Gear Guide by PG San Francisco Instructor Cody Blank

So you’re interested in buying either your first rope or maybe working on expanding your rope quiver!

I’ll go through the 5 most common rope buying experiences we get here in at Planet Granite.

Then I’ll list the ropes we sell that are fit for each situation and my personal favorites. There is a lot of other things to know about ropes and specialized situations so this is not a comprehensive guide by any means!

*And for those of you that don’t want to sweat the details, I’ve included a short ‘TL,DL’ guide at the end of the post. (too long, didn’t read)

1. Your first rope
2. Your second rope
3. Gym lead rope
4. Dedicated “sending” rope
5. A bigwall/aid rope

Features to look for: Durability, Low Cost
Common Diameters 9.9mm-10.5mm

Your first rope just like your first set of climbing shoes should not be too specialized and should be durable.

You’re more than likely going to be doing a lot of top roping on it and when you get into leading it will take plenty of abuse doing that as well. Also don’t worry about advance features like dry treatment, bi-color or bi-weaves which I’ll explain later. I’d recommend something between 10mm to 10.2mm for the diameter as your first rope and at a length of 60m.

  • Mammut: Galaxy Classic (10mm) *personal favorite*
  • Bluewater: Eliminator (10.2mm) or Pulse (9.9mm)
  • Sterling: Marathon Pro (10.1mm)
  • Maxim: Equinox (10.2mm)
  • Petzl: Mambo (10.1mm)

photo 5 (1)

Features to look for: Lightweight, Durability, Length
Common Diameters 9.4mm-9.8mm

You’ve probably been climbing for a little while and now are starting to lead climb, now you can start building your quiver of ropes. Since you already have durable 60m rope that you can use for top roping or easy cragging its time to look for a more specialized rope. A lighter rope can help you make the most of your developing climbing career.

Also this is the time when getting some extra features might be helpful. A 70m length might be something you want if you are climbing longer pitches that require one. Dry treatment/ dry coating will protect a rope from weakening when wet but for most people not on alpine or ice climbs it lets the rope feed nicer through a belay device and carabiners.

Another feature is bicolor and biweave which makes it much easier to find the middle of a rope when setting up a rappel. The difference between the two is that in bicolor one or more the yarns of the rope change color halfway. But in a biweave there is only a change the order of the yarns as to create a different pattern halfway.

photo 1 (3)

*This picture shows the difference between the two, on the left is a bicolor and the right is a biweave.

  • Mammut: Infinity (9.5mm) *personal favorite* or Tusk/Transformer (9.8mm)
  • Bluewater: Lightning Pro (9.7mm) or Wave (9.3mm)
  • Sterling: Velocity (9.8mm) or Fusion Ion (9.4mm)
  • Maxim: Glider (9.9mm) or Pinnacle (9.5mm)
  • Petzl: Contact (9.8mm) or Arial (9.5mm)

*Some of the thicker ropes on the list:
photo 3 (1)
*And some of the thinner recommendations:
photo 2 (3)

Features to look for: 35m Length, Durability
Common Diameters: 9.5mm-10.5mm

If you do a lot of lead climbing in the gym you might want to grab a dedicated rope for all that training.

This is because you’re going to be putting much more mileage, and probably falls, when you are leading in the gym. So that makes durability an essential feature to have in this rope, but honestly any rope will do.

If you are buying new look for ropes that are already cut into 35m or more. By having a gym rope in your quiver you will dramatically increase the life of your other ropes.

Don’t assume that an old 30m rope, cut from half of a 60m, is going to be enough for some of Planet Granite’s taller routes. Ropes do get shorter over time! If you are not 100% CERTAIN that your rope will reach check first by mock leading with it.

  • Bluewater: 37M Gym (10.1mm)
  • Maxim: 35M Equinox (9.9mm) *personal favorite*

Features to look for: Lightweight, Impact force, Lightweight (yes a second time)
Common Diameters 8.9mm-9.3mm

Now you’re getting on serious projects or are looking at longer climbs where those grams counts.

A nice light thin rope might be the slight advantage that can help you send. 70m or even 80m ropes in this category are especially popular and handy for long single pitch climbs or linking multiple pitches together. Also the dry coating on lots of the ropes will allow a smoother belay, or if you are going to use it for long trad/ alpine routes were a storm might roll through it’s nice piece of mind.

  • Mammut: Norwand (9.3mm) or Revelation (9.2mm)
  • Bluewater: Wave (9.3mm) or Icon (9.1mm)
  • Sterling: Nano (9.2mm) *personal favorite*
  • Maxim: Airliner (9.1mm)
  • Petzl: Volta (9.2mm)


Features to look for: Durability
Common Diameters 10mm-11mm

Most of the things that make a good first rope make a good bigwall rope. There isn’t too many other things that put more wear and tear into your gear like bigwall climbing can do, so don’t worry about getting a expensive one either.

But one of the differences is that you might want to look at getting a 70m length for linking up shorter pitches.

  • Mammut: Supersafe (10.2mm) or Sensor (10mm)
  • Bluewater: Eliminator (10.2mm) *personal favorite*
  • Sterling: Marathon Ultra (10.1mm)
  • Maxim: Equinox (10.2mm)
  • Petzl: Mambo (10.1mm)


10mm and up for your first rope or a rope for big wall climbing

9.4-9.8mm for an all around lead rope

9.4mm and under for a ‘trying hard to send’ rope

Anything 35m long and above 9.5mm is a good gym rope

Mammut has been doing some interesting things with rope manufacturing technology recently and I’ll touch on two of the ropes that are notable.
photo 5 (4)
Sensor (10mm)
This is an interesting concept where you can not only tell where the middle and ends of the rope are by sight, but also by touch. The sight bit comes from a standard bicolor weave, but the touch aspect comes from changing the yarns to be thicker at the middle and ends of your rope. This can definitely be handy for those long days and when they turn into long nights where your brain not might be %100.

Transformer (9.8mm)
Mammut in an effort to be green is starting to take their off color yarns and odd length fibers and making ropes sheaths and slings with them. What you get is a one of a kind color pattern kind of like heathering but with the bonus eco points. If you’re worried about potential performance issues don’t fret, the rope performs almost identical to one of their bestsellers, the Tusk.

ABOUT CODY: Cody is Bay Area native and loves all of California. The way trad climbing allows him a unique perspective of the most beautiful places in the state draws him to getting scared on gear. Even though he loves climbing in all it’s forms he can never decide on one perspective of California so he also kiteboards, surfs, mountain bikes, and skis.

To learn more from Cody, enroll in the Crack Clinics or the Beginner Rock Climbing Course at PG San Francisco.