/ how do you know a used climbing rope is safe?

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BolderLicious - on 11 Jan 2013
How do you know your used climbing rope is safe to use? Do you visually inspect it and squeeze it to test for defects? Do you rely on statistics
that say a rope can take so many 20 ft falls? What do people think is most likely to break when they fall-rope or wires?
ianstevens - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: Unless you use a piece of string or a rope with some obvious visual damage (e.g. strands hanging out the end, cuts and nicks in it, that kind of thing, chances are you will break before you snap a either a rope of piece of solid metal. Unless you've placed it wrong, or its a teeny weeny RP.
neil the weak - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> How do you know your used climbing rope is safe to use?

You don't. Best buy a new one. Now.
The Ex-Engineer - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> How do you know your used climbing rope is safe to use?

Unless the rope is continually in your possession and you know its exact history, you can't 'know'.

Ropes can be fatally and invisibly damaged by chemicals, specifically acids. As such, an precise and detailed knowledge of the storage of any rope is critical to being able to have confidence it has sustained no damage. See http://www.thebmc.co.uk/bmcNews/media/u_content/File/equipment_advice/Technical_reports/TCM%200901.p...

Even a single very large fall can cause major damage without much, if any, detectable sheath wear or obvious deformity. However, if someone takes that sort of fall, it will be massively obvious at the time. In the real world, falls big enough to case significant damage rarely if ever occur.

The good news is that aside of acid contamination, wear from general use and moderate falls is very obvious to visual/tactile inspection. There is also next to no chance of any rope failing in use purely from accumulated wear before the user is clearly aware that the rope is in a badly deteriorating condition. In a historic test, a rope held close to 200 repeated test falls (representative of 'big' climbing wall or sport climbing falls) in exactly the same place before failing.

So, if a rope has always been in your possession since new you can make a highly-informed assessment based on a detailed knowledge of the exact usage and storage history of the rope combined with regular a visual and tactile inspection

> What do people think is most likely to break when they fall-rope or wires?

Modern dynamic ropes have NEVER broken in the history of climbing purely as a result of a fall. Acid aside, they have only ever failed due to the presence of a sharp edges or some form of extensive abrasion. So, you don't need to worry about ropes 'breaking' but you do need to worry about:
- sharp or jagged rock
- badly worn karabiners (see http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=67607 )
- significant rockfall (such as a well known tragic accident on The Nose http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=0LySqJli9coC&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=Robert+Dietmar+Kuhn,... )
- the rope moving repeatedly over rough rock
- a moving rope rubbing on a stationary rope (not climbing but this is what killed Dan Osman see https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/rec.climbing/gW92OrNs7_o/tfvetT1-3N0J )

Wires on the other hand, especially micro-wires regularly break in straight-forward falls. However it is be extremely rare for larger gear rated over 10kN to do so. See https://www.thebmc.co.uk/ae-microwire-failure for an example.
Radioactiveman - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

I have bought used nuts but I don't fancy buying a used rope unless it was off a mate.

Could have been exposed to corrosive fluids which can significantly reduce their life/breaking strain

I am cautious with key bits of the system e.g. rope and harness. I might be being a bit over cautious but I am happy to take the risk a risk on some second hand wires as chances are they wont be my single item of gear I am depending on, unlike a rope/harness
BolderLicious - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:
Great reply.Lots of detail.And very reassuring for people who know about the history of their rope.In short buy a new rope and keep it and store it well and don't expose it to chemicals (or sea water-I seem to remember sea water weakening slings significantly on the coast of aberdeen when I used to climb there-perhaps uv light played a part too).
My dad used an old climbing rope to tow cars for
twenty five years on and off.Do not advise this to anyone
because rope stretches on tow.Climbing ropes are not tow ropes!!
BolderLicious - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
I saw someone hit the deck from 20 ft up a route when his wire broke ubder strain. He got a sore bum and x ray at hospital.So wires do break.
Cheese Monkey - on 11 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: What I like to do is tie off my new 2nd hand rope at the top of the crag, tie in, then take a run and jump. Then I know for sure its good. Providing the crag is higher than the rope length that is.
needvert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

I rely on statistics, as in, so few ropes break mine is probably ok.

I do note this guys rope snapped, acid damage, he knew the full history...But be damned if anyone knew how it happened.
http://www.caves.org/section/vertical/nh/52/RopeBreakagefinal.pdf

I've asked before how comfortable people are putting their climbing gear in the boot, most seemed ok with it, though...I always feel uneasy.


Could switch to half/twins.


