How to Climb A Rope and Use These Skills in Any Survival Situation

The ability to climb a rope could be vital in many survival situations. It helps you to climb cliffs or uneven terrain, as well as going down steep areas safely. When in the wilderness, it is important to have the skills and abilities to stay alive, and knowing how to climb a rope is one of them. Having this skill set provides you with body strength to quickly and efficiently haul yourself out of a dangerous situation.

Rope climbing will help build muscles in your arms, back and chest, and give you the strength and stamina needed in many areas of survival training. This article will cover the different methods of how to climb a rope and how to train yourself in the skills needed to master rope climbing.

Use Your Feet

When thinking about how to climb a rope, most people that using their arms is they need to focus on. What they don’t know is that a successful rope climber uses their feet to help them as they go up the rope and to brake themselves as they come back down again.

Footlocking technique

Climbing with only with your upper body wears you out quickly, which isn’t ideal in a survival situation. Using both your hands and your feet is the most efficient way to climb in order to conserve your energy and strength for other obstacles or more climbing. There are a number of different styles and methods of positioning your hands and your feet to accomplish the climb.

These are:

  • Locked Feet. In this climbing style, both feet are placed together on the rope. This is not as effective as some other styles because it still relies on using your arms, putting most of the strain on your arms and shoulders. This style is achieved by taking hold of the rope and jumping up on the rope with the soles of your feet gripping tightly onto the rope. You then move up the rope and use your legs as extra propulsion to help you to the top.
  • Wrap the Rope Around Your Foot. This style allows you to use the rope as a ladder to create an even distribution of your body weight to your legs and your arms. To do this you need to wrap the rope around your dominant foot and lift the end of the rope up with your other foot. This creates a small platform for you to balance on before you pull yourself up with your arms. You can then continue the first step until you reach the top.
  • Stomp on the Rope. The previous move can be improved even further by using both your foot and the rope as a stepping stone to climb further up the rope. Once again, wrap the rope around your dominant foot but instead of relying on your upper body strength, use the rope and your foot to propel you upwards.
  • Leaning Away from the Rope. This uses the same basic principal as the previous style but instead of going straight up the rope at intervals you take a seated position while you arrange your foot in a way which allows you to get further up the rope. It can be complicated to get the rope in the right position, but with practice, this style will make climbing a rope easy.

Reasons to Climb A Rope

There are a number of reasons why you should learn rope climbing.

Workout climbing a rope

Rope climbing can improve your physical fitness, your mental outlook and provide you with a new skill set to take with you while hiking or mountain climbing.

  • Rope Climbing for Exercise: rope climbing is known to greatly improve muscular strength and is often used by the military as part of their training. It not only exercises your arms but also your core muscles and back. It can take a while to build up the physical fitness to climb a rope and it isn’t recommended for beginners. There are a number of exercises you could try before working your way up to actual rope climbing. These could include:
    • Pull-ups. These are done on an iron bar suspended above you. Similar to when you used the monkey bars as a child, you have to support your weight with your arms and pull yourself upwards.
    • Push ups. Push ups involve supporting yourself on your hands and your feet and then bending your elbows as far as you can before you push yourself up again. You can also lift weights in the effort to build up the muscles needed to climb the rope.
  • Climbing Rope for Your Mental Health: rope climbing can not only improve your physical health but also improve your mental outlook as well. There is a correlation between the symbolism of going up the rope and making it to the top, and achieving your goals and moving forward in your life. Depression or a sense of feeling stuck can be overcome by staying active and keeping track of your achievements.
    Learning to climb a rope also teaches you discipline and how to set small achievable goals to eventually master your main goal. Rope climbing exercises have been used by businessmen as a way to tune their focus and to increase their positivity and optimism. Rope climbing involves a certain skill set which can be used throughout your life and your career.
    When trying to decide which is the best way to climb the rope, you are developing your problem-solving skills and as you shift your hands and feet into the right position, you are developing your hand-eye coordination. Endorphins produced during exercise and the confidence you have in controlling your body increases your happiness and contentment with your life.
  • Climbing a Rope for Survival: a rope is a vital part of any survival kit.

As well as using it in your trekking and hiking activities it can also be used for other important aspects of survival, including catching food, building shelter and fixing broken tools.

When choosing a rope, it is important that it is strong enough to hold your body weight and not break.

