There are some exercises that I love to do but I don't get to do them nearly as often as I like because I need a specific set-up to execute them. Traveling like I do doesn't afford me that luxury very often. Such has been the case with rope climbing. I absolutely adore this exercise. I've blogged about it several times in the past. Lately, I've been fortunate to have a forklift at work so I've been able to re-discover how enjoyable and beneficial rope climbing can be.
About a year ago, I stated that I believe rope climbing is the best calisthenic exercise for developing the grip. After several months of not being able to climb, I still believe that. Rope climbing brings into play the most rudimentary form of mental conditioning. You have to keep going even when you're tired. If you lose your grip, things get dangerous. Rope burns could be the least of your problems. The fall you suffer if your grip fails could be disastrous. So, your mind is going to fire signals to your muscles to contract at full power at all times.
Obviously, this makes rope climbing a pretty advanced exercise. If you're afraid of heights, then you might want to modify this one by climbing a shorter rope. So what if it's only 8-9 feet height? Just climb it 3 or 4 times continuously, starting at a seated position. If you want to do the real deal, then I think that you should be able to do 15 pull-ups without an issue before attempting rope climbing.
I think that it's such a fun exercise because it feels so primal. It's an exercise that lets you get back to your primate roots and build up some ape-like strength in the forearms, biceps, and back. Sometime in the near future, I'd like to get my hands on a 3" diameter manila rope and climb up that. That's more than twice as thick as my current rope so I'm currently training by doing pull-ups on my 1 1/4" folded into quarters so each hand has to grip 4 strands of the rope. The 3" rope is quite investment but it should give you a pretty good idea about how much faith I have in the benefits of rope climbing.