Why Your Climbing Rope Twists and What to do About It


Rock climbers everywhere can attest to one of the peskiest issues with climbing: a twisted climbing rope. Considering the fact that the rope is literally what is keeping you from falling, it’s important to make sure your rope is correctly positioned.

Why do climbing ropes twist? Most often, ropes become twisted due to improperly coiling and uncoiling your rope. It can also happen when anchors are placed further apart from each other, or you have a tight radius.

When this happens, there isn’t a need to worry. Your climbing rope isn’t ruined, but the issue should be taken care of to ensure you have a safe climb. Fixing twists right away will also allow your rope to last much longer too.

Common Reasons For a Twisted Rope

No matter how careful you are with your climbing rope, twists and kinks are bound to happen. A rope can become twisted for any number of reasons, but there are four extremely common instances that will cause issues.

Coiling and Uncoiling

This is easily the most common reason for twist issues. While companies are steering away from the technique, many climbing ropes are factory-coiled in the same way, one would coil an extension cord. This is fine, but if you aren’t an experienced climber, you may think it’s alright to just take it out of the packaging and let it go.

Doing this will cause twists and kinks that can make it extremely difficult to unravel completely. It’s just like when you’re coiling up an extension cord, and it sort of warps on you a little bit. You’re going to spend more time trying to straighten it out than you would by being more careful in the first place.

The problem can be avoided by using an arm-over-arm uncoil method. This is done by rotating the coil over your arms a few times while somebody else pulls the end of your rope. You can also uncoil fairly quickly by feeding the rope through your hands.

Anchor Placement

You’re anchor placement while climbing can impact your rope, as well. A proper form would be when both anchors come to one focal point and make a “v” shape. If your anchors are placed further apart, it gives the rope more wiggle room to move around. This will, in turn, cause your rope to get twisted.

If you’re climbing somewhere with pre-set anchors and they’re positioned oddly, you can attach heavy-duty chainlinks to obtain the “v” shape.

Tight Radius

If your carabiner has a tight radius, it can cause the “pig tail” effect. Pig tails happen when there’s too much friction between your carabiner and your rope. It’s the same effect scissors have when you’re curling ribbon. This issue commonly happens with small cross-section biners, chainlinks, or rope grooved carabiners.

Using a Munters Hitch

This is a common hitch rock climbers use, but it’s also notorious for causing twists and kinks. A Munter hitch is an adjustable knot that reduces friction against the carabiner. While that is certainly a plus, the way the knot is threading causes major twisting and can become a hassle.

If you use a Munters hitch, you can help prevent twisting by making sure the rope is completely free-hanging. This ensures the twist is making it all the way to the bottom of the rope, which makes it easier to untwist when you’re done.

Many people opt to use a belay device instead of tying a Munter hitch.

How to Untwist Your Climbing Rope

Trying to untwist a climbing rope can feel like a nightmare. However, there are easier ways to do it than doing it manually. You’ll want to do this with a partner. Though it’s certainly doable on your own, having extra hands will make the job go by much quicker and easier. You’ll need your locking carabiner, a belay device, and some cord. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Set your belay like you normally would: Instead of tying themselves in, have your partner hold the rope. You should have as much rope as possible as your dead rope.
  2. Set your hitch: Any type of friction hitch will do the trick. Be sure to set the hitch on the dead rope side and hold it tightly.
  3. Feed the rope through your belay: Have your partner do this part. They’ll need to pull the entire length of the rope through the belay device. Doing this will automatically even out your climbing rope.

If you’re stuck doing this on your own, hold the hitch in one hand and pull the rope through with the other. You’ll have an easier time by yourself if you tie the carabiner and belay around a tree.

Taking Care of Your Climbing Rope

Unfortunately, leaving a rope twisted and kinked can damage its integrity over time. In order to prevent this, it’s important to properly care for your rope. Proper rope care starts from the second you open the packaging.

A climbing rope should be uncoiled immediately by using the provided instructions of the manufacturer. Doing this will remove any kinks and twists that can cause knots and tangles.

You also need to be sure it’s properly stored. An ideal storage location for climbing rope would be in a dry room, away from any chemicals. A shaded area is ideal as well to prevent sun damage. UV rays have been known to damage the integrity of climbing ropes if left in direct sunlight for too long. You should always coil your rope before storing, and you should refrain from tying any knots in the coil.

When using your rope, be sure to use both ends on a regular basis. Every time you fall, you cause the rope to kink. Too many kinks on the same side consistently can cause the rope to give out. Be sure to always inspect your rope after every use to make sure the rope is still intact.

How do I Properly Coil a Climbing Rope?

To coil your rope and prevent tangles or kinks, you can use the buntline or gasket coil. This method is perfect for storing rope without worrying about excess rope getting in your way. To use this method, follow these steps:

  1. Place one end of the rope between the thumb and forefinger: Grab the rope with your other hand with 3 feet of space. Both palms should be face down.
  2. With your second hand, grab the rope with your thumb and forefinger: Bring both hands together, so the tips of your thumbs meet.
  3. Roll the cord in your right hand away from you: This should be done at the same time as step two.
  4. Grab the cord with your other hand and slide your right hand down 3 feet: Repeat this step until you’ve coiled the rope completely. The last few feet will be used to wrap around the cord, so it stays closed.

When doing this, make sure you aren’t twisting the rope. If the rope becomes twisted, you can overhaul it by feeding it through your hands a few times. Also, remember to never tie your climbing rope in a knot to store it. Over time, knots can lessen the integrity of your rope.

Lastly, be sure to make all of your loops the same size. This will prevent them from falling inside each other and creating knots. So long as you coil your rope properly and take care of it, you won’t have to worry about excessive twisting.

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