Wires are most likely to break, my smallest one is rated at 2kN. Though I don't worry about that too much, it's way more likely my placement or the rock sucks.
Jimbo C - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to needvert:

You're concerned about transporting your rope in a car boot but not worried about a 2kN micro failing? Have you got those the right way round?
Jonny2vests - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

“if you want to break a climbing rope you must cut it over a sharp edge, corrode it with acid or use a weight drop machine. Everything else EES IMPAUSIBLE!”

Pit Schubert, President of the UIAA safety committee.
cuppatea on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

"Don't worry, men. They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist....."
General John Sedgwick, Union Commander, d. 1864
BolderLicious - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
If you stand by accident on a rope with crampons how much damage does that do?Lots of people must have done this and got away with it.
needvert on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Jimbo C:

Yeah, because one is a known :)
Jonny2vests - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to cuppatea:
> (In reply to BolderLicious)
>
> "Don't worry, men. They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist....."
> General John Sedgwick, Union Commander, d. 1864

Is that your light hearted way of saying you disagree?
cuppatea on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to jonny2vests:

In reply to jonny2vests:

Not at all, I just like the quote and it seemed apt.

I don't know enough about the mechanics of climbing rope to disagree, but it seems at face value to be a strong statement. Was his Germanic accent for comic effect or was he German?
Jonny2vests - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to cuppatea:

That's how it's written in the BMC article (ropes don't break).
timjones - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> (In reply to BolderLicious)
> If you stand by accident on a rope with crampons how much damage does that do?Lots of people must have done this and got away with it.

IIRC there was some work done on this that indicated that crampon damage had surprisingly little effect on a ropes strength.
Milesy - on 12 Jan 2013
If it has a section with sticky tape round one part of the sheathe and says "property of Simon Yates" then it is totally safe to use :)
Milesy - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> (In reply to BolderLicious)
> If you stand by accident on a rope with crampons how much damage does that do?Lots of people must have done this and got away with it.

Any time I have stood on my rope in crampons by accident has been on snow anyway so the rope just gets pushed into the snow. There is not enough pressure applied.
BolderLicious - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to Milesy:
ropes are made of fibres that split apart aren't they?
markus691 on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
Pit Schubert reports on a test where they essentially jumped up and down on rope with grampons and found next to no damage. The rope moves/evades.
Then went ahead and "fixed" the rope on some rock so the'd actually be able to cut into it properly. Turns out, at full body weight the point enters the rope, but there's no cutting.
They then used a hammer. No luck. They first had to cut away the sheath to get the point through. They tested that piece, no reduction in the number of factor 2 falls the rope can withstand.
They put the damaged bit right inside the carabiner, where the rope is bent the most and forces are strongest: No effect.

Only when they sharpened the points like knifes (sharper than provided by manufacturers, but apparently a common preparation for very hard ice) and again fixed the rope they found a reduction of 50% in the number of factor 2 falls the rope can take. Which is still safe enough.

Source:
Pit Schubert, Sicherheit und Risiko in Eis und Fels, Volumne II p.109ff
DGM - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to markus691:

personally if I was unsure about my rope at all, I would discard it and get a new one just for the peace of mind. Im not much of a gambler when it comes to safety
Jonny2vests - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to DGM:
> (In reply to markus691)
>
> personally if I was unsure about my rope at all, I would discard it and get a new one just for the peace of mind. Im not much of a gambler when it comes to safety

Of course. But there's nothing wrong with informing that decision with data from subject matter experts who have conducted extensive tests. Because if you were that concerned about risk, you'd probably never leave the house again, nevermind get in a car.
Tiberius - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to jonny2vests:
> Of course. But there's nothing wrong with informing that decision with data from subject matter experts who have conducted extensive tests.

Risk analysis is also very interesting. It's funny sometimes to see people's perception, i.e. how they are frantic about one link in the chain, such as insisting on a new rope...then completely ignore other elements that have been proven to be far more relevant.
Jonny2vests - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Tiberius:

Yeah. Like placing good gear.
Lord of Starkness - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

Looks like I might be OK to use some of my 14 year old ropes. It's only been lightly used, has had no leader falls and has been stored in a dry dark place for getting on for 8 years. Even my wall rope has had no lead falls.
BolderLicious - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to Lord of Starkness:
Using a 14 year old rope-you have faith!!
PGD - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> (In reply to Lord of Starkness)
> Using a 14 year old rope-you have faith!!

