A new standard for water repellent climbing ropes has been approved by the UIAA (Union of Alpine Associations) Safety Commission for 2015, after almost 10 years of research and testing. In many instances the UIAA standards are more stringent than the Euro ones and all Mammut ropes fulfil the most recent UIAA requirements, so with this in mind, I got a nice chap at Mammut to gave me a beginners introduction to climbing ropes on their stand at last weeks Outdoor trade show in Friedrichshafen.
Mammut have three levels of rope, best described as good, better & best and each of these ropes has a prescribed number of falls that they can safely be expected to take. Regardless of what level you choose to buy at, you will be the proud owner of a rope made in Switzerland using Polyamide 6 Nylon filament yarns.
Every single meter of rope is checked electronically for any inconsistencies, and in Mammut’s own test lab each batch is tested to all relevant specifications to maintain performance standards. This is reassuring stuff as you really are trusting your life to these ropes.
So why is this new standard for water repellent ropes so crucial? Well when a rope gets full of water, it can become heavy and therefore difficult to use with belay devices, also when wet it can then go on to freeze which will make it very difficult, if not impossible to use, also a fall on a wet rope will also weaken it considerably.
This new UIAA standard has been developed to ensure that water absorption in ropes does not lead to these sort of safety issues. To qualify for the new standard, a rope sample is subjected to light abrasion over its entire surface which is equivalent to a few days’ use. The rope is then soaked for 15 minutes following a precise procedure. Ropes with a surface treatment only, can’t succeed in the test and, thus, can’t be qualified as “UIAA Water Repellent,”
To pass the test at a certified laboratory, the amount of water absorbed must not be greater than 5% of the rope’s weight. For comparison, a non-treated rope absorbs around 50% of water in this test, and ropes labelled as “dry” but lacking adequate treatments can absorb between 20% and 40% of water.
Only rope that has been through these UIAA tests can display the UIAA Safety Label on its packaging. For more information on which brands can display the logo check out the UIAA website
You can see a video on Mammut rope making here: