How to cut / chop a climbing rope

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After some mileage indoors or sport climbing, your rope may become fluffy, frayed and worn.  Generally about a meter infront of the tying in section of rope.  Look for signs on the outer sheath, and also test the core (bobbins strands) by feeling and bending the rope… it’s very unlikely any of these will have snapped, but they do become stretched/worn/twisted inside the sheath (mantle).

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Fluffy section above

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Tired core on the left

This kind of wear is very unlikely to happen on a trad climbing rope, because its caused by the repetitve resting or falling on to the quickdraws.  Though it is very possible to get a nick or cut in a trad rope, and the same process of cutting or chopping the rope may be necessary.

I start by feeling the rope and getting the section where it becomes ‘good’ again.  It’s not fluffy, bendy, and holds a nice loop as you pinch it together.  This is the safe part you’re looking for.

I then tape with good quality duct tape as tightly as possible around the section I am going to cut.

Heat up a sharp knife with either a few candles or lighters, or on a gas hob… take care not to burn yourself and do it either outside or near a few open windows, as this is smelly and gives off fumes.

Cut straight through the duct tape.  Then use a lighter to melt the duct tape into the shealth and into the core, so that it all welds together and won’t fray.  I then roll the still hot edges on some newspaper to round them off a bit and avoid any sharpness.

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Be sure to clean all the black gunk off the knife before you put it back in the draw and your non-climber wife/girlfriend/mum finds it.

After chopping the rope 3 or 4 times, take a moment to consider the state or the middle section, the rope is probably quite tired, and could do with being retired.  For £150 the price per usage is negliable… check out V12 Outdoor shop in Llanberis for some great deal, and you get 15% off, if you are or have been on one of my Rock Climbing courses.

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Mont Blanc Preparation Course

Tryfan East Face
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A few weeks ago I was contacted by a company that run Mont Blanc trips out of Chamonix.  They generally run a 7 day alpine climbing introduction, which ends in the summiting of Mont Blanc.  One of their potential clients was unsure whether he was fit enough and skilled enough to make the most of the trip in late August or whether to wait a year and put some more time in.  I agreed to take him out and assess his skills and fitness against that required to climb a 4000m European peak, on the basis and experience I have from this Alpine Climbing Course.

After a few phone calls to Geoff, to organise kit and accommodation, we met up in the Bryn Trych the night before to plan a big day out.  As Geoff had not visited Snowdonia before, I wanted to link up a big day involving Llechog or Clogwyn y Person Arete to try and get a summit of Snowdon involved, maybe with Lliwedd etc.  As hard as I tried I couldn’t think of anything on the Snowdon Massif that could compete with a scrambling day in the Glyderau.  (Let me know if you can think of anything)

East Face Tryfan

Nor Nor Buttress grade 2/3, East Face Tryfan

So we met 8.45 in the Siabod Cafe for a quick panad, before embarking on the day.  Starting from Gwern Gof ….. (the one below Tryfan) … we smashed it up to the Heather Terrace on the East Face in about 45 minutes.  Geoff keen to show his fitness, and me keen not to lag behind!  But it showed it’s toll when Geoff ran out of water before we started the first scramble…!  Nor Nor Buttress variant.

I led each pitch with a focus on fast movement and efficiency rather than education of the rope systems I was using.  With a 50m rope, I body coiled all but about 12m, and made short fast pitches mixed with short roping the less serious sections.  We reached the top junction with the North Ridge at about 11 am.  Went over Tryfan summit, then to the south summit, and down along to the start of Bristly Ridge.

I wanted to find the most challenging route up the ridge, so stayed true to the line straight up and found some very challenging steps.  More than grade 1 for sure.

Bristly Ridge Glyder Fach

Steep sustained gully up Bristly Ridge to Glyder Fach

We topped out from the ridge as the clouds were rolling up and over the plateau of Glyder Fach.  It was like arriving at a 1970’s film set of the Moon landing with a trigger happy dry ice operator.

Glyder Fach

The Moon, I’m mean Glyder Fach

With a quick and irresistible photo on the Cantilever Stone:

Cantilever Stone Glyder Fach

Geology Rocks dude!

We then headed with very little visibility over the top of Glyder Fawr, which is a shame because the views of the Carneddau and Snowdon hills are utterly stunning.  Down the horror show scree slope towards Y Garn, then into Cwm Idwal.

We hit the Idwal cafe for an ice cream at about 4.30pm, a lot of terrain covered and the aim of the course (a bit of rope work and generally walking a long way over mountains fast) was accomplished.

Thanks Geoff for the wonderful day out and great chat along the way.  Don’t go back to work too soon, there are many adventures awaiting you.  Good luck on Monte Bianco. T