It’s important to take care of climbing ropes properly in order to preserve their integrity and extend their lifespans. Part of this rope care includes uncoiling the rope when you first purchase it, flaking the rope regularly, and storing it correctly.
So, how to flake a rope? To flake a climbing rope, you simply run the entire length through your hands and pile it loosely, preferably on a tarp. This serves the dual purpose of untangling the rope and providing a chance to inspect it closely for wear and tear.
However, flaking a rope isn’t the only step necessary for good rope care. In this article, we’ll look at a couple of different processes that will help extend the life of your climbing rope and how to perform them.
What Does Flaking a Rope Mean?
Flaking a rope simply means running it through your hands and piling it loosely. This is typically done when you first arrive at the crag and you are getting ready to use your rope. However, it can also be done periodically throughout the day if necessary, or before you pack up your rope so it’s easier to fit it in the rope bag and/or so you don’t have to do it when you arrive at the crag the next time.
Before you flake a rope, there are several things you should do to ensure safety and efficiency.
Inspect the rope carefully for any signs of damage or wear. Look for frayed or damaged sections, cuts, or areas of heavy abrasion.
Clean the rope: Dirt, dust, and other debris can weaken the rope and make it more difficult to handle. Before flaking the rope, wipe it down with a clean cloth or brush to remove any dirt or debris.
Clear the area: Before flaking the rope, make sure the area is clear of obstacles or hazards that could cause tripping or entanglement. Make sure there is enough space to flake the rope out fully.
Organize gear: Organize any gear or equipment that will be used in conjunction with the rope, such as carabiners, slings, or cams. This can help to prevent confusion and ensure that the rope is used properly.
By taking these steps before flaking the rope, you can help to ensure that it is in good condition, easy to handle, and ready for use in your climbing or other outdoor activity.
Here are the steps to flake a climbing rope:
- To flake your rope, take it out of the bag and place it on top of your rope tarp.
- Tie one end of the rope to one of the loops on your rope tarp.
- Start with that end and run the entire length of the rope through your hands, feeling for any damage or inconsistencies as you go.
- Pile the rope loosely onto itself, and when you reach the other end of the rope, tie that to the other loop on the tarp.
- Fold the edges of the tarp over the rope pile and roll the whole thing up burrito-style until it fits into your rope bag.
- If you are just getting to the crag, once you reach the second end of your rope, you would tie in and begin climbing.
Importance of Flaking a Climbing Rope
- Safety: Flaking the rope ensures that it is free of knots, twists, and tangles, which can cause safety issues during climbing. A well-flaked rope reduces the risk of falls and other accidents.
- Ease of Use: A neatly flaked rope is easier to handle and reduces the chance of the rope getting tangled during use.
- Rope Longevity: Flaking the rope properly can help prolong its life by reducing the amount of wear and tear on the rope. A twisted or tangled rope can cause abrasion which can weaken the rope over time.
- Organization: A well-flaked rope is organized and easy to transport, store, and pack. This makes it easier to take care of the rope and keep it in good condition.
There are different ways to flake a climbing rope, and climbers may have their own preferences depending on their climbing style and the specific situation. The most common and widely used method is the standard flaking, where the rope is flaked out in a series of loops of equal length, laid out side by side.
How Do You Coil and Uncoil a Climbing Rope?
It’s perfectly acceptable to store a flaked rope in a rope bag, but there are some cases where you may need to coil or uncoil it in a more structured way. A primary example of this is when you first purchase your climbing rope. Unless the rope is specially marked to indicate that it’s ready to use right away, you’ll need to uncoil it carefully before you begin climbing.
Uncoiling a new rope is easiest with two people. One person will hold the coiled rope by inserting their hands into either end of the coil. The other person will gently pull the loops of rope free and flake it into a loose pile. It’s generally a good idea to flake your new rope a couple of times before you use it to help avoid kinks and twists when you get to the crag.
You may want to coil your rope back up into a neat bundle if you plan to store it without a bag. There are several different ways to do this, with the most common being to drape the rope back and forth over the back of your neck in roughly 4-foot sections, then folding the finished product in half and tying it off, so you have an approximately 2-foot bundle of neatly coiled rope. Coiling a rope in this way does allow you to pack it more efficiently into a rope bag for a smaller overall package, although it takes a bit of extra time.
How Do You Roll a Climbing Rope?
Rolling a climbing rope is essentially the same thing as coiling it. Again, there are several ways to do this. You can use the method outlined above, or you can coil it like you would an extension cord, around your hand and elbow. However, this can be difficult if you have small hands and/or a very long rope, as so many passes of the rope will eventually become hard to hold.
How Do You Coil a Climbing Rope Into a Backpack?
Most climbing rope bags have integrated tarps with loops to tie off both ends of your rope, as well as backpack straps so you can easily carry your rope around. However, if you don’t have a climbing rope bag, you can still transport it easily by coiling almost the entire length, and then using the final few feet to make ‘straps’ for your rope backpack. This way, the rope is coiled up neatly and you can carry it hands-free, which is infinitely easier than trying to carry a flaked rope in your arms—that can feel like attempting to carry 80 meters worth of spaghetti.
Additional Rope Storage Tips
Regularly inspecting your ropes is crucial to identify any possible damages. When beginning a climbing expedition, minor cracking or dirt on the sheath can be overlooked. However, it’s essential to remove any rust from the rope to prevent further damage. If a portion of the rope is affected, it’s possible to remove that section and use the rest. To determine the length of the tether needed and how much rope to use, you can measure the distance and choose a rope of suitable length.