Because a wet or frozen rope is a major bummer
Your cord loses 1/3 of its strength and much of its shock absorbing capability when wet. Wet ropes squeegee water out of the rappel device all over the climber. Wet ropes are heavy and hard to handle. They become useless when they freeze solid. And if you’re climbing ice, that’s an inevitability.
Here are six pointers we picked up at the Ouray Ice Park that will help keep your ropes dry–and you and your climbing partners happy–on those snowy ice climbs.
Use a Newer Rope
Dry treated or not, new ropes are far less prone to wicking moisture from the snow into the rope.
Pack the Rope Inside Your Pack
Especially if it is snowing or if you are bushwhacking through snowy trees and brush.
Air-cool Your Rope
Don’t toss a rope straight from your pack onto the snow or ice. Allow your ropes to cool to air temperature by hanging them in the shade from a tree branch or anchor or by placing them on a dry rock. Yeah, this sounds a little crazy, but throwing a relatively warm rope in the snow at the base of your climb can trigger a melt, which will start wetting your rope. On cold winter days, the dry mountain air is usually colder than the snow temperatures. If your rope is colder than the snow, it won’t melt the snow.
Use a Tarp
Stack your rope on a tarp when practical (ice cragging). Otherwise, stomp an area in the snow to accommodate your rope. Dry, compacted snow is less likely to weasel into a rope’s fibers.
Dry Your Rope Overnight
If you are going home or back to a hotel for the evening, uncoil your ropes and spread the strands across the floor to give the rope the best possible chance of totally drying. If you are camping this can be a real challenge. In a tent or in a building, the key here is to keep the ropes as dry as possible rather than trying to dry them later.
Pack a Spare
So, you did all of the above and your ropes still got wet? Hey, sometimes that’s the way it goes. It’s ideal to have more than one rope so you can alternate, resting one, allowing it to dry, without missing a day of climbing.
What works for you? Tell us in the comments below.