are not as common as the longer ropes. Some of the shorter ropes are also designed for indoor gym use rather than outdoor usage.

I have found 2 decent options in the market:

Mammut Infinity Dry 30 m, 9.5 mm

Mammut is a brand name and you can’t go wrong with it. It is strong and yet lightweight. The weight is 59 g/m which works out to 1.78 kg (3.9 pounds) for a 30-meter long rope. It also comes in different lengths, from 30 meters to 80 meters.

Edelweiss 9.8 mm Rocklight II

This is the budget option. One key difference from the Mammut Infinity Dry is that this rope is not dry treated. It is also slightly heavier at 61 g/m which works out to 1.83kg (4 pounds) for a 30-meter long rope. This rope also comes in different lengths, from 30 meters to 80 meters. 

Edelweiss also has another very similar rope, a 10 mm Flashlight II

When Should You Replace Your Scrambling Ropes?

Most climbing ropes have a specified lifespan of about 10 years. Depending on the frequency of your usage, these are the average lifespans:

  • 7 years with infrequent usage (once or twice a year)
  • 4 to 5 years with regular usage (one a month)
  • 1 to 3 years with frequent usage (a few times a month)

However, you should always inspect your ropes before using them. You should replace them when:

  • There are damages to the ropes e.g. cuts, frays, abrasion. 
  • The ropes are stiff or flattened at certain portions.
  • You can see sun damage e.g. badly faded, dry and stiff.  
  • The ropes have taken a huge impact when a climber falls. It is a good idea to replace the ropes after such an impact even when there is no visible damage. 

All ropes have a recommended lifespan. Even if the ropes have not been used, you should replace it when it exceeds its lifespan.  

Scrambling is rough on your ropes. To prevent wear and tear, you can consider using a rope protector. It is essentially a cover that wraps around your rope. The Petzl Protec Rope Protector is one that’s quick and easy to use. A climbing rope can be pricey and this simple protector allows you to scramble with a peace of mind. 

Learning How To Scramble As A Beginner

When I first heard the term scrambling, it seemed like a cross between hiking and climbing. But upon deeper research, I found out that a route that requires scrambling is not one to be taken lightly. 

In fact, it is safer to look at scrambling as a form of technical climbing rather than non-technical climbing. As a beginner, even simple scrambling routes can be quite intimidating. You may need to be roped in for your safety or to build up your confidence. 

Even when you are the one being belayed, you cannot rely on your belayer for everything. You need to know how to tie knots, how to handle a belay device and some basic rope work

You will also need to learn how to assess your routes and how to find good handholds and footholds for scrambling.

The best way to learn would be to take up a beginner climbing course. Alternatively, you can also learn from more experienced climbers. Start off with short simpler routes at quieter locations. This way, you can practice without obstructing other climbers. Practice roping in at locations where you are comfortable scrambling without ropes. This will allow you to focus on the techniques.

What Other Equipment Do You Need?

At a minimum, you will need a harness and helmet for scrambling.

Harness: This allows you to properly secure your ropes during a belay. Using a rope without a harness will likely lead to serious injuries. 

Helmet: A rope may break your fall but without a helmet, you may still end up with serious injuries.   

Rack: A rack refers to all the accessories you need to set up anchor points and secure your ropes and climbers. The items in your rack are typically hung on your harness during the scramble.

A scrambling rack typically has:

Belay device: THis is used to control the rope during belaying. 

Slings: They are used to attach climbing ropes to anchor points. 

Nuts, hexes or cams: They are used to fit into cracks or small openings in the rocks and act as anchor points.

HMS carabiners: Useful for Italian hitches.

Learn more about each of these equipment in this beginner’s guide — Mountaineering Tools And Equipment 101.

The exact number of items you need on your rack will again depend on route and the climbers’ competencies. Research your route before your climb. You can find discussions and advice on route-specific equipment on online climbing forums or communities.

This is Part 2 of 3 of the Introduction To Climbing Ropes Mini-series:
Part 1What Are Differences Between Double/ Half And Twin Ropes?
Part 2: What Is The Best Rope For Scrambling?
Part 3: How To Set Up Top Rope Anchors With Static Ropes?

This article is intended to provide general information. No article or video can replace qualified instruction, practice and experience. Your safety is your responsibility.

Recent Content