What does UIAA falls actually mean?

When I bought my first rope I saw the UIAA falls number and thought, “What?! Only 7 falls and my rope is toast?”

Well basically, no. Think of it more like the fuel consumption rating on a new car. You won’t actually get that milage, but it does allow you to compare different car models.

I then did some research online trying to find out what the number meant. I read forums, articles and websites saying it’s a fall factor or 2, 1.81, 1.7, and 1.78.

So I decided to go directly to the source and find out myself. The UIAA fall test actually delegates the testing methodology to the BS-EN-892 standard and it’s really pretty simple.

Using the following masses, depending on rope type, a fall of factor 1.71 is repeated every 5 minutes until the rope breaks.

  • Single - 80kg
  • Double - 50kg
  • Twin - 50kg

Here’s the real world scenario this test is trying to replicate:

You and your buddy are on a multipitch climb. You start to lead the second pitch with your buddy anchored into two bolts. As you start climbing, you clip a quickdraw into one of the anchor bolts. You climb 7.5’ without placing any pro and then fall right past your partner who gives you a hard catch on his grigri. After taking into account the slack in the belay, you have fallen 15.5’ with only 9’ of rope out. Now repeat this fall every 5 minutes until the rope breaks.

In the real world, your falls will be much less severe and if you were to take such severe falls you would swap rope ends and allow significant time for the rope to recover.