Types of Ropes

  • Twisted: this rope is a rope made up of three strands woven together. It is an affordable style of rope but is not ideal for a survival situation. It can be quite heavy to carry and can rot if exposed to the elements.
  • Braided: the braided rope is made up of braided fibers. This rope is difficult to knot, and stretches with use. It doesn’t last long in an outdoor environment.
  • Climbing Ropes: if you are looking for a reliable rope it is best to choose one specifically designed for your needs. In this case modern climbing rope, or kernmantle designed rope, has been created for strength and mobility. It is strong enough to support you and is unlikely to break or be damaged easily.
  • Bungee Cord: a bungee cord is an elastic rope which stretches and springs back into shape. It could be useful when trying to climb downwards on rough terrain but is not as useful for climbing upwards. It is also shorter than most ropes and isn’t very sturdy.
  • Sisal: sisal is a natural rope woven from fibers. It is very affordable and is not damaged by salt water, but it is quite rough and can cause damage to your hands when trying to climb. It’s also quite heavy which makes it difficult to carry when traveling long distances.
  • Baling Twine: a thin type of rope, this is used to tie objects together, as it is quite strong. It can, however, be difficult to maneuver and can really only be used for one or two things. It’s generally not a good rope to use for climbing.
  • Paracord: the paracord is the type of cord used in parachutes. These cords need to be strong and durable because having a parachute cord break while the parachute is in the air could be dangerous and deadly. Paracord is made to be reliable and to withstand the changes in temperature and weather. Its strength makes it a perfect rope to climb with in all types of terrain.

Ready for Your Climb?

Firstly, it is important to have the basic methods and skills that have been described previously.

Are you ready

Once you have the basic techniques you can look for ways to make climbing the rope harder or to exercise different muscle groups.

  1. Weighted climbing can add an extra challenged to climbing. By wearing a weighted vest, your muscles get a more advanced workout. Gradually adding weight means you can slowly work up your strength until you have achieved your goals.
  2. Climbing with only your feet works your legs and lower body, and adds an extra challenge to the rope climbing process.
  3. Climbing the rope with only your hands requires a large amount of upper body strength and is a great workout to build the muscles in your arms.
  4. Climbing two ropes at the same time forces you to think and move in different ways, as well as adapting to previous techniques.
  5. Climbing upside down causes you to have to think about how to use your skills in reverse.

How to Set A Fixed Rope

In a survival situation it is important to make sure that a rope is properly secured before climbing it. In difficult terrain, a rope that isn’t properly secured can lead to injury or death. It is important to have a partner when making a climb and fixing a rope.

See also: Types of Rope for Outdoors: Understanding Rope Materials and Design

A fixed rope requires an anchor which secures it tightly to the rock or other natural formations. It is important that the rope is not tangled and is carefully rigged to the anchor point. A fixed rope requires a different sort of grip than regular rope climbing.

Anchor point

You climb this rope with your palm downwards and use your legs to walk up the slope as much as you can. A friction knot can be used as a sling to break your fall if you make a mistake.

Sometimes the climb can mean that you need more than one anchor point to safely make the climb. These anchors should follow the easiest route possible, taking into account natural handholds and areas where the anchor point would be best secured.

How to Repel Yourself Down A Steep Slope

Climbing up a rope can be the easiest part of the process. Climbing down a steep cliff face or a slope, on the other hand, can be a daunting prospect. When climbing downwards, you may feel more vulnerable to falling and also it can be more difficult to coordinate your feet to brake your speed.

Repel Yourself Down a Steep Slope

It is possible to climb down a slope with a rope and no other gear or partner to help you. It is important that you make sure you take note of the situation and take steps to repel safely. These steps are:

  • Lower your backpack down on the rope and take off any bulky and unwieldy clothing.
  • Find a secure anchor for your rope. This could be a solid tree, tree root or boulder. You should carefully check the anchor with your body weight to make sure it is sturdy enough to not collapse or move when you apply your weight to the rope.
  • Drape the rope of the anchor point so the two ends are going down the slope.
  • Wind the ropes through your legs, around your chest and over your shoulder. This will make it easier to go down in a steady and unrushed manner.
  • Slowly go backwards off the edge, using your feet as leverage as you go down. Take it slow and carefully feed the rope through your hand as you make your way to the ground.
  • You can then easily gain access to the rope again by tugging on one of the ends, causing the rope to fall down to you.

For guidelines on how to choose the best belay device, take a look at our must-read article on this topic to learn more.

Now Go and Practice

This information is only useful if you practice them over and over again until you have perfectly mastered them.

Rope climbing practice

Rope climbing, as with most things, takes a great deal of repetition before the skills and method is truly learned. So, go and practice and then you will easily be able to use them when you need them.

For tips on useful rock climbing techniques, see our best article on this topic to learn more.


4 thoughts on “How to Climb A Rope and Use These Skills in Any Survival Situation”

  1. I am doing a legless rope climbing for a month now because I want to muscle up. I am not that strong by the way, but I’m getting stronger little by little. I do a lot of pull-up work as a daily routine. I actually found it fun!

  2. Wow! That’s great Molly and I wish you well. I hope you get a lot of tips from this site so you can become stronger and more fit to do your rope climbing. It IS fun and a great way to stay in shape. You’ll have well-toned legs and arms in no time at all.

  3. So I never tried rope climbing but after reading the article, I was encouraged to try it. I learned a technique somewhere on climbing down a rope (rappelling) on a steep hill without the use of a carabiner or knots, just a rope and a secure anchor like a big tree. He suggested an arm rappel where you rappel down the doubled rope then pulling one end down.

  4. Be careful when you try this technique. This may be a bit difficult for first-timers. Make sure you learn the basics first and practice where it’s safe. Just enjoy the rope-climbing activity and discover what rope works best for your needs. It’s also a great way to tone your arms and body.


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