Does your dry rope truly stay dry?
In the past, “dry” ropes have always been something of a mystery. Without any universal standard and certification to properly identify ropes as dry, brands were free to label any rope they wanted as such. Dry coated sheath? Call it a dry rope. Dry coated core? Bonus. Spray some Nikwax on it? Sure, slap a “dry” label on it. Happily, after nearly 10 years of research and testing the UIAA Safety Commission has approved a new standard for water repellent ropes.
Here at Bentgate we’re psyched to see a proper standard for dry ropes because a wet rope can be downright deadly. The dynamic performance of a wet rope can be reduced by 70% when wet. Assuming a wet rope does catch your fall without issue, it can still cause serious damage that lasts long after the rope has dried. And we’re not talking about a totally soaked rope; a rope even just splashed or sprinkled with water will suffer performance decreases nearly as major as a fully soaked rope. Keeping your rope dry while climbing is serious business for the life of your rope and yourself.
Since circumstances don’t always allow for climbing to simply stop at the first sign of moisture, having a rope that stays dry in wet conditions can be a literal lifesaver. This is where the UIAA’s new dry standards come in. To qualify as a dry rope under the new standards a rope must absorb no more than 5% of it’s weight in water after a 15 minute soaking. By absorbing so little water, a certified dry rope will maintain its handling characteristics and safety in wet conditions. The bottom line here is that you can climb safely in that surprise downpour or not-so-frozen ice route.
How the UIAA certifies dry ropes
To begin testing a rope for dry certification the UIAA is subject to light abrasion. This abrasion mimics a few days of use for a rope and mitigates the risk of certifying a rope that will lose its dry treatment from routine use. To create this abrasion, the UIAA runs a rope through three threaded machine screws. Each nut is weighted with 5Kg and the rope sample is then run back and forth between the nuts 30 times. With the sample’s dry weight recorded, the UIAA can now water the test sample: A constant stream of 2 liters of water per minute runs over the test rope for 15 minutes. The test sample is immediately weighed and compared to the dry weight, and if the increase of weight of the wet rope is less than 5% it can now be UIAA certified as dry.
Buying a UIAA certified dry rope
At this time, ropes sold in the USA are not required to be UIAA dry certified in order to be labeled as dry; Ropes sold in Europe, however, are. To be sure you’re purchasing a proper dry rope, look for the UIAA “water repellent rope” stamp. Mammut, Edleweiss, and Beal are the only brands selling UIAA certified dry ropes in the USA at this time. Check out the video below to see how the UIAA tests ropes and the impact a dry treatment can have on a rope.