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How WWII Led to the Climbing Ropes We Use Today

How climbing became safer thanks to the development of kernmantle ropes

Rope was used by climbers long before hardware was developed, but it was a simple and typically made of animal or plant fibers that were either woven by hand or spun using a Cordelier.

Ropes made by hand meant that uniformity was hard to achieve, plus they had low strength to weight ratio, poor durability, were stiff and had no stretch. They were spiral-braided, which made them strong but hard to manage. They would twist and often made situations dangerous.

The mountaineer G.D. Abraham wrote in 1916: “The parting of a rope to which a climbing path is tied is a frequent accompaniment of an accident. Yet this generally means the leader has fallen, and but for the breakage of the rope the rest of the party must have been dragged down.”

Prior to WWII, ropes gradually became safer. DuPont Chemical Company’s invented nylon in 1935 and it was first used in climbing ropes in America in the early 1940s. Militaries started to use nylon ropes in WWII, and they were introduced to Europe in the mid to late 1940s.

The nylon ropes were more elastic, aiding in fall protection. Machines evolved to allow for tighter, more consistent weaves and stronger ropes.

It all changed in 1953, when the German company Edelrid created the kernmantle design, which placed a strong synthetic rope core within a braided nylon sheath. They increased elasticity and strength, and solved issues with untwisting and rope wear.

The sheath minimized the problem of rope wear, as well as adding improved handling and an intrinsic ability to absorb less water. As ropes rubbed on rocks and climbing gear, the sheath protected the inner core.

The kernmantle rope became an industry standard.

In 1964, Edelrid and Mammut developed dynamic ropes capable of withstanding multiple falls; they became the forerunner of the modern dynamic climbing rope.

Remembrance Day 2020

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Canada and many other countries since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.

It’s observed on Nov. 11 to recall the end of hostilities of First World War on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.

The federal department of Veterans Affairs Canada states that the date is of “remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace”; particularly the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and all conflicts since then in which members of the Canadian Armed Forces have participated.