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Using a 14 year old rope, advice?

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 _Adam_Howard_ 04 May 2022

Hello folks, just inherited a 14 year old 40m Mammut rope. My girlfriend's dad bought it with his buddy 14 years back and they never had a chance to use it so kept it in dark storage, zipped up in a rope bag.The rope looks to be in perfect condition (no wear and tear and no visible ageing). 

I'd just like to know people's positions on using old unused ropes and whether they suggest I get rid, use it for just TR or say screw it and use it as normal?

Post edited at 18:32

How should I use a 14 year old unused rope?

Chuck it away/recycle into mats
Use it only for top roping/rappelling
Use it like normal (sport, trad lead etc)
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 deepsoup 04 May 2022
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

Oh, go on then.  Even though this is a bit of a tired old UKC chestnut I'll vote for what I would do. 

Which goes slightly against the question, I just realised, because I really have no opinion on what you should do - except that your second option makes no sense to my mind.  You either trust the rope or you don't.  If you don't trust it to lead on you shouldn't be using it to toprope either.

10
In reply to deepsoup:

>  except that your second option makes no sense to my mind.  You either trust the rope or you don't.  If you don't trust it to lead on you shouldn't be using it to toprope either.

Most of my retired lead ropes end up being used for abseiling and I wouldn't have much problem with top roping on them as well.

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 deacondeacon 04 May 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

I'd use it as normal, with no concerns

 john arran 04 May 2022
In reply to deacondeacon:

I'm sure I have one or two ropes that must be a similar age tucked away in a lonely cupboard. I'd have no problem trusting those.

 Dave Cundy 04 May 2022
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

So what's the difference...

1) A 14 year old rope that's been used regularly (no big falls or abrasion) and kept in the garage  or

2)  A 14 year old rope that's been kept in the garage.

One tope will be a bit more mucky/stiff than the other.  Option 1 describes my current lead rope  bought in 2007.  I don't have any doubts.

 BuzyG 04 May 2022
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

I still have part of my first ever climbing rope in my car boot. It's still strong enough to tow a car over 50 years later.   Not intended to be particularly relevant, just a little anecdote on old ropes.

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 Moacs 04 May 2022
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

I'd use it without hesitation.

In the unlikely situation that I'd allowed siren voices to sow doubt in my head, I would back it up and abseil on it and then back it up and take a good whipper at a wall.

Tie in and bounce on it.  It's solid.

3
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

Sure the rope is good if it passed inspection

1) does the sheath look and feel good. visual and feel

2) does it bend ok or are there any flat spots. Bend rope 180 and does it maintain a radius of space inside the bend (good) or does it limply fold flat like a sheet of paper (bad). Do that all the way down the rope to examine the core. Flat spots are bad bad bad. Another feel test.

3) does anything in its history "smell" wrong? or sound too old show abuse etc etc

if all 3 tests pass fine, use it.

Don't know about you guys but when I abseil, it's usually NOT a safer activity where I'd accept an old rope, usually for me I'm doing something sketchy/silly and or possibly going to jumar back up or be in some serious situation. So for me... I'm not keen on abseil as a semi retirement option. Did vote that but changed my mind on further thought 

2
 stubbed 05 May 2022
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

This is a good question. I regularly climbed before I had children, and now my climbing harness & ropes are at least 15 years old. They've been used & well looked after and look & feel ok.

I booked a climbing instructor to take my children out for the day last Summer and he said I shouldn't even use my harness because of it's age. I am still using it regularly at the wall. But now I am thinking that while I maybe need to retire my stuff, I actually have no concerns at all about using it.

Anyway we didn't go out with the instructor in the end because I admitted I was an 'ex-climber' and he then cancelled on me, but that's another story.

 galpinos 05 May 2022
In reply to BuzyG:

I know this is an anecdote but........

In real life, rope failures really only come from two causes:

  • Cutting (be that a shear load over a sharp edge or a "rubbing cut" due to a weighted rope moving over an edge)
  • Chemical damage

However, a rope's purpose is not just to "not break" in a fall but also to minimize the peak forces experienced by the climber, belayer and anchor/bolt/gear in a fall.

Your fifty year old rope may pass the first criteria, would it pass the second?

2
 LastBoyScout 05 May 2022
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

I'm still using ropes of at least that age for top roping with the kids and leading at the wall.

