Falls Held vs Breaking Strength (and other things to look for when purchasing a rope!)
Choosing between a rope's rated Falls Held and ultimate Breaking Strength is like choosing between good looks and personality. They each have benefits, but ideally you get both.
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While falls held and tensile strength are important and sound sexy, they are just two of the many bits of data you should factor into your rope-choosing decision. Consider that ropes don’t break; they wear out and can also be cut. The number of falls held and breaking strength don’t necessarily make a rope more durable or tougher, or even mean that it will hold more real-life falls, which are never close to the CE’s extreme and nearly impossible to replicate in the field drop test.
Consider that unless your rope sustains a core shot you’ll climb on it until it reaches a fuzzy cattail-like state that has you rightly questioning its reliability, and you’ll retire it then. The number of falls the rope has held … well, who can even remember?
The more important number on a rope hang tag is “maximum-impact force.” This is the maximum number of kiloNewtons a rope transmits onto the top piece of pro in a fall. Lower numbers are, of course, preferred to higher numbers, especially if you like to climb above teeny nuts.
Ropes can achieve a low maximum-impact force a number of ways, but often it’s by stretching. The more a rope stretches, the lower its impact force. This is a double-edged sword. Low-impact force is nice, but if the rope stretches so much you hit a ledge, it’s not so nice. For that reason, also pay attention to “Dynamic Elongation,” which tells you, in a percent, how much a rope will stretch. The perfect playmate is a rope with a low dynamic elongation and a low maximum-impact force.