Last issue’s Gear Guy said that ropes of the same stated length can actually vary in length. A 60-meter rope, for instance, might really be 63 meters long. How do you suggest we mark the middle of the rope, and for bi-colored ropes, any tricks for balancing wear and tear to ensure that the actual middle is true?
—George Grzyb, Carteret, New Jersey
Ropes off the shelf can be longer than listed, as the manufacturer accounts for length shrinkage. If a rope has a middle mark, or the middle is noted by
a color or pattern change (bi-color or bi-weave), and you wear one end and trim it off, then your middle mark is no longer in the middle. This is potentially
deadly—rappel with the “middle” mark at the anchor, and the tails of the rope will be uneven, causing you to rap off one end—though you
should always knot the ends. Or you could get
dropped because your belayer thought the rope was longer than it was. If you are going to give your rope a haircut, you might be better off not marking
the middle and avoiding any confusion. At least then you know the middle isn’t marked, and you’ll take care to find it when you need to, by grabbing
both ends, then shucking the cord through your hands until you arrive at the middle. If you must mark the middle, I’ve used a couple of wraps of
quarter-inch wide cloth climbing tape. I’ll surely get yelled at for recommending tape: “the adhesive can eat the rope!” That might happen to some
extent (depending on the tape), but apparently it’s not so bad because cloth climbing tape is used reasonably often, and no rope has ever failed
as a consequence. Be advised that tape can creep and can peel off. This can be bad, but it’s also good because when you trim the rope again, you
can easily remark the middle.
To keep the middle true on a bi-color or bi-weave rope, when you trim one end, you’ll need to trim the other end an equal amount. Next!
This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 224 (February 2015).