I'm still using them for leading easy stuff well within my grade that I wouldn't expect to fall off in order to bring up a second.

I'll buy new ones if I ever get back into leading hard stuff outside.

In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

The question isn't one of 'is the rope strong enough' - there's plenty of evidence that is will be.  The important question is "will it have retained its elasticity?" i.e. what impact force will the climber feel in a lead fall?

It will definitely be fine for toproping. It might hurt more than a new rope if you fall off when leading. It might break after fewer falls than a new rope.

Post edited at 10:06
4
 Webster 05 May 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

>  except that your second option makes no sense to my mind.  You either trust the rope or you don't.  If you don't trust it to lead on you shouldn't be using it to toprope either.

umm no. you dont shock load a top rope/absial rope. and chances are it will see a lot less abrasion as well. I have old ropes which i wouldnt use for red/head pointing (not that i do either of those things) but i am happy to use for top ropeing and easy sport where all it needs to do is lower me down.

 deepsoup 05 May 2022
In reply to Webster:

> umm no. you dont shock load a top rope/absial rope. and chances are it will see a lot less abrasion as well.

Umm, well, you don't go out planning to anyway - but it does occasionally happen. 

And an abseil rope can sometimes be subject to a lot more abrasion than a lead rope.  (Especially if it's a dynamic rope, and especially if for some reason you need to jug back up it - which again you might not plan for, but it isn't hard to dream up a scenario in which you might need to.)

"I'm going to head out to do some stuff, and I'm going to take my substandard 'spare' bit of essential safety kit because it doesn't really need to be 100% reliable to be good enough for the thing I'm planning to do."

YMMV of course, I'm explaining my point of view not trying to tell you what to do - but I reckon there's a honking big heuristic trap here. 

Plans change and if the gear you're taking with you isn't good enough to use in reasonably foreseeable circumstances, albeit perhaps not particularly likely ones, then it just plain isn't good enough.

There's a reason that professional users usually destroy 'retired' kit - kit that is only 'semi' retired has a habit of creeping back into service.

6
 Martin Hore 05 May 2022
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

In any situation where somebody might find themselves with legal liability, they should not be recommending you use a rope beyond the manufacturer's recommended life-span - which will usually be either 5 or 10 years in this case. So that's why no instructor is likely to recommend you use the rope. Even if an accident had nothing to do with the age of the rope - eg if the rope was cut over a sharp edge that would have cut a rope bought yesterday - the HSE would find an instructor at fault for recommending using the rope.

So although it may be safe to use the rope, anyone on here who could find themselves liable (my "instructor" credentials are no more than an SPA gained in 1993!) is probably unwise to recommend it....

Martin

 wayne1965 05 May 2022
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

You didn't mention if it's a skinny 7mm or a rough tough 11mm rope.

An 11mm rope will go on forever ... more or less

Thinner ropes have less margin. I use 8.1mm iceline and tend to retire them when I notice they are loosing their shape (going flat) during abseils... assuming no other visual damage.  Probably the are still ok especially when using them as twin ropes. Abseiling is probably the biggest wear on my ropes. I consider falling off to be a bad habit.

This should not be the case with a rope that has never been used and not exposed to any strong summer sunshine.... I would use it so long as it holds it shape in an abseil.

 Iamgregp 05 May 2022
In reply to wayne1965:

You're correct about diameters and rope wear, but it doesn't matter if this particular case - it hasn't been used!

In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

UIAA Studies have found that the only relevant factors in a ropes degradation are exposure to mechanical wear and corrosive chemicals, i.e. solvents, acids, alkalis, or their fumes. The former is clearly not the case, it's been stored and not used. The latter is not the case as you don't 100% know. I particularly draw your attention to fumes - it would be an easy mistake to make to fling a rope into the corner of a dark garage, next to for example a charging car battery, which emit acid fumes. I guess this is the point, is it really worth the risk when you are relying on someone elses say so? It's most likely that it is 100% fine, and may give good service for years - the age is simply not relevant. I would go back to her dad and quiz him some more...

1
In reply to Toerag:

> "will it have retained its elasticity?" i.e. what impact force will the climber feel in a lead fall?

No, that is not a relevant question, as per my previous post. The only way it would lose elasticity is if it has been repeatedly fallen on, causing mechanical degradation through use.

