Rope Marking?

This is an open question to anyone who thinks they know an answer.

I'm thinking about ordering a New England 10.2 60 meter rope from REI that's only like $140. The only problem with the rope, besides the fact that it's ugly, is it has no middle markings.

Is it safe to use a Sharpie (or something like it) to mark the middle? I'd hate to somehow corrode the sheath and not realize I'd weakened it until I'm belaying you on that project you keep taking whippers on. What do rope makers use to mark the middle?

Thanks for any advice.


Here's some info from Stewart Green from his page here:

How do I mark the middle of my rope?

If your rope doesn’t have a middle mark, then you can use a black permanent marker to designate the mid-point. Look for a marker made specifically for your rope by checking the manufacturer’s website. Be aware that the UIAA Safety Commission did tests with felt-tipped permanent marker pens, including those made specifically for marking ropes, and found a decrease in the “energy absorption capacity of the rope.” They therefore warn against marking a rope with any marker or substance not specifically approved by the rope manufacturer. But they also say that the chances of a rope breaking where you marked it as “nearly zero.” So you take your chances.

Marking With Tape or Thread

Some climbers use a piece of tape—duct tape or electrical tape—wrapped around the middle of the rope. This works…for awhile, but after a few pulls through carabiners the tape is gone. An alternative is to use some bright sewing thread and stitch it through the middle of the rope for a dozen or so turns. This works too but if the rope gets dirty, than the thread gets dirty. Using thread or tape won’t harm the rope and both are easy to replace.

And another post from Traditional Mountaineering:

No manufacturer will condone the use of permanent marking ink on the middle mark of a climbing rope. This would require the chemical analysis of the ink (which might be different over time) by the rope manufacturer. Bluewater sells a (non-permanent) marking pen with a Ph only approved for their own ropes.

The option of marking the middle of a climbing rope with tape is also questionable.
How does the adhesive in the electrical or athletic tape react over time with the materials of the rope? One climbing rope wholesale representative states that the Ph of athletic tape may not damage the rope but points out that tape can come loose quickly and slide away from the original placement.

So, everything I found is kind of conflicting. Some sites claimed it wasn't a good idea to use a marker and that in some cases it weakened the rope by 50%. Then, in others it noted the weakness but said it wasn't really a problem. And tape can move and the chemicals can possibly harm the rope, too. And thread? Really? Maybe I'm crazy but it seems like the worst idea to actually pass a needle through the actual core of the rope!


  1. just put some tape around the middle if you dont want to use a sharpie

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  3. I used a sharpie to mark the middle on my first ever 50m rope. I've had it for over 15 years (I'm sure I should retire it now but I minimally use it anyway) and I havent noticed any problems with the middle. To my understanding (I am mainly a boulderer now but I started on ropes), the sheath is not the weight bearing portion of the rope, the internal threading is. I havent cut the sheath to see if it has bled through, but I can still see the white core behind the sheath, so it seems that the sharpie hasnt bled through and affected the core. I have used this rope only a few times in the last 5 years, but this was my primary rope for the first 5 years of my climbing career, and I still have yet to see any inclination that there may be any problems. No weak sheath or core, no discoloration or bleeding, no slippage or core popping...so in my experiences, I say sharpies are OK. If you dont mind being bludgeoned by the man, the Blue Water rope marker is the safest solution.

  4. Brad, I'm of the opinion that it's probably safe; if it weakens the rope, it may not be by much. I'm sure that the official stand is that no one wants to be responsible for saying it's OK in case one rope ever does fail. Still, I'll stick by my point that if you're the worrying type, it's probably best to just get a marked rope.

    Me? I'm pretty cheap so I'll probably buy the $140 rope and mark it somehow. And buying the pen from Blue Water probably costs as much in the end as just buying a more expensive rope! I'm not sure what I'll mark it with yet, though. I'd love to hear from other folks who may have used a Sharpie and never had a problem. The fact that your rope is 15 years old is a great example.

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