During climbing's infancy, rQpes made of natural fibers (manila and sisal) were used to protect climbers, but these ropes were not reliable for holding severe falls. The development of nylon ropes during World War II forever changed the sport. Suddenly, climbers were offered lightweight lines capable of bearing more than 2 tons. The nylon ropes also had the remarkable quality of elasticity. Rather than bringing a falling climber to an abrupt, jolting stop, the nylon ropes stretched to dissipate much of the force of a fall.
The first nylon ropes were of "laid" or "twisted" construction. Like braided hair, these ropes were composed of many thin nylon filaments bunched into three or four major strands which were then woven together to form the rope.
The early nylon ropes were light-years ahead of natural fiber ropes, but they were stiff to handle and created substantial friction when run through the points of protection used by climbers. Also, they were so elastic that direct-aid climbing with them was inconvenient; they stretched too much when climbers ascended the rope.
Gradually, twisted nylon ropes were replaced by kernmantle ropes, synthetic ropes designed specifically for climbing. Today's kernmantle ropes (fig. 6-1) are composed of a core of braided or parallel nylon filaments encased in a smooth, woven sheath of nylon. Kernmantle rope maintains the advantages of nylon but improves upon the problems associated with twisted ropes—stiffness, friction, and excessive elasticity. Kernmantle
Fig. 6-1. Construction of a kernmantle rope ropes are now the only climbing ropes approved by the Union Internationale des Associations d'Al-pinisme (UIAA), the internationally recognized authority in setting standards for climbing equipment.
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