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Gym Classes in fiction are torturous. There's dodgeball, running, rude gym teachers, and favoritism, but the worst of all these horrors is the rope climb.

Rope climbing is the source of nightmares for nerds, kids with asthma, and people who are just not athletic. It's never portrayed in a positive light, and it will guarantee humiliation for nearly everyone involved. Expect rope burns, laughter, and crying. Sometimes, the rope climb will be a contest to see who can get to the top and ring a bell. Most of the time, however, there will be nothing at the top of the rope.

Fast becoming a Dead Horse Trope, as many schools don't require a rope climb anymore.



  • In the Chuck Norris vehicle, Sidekicks, this is a cause for some of the angst and ridicule that the protagonist suffers through.
  • Naturally, this trope is featured in Gym Teacher: the Movie
  • Mentioned in Wayne's World:

  Garth, on Cassandra: She makes me feel kinda funny; like when we used to climb the rope in gym class.

  Chuck: when we climbed the rope in gym class I would pretend it was a guy.

  • A variation occurs in Mulan with the goal being to get to the top of a pole while carrying weights. Mulan slings them around the pole and knots them together.


  • In "The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School" by Kim Newman, the rope climb is a trope-standard pit of horrors, but the protagonist avoids the worst of it by judicious use of her floating-in-the-air superpower.
  • In the Chrestomanci novel Witch Week, Nan is continuously humiliated by her inability to climb the rope. Once, she tries climbing with her eyes closed so she can concentrate without seeing the laughing faces of her classmates, and seems to have gotten high. But when she opens her eyes, she realizes that for all her effort she's still on the bottom knot.
  • In The Neverending Story, this was among the many situations in which Bastian was humiliated in school. When he's transported to Fantasia where his wishes are fulfilled and becames physically perfect, he recalls it with amusement.

Live Action Television

  • In 3rd Rock from the Sun, Tommy refuses to climb rope in gym class, asking "What's at the top?" Dick asks the same thing when he later talks to the gym teacher, and doesn't understand why anyone should climb the rope when there is nothing at the top.
  • Still Standing: Brian had to climb a rope against a wall or get his gym credit in square dancing.
  • Techno Games (a spinoff of Robot Wars which featured Olympic style events rather than fights) had a "natural rope climb" event which was basically for robots built to do this.
  • In The Complete Savages episode "Tutoring", Sam fails P.E. because he can't climb the rope.
  • On Seinfeld, George and Jerry are said to have first met in gym class during this activity.
  • Family Matters gave this its usual preposterous spin: Gangly 97-pound-weakling Urkel has to race a much more athletic rival in the rope-climb. Urkel uses a jet-pack to get up the rope. The gym coach seems okay with this. Urkel then flies away and lands in Step by Step. It doesn't make sense in context.

Web Original

  • The Homestar Runner cartoon "A Folky Tale" opens with Coach Z trying to get Strong Sad to do this. Note that Coach Z and Strong Sad are in the middle of a grassy field, and the rope simply extends into the air offscreen, which is immediately lampshaded.

 Strong Sad: Look, I'm willing to ignore that "oom-pah down my pants" comment, but I'm more concerned with what that rope is attached to.

Coach Z: Never you mind! Just get to climbin'.

    • An Easter Egg reveals the rope is being held up by Homsar, who is inexplicably hovering in midair and holding the rope in his mouth.

Western Animation

  • In one episode of The Simpsons, the students at Springfield Elementary stage an uprising after being trapped in the school by a blizzard. One of the things they do to Principal Skinner is tie him in a sack and force him to do this.

  Skinner: "I told you, no one can climb a rope, it's physically impossible!"

    • In "Thursdays with Abie," the scheduled gym activity was rope climbing but the ropes had disappeared, so Coach Krupt made Milhouse mime climbing the ropes.
  • In the Braceface episode "worst first date ever, period", when Sharon walks into gym class, some of the kids are seen in the background, climbing ropes.
  • Peter Parker shows up Flash Thompson in an episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man by beating him at rope climbing in gym.
  • In Code Lyoko, Ulrich climbs up a rope. Everything's just fine, but then his vertigo kicks in, and his vision gets all blurry and he falls off (from almost the very top).
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