1
 Webster 05 May 2022
In reply to deepsoup:

> And an abseil rope can sometimes be subject to a lot more abrasion than a lead rope.  (Especially if it's a dynamic rope, and especially if for some reason you need to jug back up it - which again you might not plan for, but it isn't hard to dream up a scenario in which you might need to.)

of course, im not talking about using old ropes as dedicated in situ ab rope, i mean using it for easy climbing where i know i wont fall, but need to absail to get back down from the crag (i.e. most things in les gaillands in chamonix). yes absailing can cause excessive wear, and if that happens, thats when i would retire it, not before.

> Plans change and if the gear you're taking with you isn't good enough to use in reasonably foreseeable circumstances, albeit perhaps not particularly likely ones, then it just plain isn't good enough.

yes plans change, but they dont change from 'im going to the wall' to 'we are half way up a 20 pitch granite mountain route' do they? if you are going somewhere where you might need all your best gear then you are going to take all your best gear.

of course, each to their own. if you are not comfortable using an old rope for top rope/easy climbing then dont. but to say that if you dont trust a rope for leading then you shouldnt trust it for top roping is just wrong. they are worlds apart in terms of the demands on your gear.

 BuzyG 05 May 2022
In reply to galpinos:

It's a 15 ft length of plaited tow rope now.  So your reply is really not relevant to it's present use.  An anecdote is just story placed in a conversation to try and keep life interesting.  

Post edited at 17:24
 Siward 05 May 2022
In reply to _Adam_Howard_:

I've an 11mm dry rope from, let's see, 1990 or thereabouts. Used 2/3 times. No falls. Stored in the dark in a bag. 

In reply to beardy mike:

> No, that is not a relevant question, as per my previous post. The only way it would lose elasticity is if it has been repeatedly fallen on, causing mechanical degradation through use.


That's interesting, because many of the plastic things I've been pulling out of my Dad's loft in the past year from the 70s and 80's have not retained their original mechanical properties - soft plastics e.g. vinyl or toy car tires have gone sticky, or hard; normal 'rigid but flexible' plastics have gone brittle and cracked.  Why should climbing ropes retain their properties yet everything else doesn't?  Also, why don't car seatbelts have 'lives' given that they're in the sun all the time and subject to wear?

1
 ExiledScot 12 May 2022
In reply to Toerag:

Some plastics have stabilisers added which reduce degradation, others plastisers added to improve flexibility, these are kind of oil based and leach out slowly (into soil, water table, oceans, food chain... not good), which then speeds up degradation and brittleness. No two plastics are the same, even a plastic kept in a cool dark low moisture environment will degrade in time. 

Op. I'd likely use the rope but not for something I thought I'd take a big fall on. 

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In reply to Toerag:

Firstly plastic bags are made of cheap polyester. That said, chemically it's not far removed from Dyneema, which is effectively the same chemical but with its polymer chains stretched out. Try grabbing a plastic bag and stretching it until it breaks. You'll find that it stretches lots and then all of a sudden goes firm and its very difficult to break. Quite different to poking a finger through mind. Dyneema does dramatically lose strength with wear, UIAA found a 50% degradation in heavily used thin slings after only a few years which other than visual degradation seemed fine. You point that all other plastics degrade, well that's not strictly true is it. Yes they will all degrade to some degree, but ropes are made from a material which degrades very slowly. Viewing all plastics as the same is a bit of a duff way of looking at it as they all massively different. I mean for example Kevlar is completely fine in heat up to 600C when it just pulverises. I wouldn't do the same to Dyneema which has similar properties in terms of strength and cut resistance...

The Polyamide in ropes has been altered to be UV resistant and this has been the case since I believe the late 80's. So the old adage that you shouldn't leave your ropes out, is not entirely necessary. Your point about car seatbelts, well they're made of UV stable POlyamide and they also have a huge factor of safety.

 jimtitt 12 May 2022
In reply to beardy mike:

Most car seat belts are made from polyester and given an extremely dense UV protection then subject to a brutal UV test. The design life is that of the vehicle and if they drop below the standard requirements within 10 yrs they are a mandatory safety recall (at least in the USA. Classic car racing they are allowed up to 25yrs old. "Proper" race cars it depends but 2 years is standard as they are subject to regular loading so the equivelent of climbing falls.

Most cars have glass windows and so virtually no UVB passes through and some of the UVA is also absorbed which helps as well.

In reply to jimtitt:

My mistake! Same end result


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