When Should I Retire My Climbing Rope – After hearing a lot of conflicting opinions about the lifespan of climbing ropes, we wanted to get an answer about how long ropes last. Here’s what we found:
Rope testing is the most important aspect of determining if your rope is safe to climb. Despite the test, 10 years is the maximum lifespan recommended by each manufacturer. And this lifespan is 10 years from the date of manufacture, no matter if the rope is heavily used or not.
When Should I Retire My Climbing Rope
In this article, after discussing official retirement recommendations from manufacturers, we’ll tread the waters by diving into nebulous terms like wear, energy absorption, and shear strength.
Rope Check Fundamentals
Since the polyamide (nylon) fibers from which ropes are made break down slowly over time, most brands recommend retiring the rope after a decade, even if the rope has never been used. No manufacturer suggests their ropes will last more than 10 years. This is more of a legal versus a scientific perspective, as there is no official test for textile aging. The 10 year rule is similar to the “best before” date on food.
Some studies report that very old unused ropes (10-15 years old) can still handle UIAA test falls. However, the UIAA only tests and approves new ropes. There is no standard for how many ropes there should be. This is disappointing because it means there is no absolute proof that old rope is safe. The only clear point is that you risk climbing a rope that is more than 10 years old. “Is it worth it?” Only your acceptable unimaginable level of risk will answer.
To enforce the rules, here are the official recommendations from the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) and Mammut (very similar to Adelrid, Sterling, Singing Rock, Petzl and all other manufacturer recommendations):
If you are curious about personal scales: We have been using ropes several times a month for over 5 years and have never been afraid to use them. Our 9+ year old, well-used ropes rarely go on trips with us, even though they present no obvious hazards on inspection. This is not a recommendation, just a shared comment. Luckily we have many ropes to test, so under normal financial circumstances we are not in the discussion of buying a new rope.
When To Replace Your Climbing Gear
Warning: Due to the ambiguity of these terms, reading the following may make it difficult for you to judge when it’s time to pull the rope.
Some interesting findings on the effect of wear and tear on rope safety came from the British Mountaineering Council’s Technical Committee.
They found that 85 percent of rope failures studied (both dynamic and static) in the past 15 years were caused by “severe abrasion from rough or sharp rock edges.” Other failures were due to contamination by corrosive materials.
The most obvious effect of use is wear and friction on the sheath, seen as a “gap” of the rope. This is often caused when a weighted rope goes over an edge like a sharp rock, or even goes through carabiners while abseiling or abseiling.
Inspect Your Rock Ppe (personal Protective Equipment)
The higher the load and the sharper the stone – the greater the wear on the wire. The load of the body’s weight during abseiling or lowering damages the rope more than a guide and secondary without loading the rope. For reference: abseiling reduces the life of the rope by two to three times compared to normal climbing. Jumping up and down accelerates aging by five to ten. – Mammoth
This reduced lifespan is a result of wear of the sheath fibers and can eventually wear into the core. Unsurprisingly, a frayed rope is more likely to break the end than a new rope because there is less fiber left to cut.
Every time a rope is loaded, it loses some of its ability to absorb energy. Although a rope that is allowed to rest after charging will recover much of its former performance, it will never fully recover. The greater the fall and the greater the impact force (higher the fall coefficient), the less the rope will recover.
In the Adelrid rope book they state that “wet ropes are not only heavier and stiffer, but also less able to absorb energy dynamically. If the temperature drops sharply and the wet rope starts to freeze, the safety margin will be significantly lower. This applies to ice climbing, fixed ropes, Use at mountain heights or crossing natural glaciers, as well as sudden extreme changes in weather. Soaked ropes are better able to cope with such conditions. They are water resistant and can withstand moisture and cold for a long time.
How To Take Care Of Your Canyoning Rope
If the rope experiences a fall factor greater than 1, the BMC, as well as many manufacturers, suggest pulling the rope down or shortening it and using it only for top rope or abseiling. Although such rope may hold smaller falls, it is significantly more susceptible to shear when the end is loaded against the new rope.
We are not aware of any cases where the rope broke due to an inability to absorb energy. Although, this would be impossible to detect as the sharp edge could be assumed to have cut the rope, and this could be exacerbated by a frayed rope.
The rope’s ability to resist breaking during a fall is of great importance. The rope’s resistance to cutting depends, among other things, on the amount of wear. If there is less sheath to cut, you have less resistance to the cut. Another part of shear resistance is about energy absorption. When the rope has the ability to absorb more force, it exerts less fall force on the tip. Additionally, there are endless scenarios when looking at how the rope is loaded, the loading radius, the wear/hardness of the edges.
Shear strength is also related to structure such as fibrous tissue, core/shell thickness, and many other variables not currently tested/measured.
Bluesign® = Blue Planet: 16 Eco Rock Climbing Ropes — Always The Adventure
As the old saying goes: ropes don’t break, they wear out. Each year there are an average of 2 accidents due to broken ropes. You can find examples of worn hardware and sharp stone edges.
The problem is that there is currently no way to answer the question “How do I cut the resistance from my rope?” Whether new or old, there is no standard or certification for cut resistance.
They developed a test with reliable and objective results to show comparative shear strength. This test is not directly related to the real world of finding out how many years a rope has left in its life, but it can also compare the cut resistance between new ropes to show how they are more or less cut resistant compared to each other.
“Last year [2019/2020] we also did extensive research on the effects of long-term testing with the device as well as its relevance to the real world, with very convincing results,” Adelrid told us.
The Complete Guide To Caring For Your Climbing Rope|the Climbing Guy
It’s worth noting that Adelrid offers its machine notes as open source, so anyone can use them to test their ropes against the larger market. So far, manufacturers have not come together to agree on this cut resistance standard and possible standardization.
Industry life years standards are a good rule of thumb. However, the lack of standards for anything other than new queue scenarios makes it impossible to determine the exact timing of retirement. Unfortunately for us, the UIAA drop ratings do not take into account abrasion, energy absorption or cut resistance.
In the end, knowing when to pull the rope depends on the test and the level of risk you are willing to accept. Using the rope’s age and level of use as a guide, regular inspections of your rope will accurately determine when it’s time to pull your rope.
Find out how to test your string in Part 2 of this post – When to Strip Your String: Testing.
When To Replace Your Climbing Rope
Or, if you already know it’s time for a new rope, check out any climbing rope at www.WeighMyRack.com/rope. There are over 900 rope options after mixing in all lengths and two tone and dry options.
At WeighMyRack, we list all ropes and give you filters to find the right length, diameter, intermediate marks, dry treatment level and brand. Look for bluesign® certified eco-friendly ropes or use PFC-free dry treatment.
Andreas is the other half of WeighMyRack. The half that films and edits all WeighMyRack videos. And the half that usually did dishes. And he is very good at making pizza.