Why? I have ropes used for a year that are worn and trashed. I was recently given a rope from the mid nineties( old 11mm) that was never used. It was given to me by someone I trust. I wouldn't lead on it as it's a bit heavy but have been using it to top rope and skills practice. It just isn't going to be any weaker.
The same applied to metal gear that can be easily worn( more so with some of the lightest gear around now) Some old gear that wasn't really used is still perfectly useable.

Know the history of the gear or have trust in the person giciong it to you.

Also use a bit of common sense and inspect it.

Howard J - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: Ultimately you have to rely on your gut feeling. If you have nagging doubts about the rope when you're climbing, best retire it for your own peace of mind. It should still be suitable for top-roping or abseiling.
Lord of Starkness - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> (In reply to Lord of Starkness)
> Using a 14 year old rope-you have faith!!

I know its history ( I've actually got a pair of 9mm ropes that have been used for mid grade trad routes) -- it's not been abused, and has taken no leader falls. It's been stored in a cool dry place. It it's only really ever likely to get used for low grade (up to severe) bimbling, where there's little chance of me falling off! I don't make a habit of falling off - only 3 leader falls in something like 40 years!

sebrider - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

The best advice to you would be to buy ropes new and know their history - if in doubt replace your rope.

That said, I have only ever bought one new rope, all others have been second hand and have lasted a good amount of time.
There is always mention of acid and ropes but reality is most ropes will not be subject to any acid other than spilled lemonade!
If the sheath is sound with little wear and there are no lumps or soft spots throughout the rope SHOULD be good. Look out for soft spots, about 4m ish at each end where during falls the rope runs over biners. Also, damage to the sheath from going over edges during falls or burns from running over other nylon/fabric.

Some ropes get quite stiff after time, i.e. hard to bend to get into belay device, might indicate an aged rope and makes them more difficult to use. Some rock can be harsh on the sheath, i.e. Wadi Rum, where a new rope can look abused after only a week of normal climbing, but otherwise it would is still be good. Ropes can take many normal lead falls, some long sport climbing sessions with climbers sharing a rope can see a rope take lead 20 falls in one session!
I have a theory that ropes that have been in seawater and not washed will have crystals inside the core that will cause some damage. Its only my theory! I wash windsurf sails to avoid damaging sails when salt water dries and can't see why ropes would be any different.
EeeByGum - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to ianstevens:
> (In reply to BolderLicious) Unless you use a piece of string or a rope with some obvious visual damage (e.g. strands hanging out the end, cuts and nicks in it, that kind of thing, chances are you will break before you snap a either a rope of piece of solid metal. Unless you've placed it wrong, or its a teeny weeny RP.

Hurrah - another climber who has common sense! :-)
JayPee630 - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

Wow, you are posting some quite special questions on here...
GridNorth - on 14 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious: In 50 years of climbing the ONLY ropes that I am aware of breaking were either exposed to some chemical or cut over a sharp edge. One mate of mine took a 60-80 foot fall onto ropes that were at least 25 years old and they didn't break.

I only retire a rope, in the following order, when a) it displays some damage b) doesn't handle very well or c) the thought has sprung into my mind, however illogical, that says it's time to change it. This latter is usually a combination of time and bad handling or following some serious abuse. Once the seed is planted there is no going back. :-)
knudeNoggin - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:
> There is also next to no chance of any rope failing in use purely from accumulated wear before the user is clearly aware that the rope is in a badly deteriorating condition. In a historic test, a rope held close to 200 repeated test falls (representative of 'big' climbing wall or sport climbing falls) in exactly the same place before failing.

Can you give a citation for this test, please?
(First I've heard of it, and it sounds high --impressively!.)

> So, if a rope has always been in your possession since new you can make a highly-informed assessment based on a detailed knowledge of the exact usage and storage history of the rope combined with regular a visual and tactile inspection
> Modern dynamic ropes have NEVER broken in the history of climbing purely as a result of a fall.

"never BROKEN" : but what about a deterioration of load-absorbing ability?
Probably, low-elongation (often called "static") ropes could endure similar uses without breaking --themselves--, but they might break the climber or other gear with high impact forces.

.:. It's a hope of mine that there can be some simple test that users can apply to ropes --some sort of low-impact fall on a particular length-- in order to assess their capability for use. At this time, I think that accumulated evidence supports Pitt's assertion that one can safely use ropes for top-rope support until they quite visibly wear out; lead climbing, OTOH, is a different matter.

*kN*
Fredt on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> (In reply to Lord of Starkness)
> Using a 14 year old rope-you have faith!!

I'm currently regularly using a 20 year old rope.
BolderLicious - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to Fredt:
Has it lost any elasticity?
jimtitt - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:
> (In reply to Fredt)
> Has it lost any elasticity?

