I have a pair of Edelrid half ropes that have only ever been used on about 5 multi-pitch climbs and have never been fallen on. However they are 20 years old. They have spent most of that time in storage. By today's standards they're pretty heavy. I think they might be as much as 9.5mm.
Do ropes deteriorate with age even when not used? Would they still be safe?
You will probably get a whole load of opinions on this one. Without testing it would be tough to be sure either way.
I think Beal for example suggest 10 years of very light use plus 5 years of pre sale storage as being acceptable.
There is perhaps some slight degradation over time in storage even if properly stored out of the light.
So safe? Who knows. For me I would hate to be on a climb with even the smallest concern about the condition of the equipment.
I think you would be pushing your luck a little with ropes that old but if they still handle nicely they would probably be OK. If it were me I would buy new ones for the simple reason that you have now planted a seed in your mind and it will come back to haunt you when you get into a sticky situation. For me once the doubt has surfaced that's it.
If you do a search on Pit Schubert Aging of Climbing Ropes you will find that they are safe - provided there is no damage, which your post implies there isn't.
Categorically, climbing ropes do not degrade with age. They degrade with use and exposure to chemicals, UV etc.
Whether to continue using them or not, only you can answer...
"Ropes deteriorate even when they are not used. At the very latest they should be replaced after ten years as synthetic fibres deteriorate over time. A rope that is only used occasionally and stored carefully can provide three to six years of service. If you use your rope on a very regular basis and it takes lots of falls, we advise you to downgrade it to toprope use only after one year. It’s not possible to provide exact values for rope lifespan. In particular, difficult handling or a worn sheath should make it clear to the safety-conscious user that it’s time to replace a rope. It’s important to replace a rope if it has been subjected to extreme forces or if it is damaged."
Testing from Black Diamond: https://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en_US/stories/experience-story-qc-lab-old-vs-new-gear-testing/
There's also a section on this in the Risiko series by Pit Schubert (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sicherheit-Risiko-Fels-Eis-Sicherheitsforschung/dp/3763360166), saying that since the era of modern ropes, there hasn't been an accident caused by rope failure in a fall (outside of it being cut over a rock edge, which can happen with brand new ropes as well).
Take from that what you will.
There are loads of tests of old rope on youtube and around the internet, there is very little difference between old and new, unless there's been chemical damage.
I'd climb on them, providing I was certain there'd been no chemical damage.
> From Edelrid
> "Ropes deteriorate even when they are not used. At the very latest they should be replaced after ten years as synthetic fibres deteriorate over time.
People that sell rope advise that it is replaced often.
In other news, water is wet.
(OK, there might be some legal considerations, too.)
This is true. Every single supplier... Plus any rope access retierment/replacement schedules - Probably because they cant guaruntee the integrity of rope 10 years from manufacture.
Of course, as mentioned above, advice from some (experienced yet anonymous) folk on a forum can always be followed... - its the OP' rope and the OP's life (and their climbing partner(s)).
This has become a classic UKC thread, except no one has resorted to insults yet!
So, a whole load of people say it is fine. A whole load of other people say it is not fine. Some quote some source and could be wrong. Some don't quote a source and could be right.
How to proceed? Accept that the answer is not clear; decide if you want the nagging thought as you are above gear, decide whether the uncertain risk justifies taking the chance, consider your risk tolerance, budget and climbing activity to determine whether buying new ropes is the way ahead.
If you use them and fall and nothing happens, does that mean the replies that they are safe are correct? No.
If you decide to bin them and buy new, does that mean the replies that they are not safe are correct? No.
Your rope, your life tied to it. Your call!
Yeah, that's fair.
"If you have to ask, you're probably gonna want to replace it!".