If like some others who have posted he rarely or never falls off it probably hasnīt and how would he know anyway?
Some of us see climbing as ascending the rock, not throwing ourselves repeatedly off like lemmings, particularly trad climbing where early experience taught us falling can end badly.

jkarran - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

> How do you know your used climbing rope is safe to use?

You don't.

> What do people think is most likely to break when they fall-rope or wires?

The placement then ankles.
jk
jkarran - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

> because rope stretches on tow.Climbing ropes are not tow ropes!!

Eh? Climbing ropes make the best tow ropes specifically because they stretch so nicely and are adequately strong.

jk
cuppatea on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to jkarran:

Absolutely! same principle as a Kinetic Energy Recovery Rope (KERR) developed by the army to recover stuck tanks.

davidbeynon - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to BolderLicious:

If you can see the core of the rope then it is safer than if the sheath is intact because it is easier to inspect.
Fredt on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to jimtitt:
> (In reply to BolderLicious)
> [...]
>
> If like some others who have posted he rarely or never falls off it probably hasnīt and how would he know anyway?
> Some of us see climbing as ascending the rock, not throwing ourselves repeatedly off like lemmings, particularly trad climbing where early experience taught us falling can end badly.

I agree with Jim. I see falling off as a defeat, a failure, to be avoided at all costs. It's a style learnt when we tied the ropes around our waists, and a fall would often mean your second getting burnt. Yes I may get back on and finish it, but sheepishly.

I have fallen off my 20 year old rope about 3 times. I have only been using it for the last 3 years. The elasticity is fine.
In 1993 I bought a job lot of 5 top brand ropes, very cheap. I sealed 4 in bin-liners and stored up in the loft. I take one out every 5 years or so.

The Ex-Engineer - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to knudeNoggin:
> Can you give a citation for this test, please?
> (First I've heard of it, and it sounds high --impressively!.)

I'd love too, but I've read so much online over the years about climbing and neither my memory nor Google have been particularly helpful recently.

My best recollection is that the test rope held 210 falls of fall factor 0.5 before failing. Also failure only occurred after the sheath split on the 210th fall.

It would certainly be a useful test to repeat on modern ropes, as I think it was done around 30 years ago.
knudeNoggin - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:
> but I've read so much online over the years ...

WARNING : THIS CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH ! ! !

(-;

Thanks, I'll try to keep 'n eye out for such a factoid.

*kN*
knudeNoggin - on 23 Jan 2013
In reply to davidbeynon:
> (In reply to BolderLicious)
>
> If you can see the core of the rope then it is safer than if the sheath is intact because it is easier to inspect.

IIRC, long ago, Mountain Safety Research did a test where they tried to damage a rope such that their efforts didn't show on the surface --they couldn't produce such hidden damage. Which, yes, leaves open the question about how adept they were at rope damage, but at least suggests that rumors of hidden damage loom vastly larger than actual factual damage.

*kN*
BolderLicious - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to knudeNoggin:
Most of the replies in this thread suggest climbing ropes are
very very reliable.Which is good to know.
muppetfilter - on 24 Jan 2013
In reply to knudeNoggin: I see core damage about once every three or four months on static ropes, they usually result from the rope being caught under a big lump of steel at work. Its easy to see and even easier to feel when you run a rope through your hands. In climbbing a loose block dropped by a leader onto a rope flaked out on the ground could produce the same damage.
As far as chemical contamination goes I recall an army accident where ropes came in contact with battery acid in the back of a vehicle leading to a fatality. This is a possible scenario considering what some people may transport in their boot, also don't forget the possibility of a forgotten headtorch in the top of a climbing pack with its batteries leaking.
knudeNoggin - on 29 Jan 2013
In reply to muppetfilter:
> (In reply to knudeNoggin) I see core damage about once every three or four months on static ropes, they usually result from the rope being caught under a big lump of steel at work. Its easy to see and even easier to feel when you run a rope through your hands. In climbbing a loose block dropped by a leader onto a rope flaked out on the ground could produce the same damage.

You might have missed the point of my remark : that MSR was unable to produce **HIDDEN** damage --core damage that one could NOT see (and maybe not feel, for that matter).

Yes, it seems that damage by acids is not easily detectable except the hard way.

*kN*

BolderLicious - on 29 Jan 2013
In reply to knudeNoggin:
Has anyone tried to make an acid resistant rope or would that
change the elastic property of the rope too much?
I suppose if accident rates due to failed ropes are low
there is not much incentive to do something like this.

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