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sisu

Retiring Ropes

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I have heard and read various criteria for deciding when to retire ropes used for both summer rock and alpine/waterfall ice climbing: lengths of time used and frequency of use, number of falls, crampon/tool sticks, sheath damage, signs of core damage, and etc. I would like to post this question to the cc.com world and hear when and why you choose to retire your respective ropes.

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when my doubts of the ropes have gone on for around 2 years and I can't stand it anymore.

 

Since I am afraid to fall, my ropes don't get any air time, only rap use. So the ropes often get to be 6 years old and not look it. Then the doubts start and two years later, time to do something about it.

 

This probably doesn't help, but you seem to know all the reasons to retire a rope. Probably best after 5 years with no obvious reasons to retire before.

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I use to get more life out of ropes. I'd buy phat 11mils and they'd be lead ropes for @3 -4 years and then be relegated to topropes and jugging/cleaning lines till they looked or felt untrustworthy, usually 2-4 more years, then I'd chop out the bad spots and use them for toprope anchors. Lately, I seem to be chopping or wearing them out faster than that. This one is 3 years old (the cheap $100 Mammut 10.5 came with a rope bag) and this happened with a heavy guy and myself rappelling on it, and I was toprope soloing up it, and only for 25-35 feet till I pitched and took this horrendous testicular shrinking king swing and couldn't get back on route so I bagged it. Next weekend, I came down from the top, rappelled the first rope, this was the 2nd, I was still 160 feet off the deck or so when my hand felt the core shot. I had a rope protector, but it must have slipped.

 

This rope below. (I haven't retired it yet as it's only 3 years old. Just using it still elsewhere seen in this pic @ 2 weeks ago, 6 months after the chop and trying not to use the core shotted end.)

Bill_with_the_Holy_Mammut_on_Drop_Zone_Ledge_resized.jpg

This overhang I'm rapping. It wore where it was touching the rope, right near the top there.

it_overhangs_a_bit_resized.jpg

 

I have 5 brand new ropes in my basement still in the bags. I was thinking and reflecting on this very fact recently when I was rapping Ujahns soaking wet 10-11 year old POS in the driving rain, wondering on it's ability to not give up on my fat ass.

 

I think if you have a 9.1 and use it regularly, 3 year should be max. But a full 11mil 19 fall rope, pftt, 10 years or until it chops. Toproping and lowering wears them out faster unless you're projecting a lead and falling, which I don't or rarely do.

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Any time you're worrying or wondering about a rope it's time to replace it. On the otherhand, if it's seen no, or only a few, lead falls, the sheath is intact, and you can't feel any problems when running your fingers firmly down the length of it, then I'd be happy to take it off your hands anywhere under about eight years old.

 

But as Bill says skinny ropes (sub 10m) don't hold up very long and there are some sheath constructions which last longer than others. A Mammut 10.2 SuperSafe is about the ultimate rope as far as I'm concern and it's the only rope I use in the sub-11 category when I'm doing anything dicey or with sharp edges.

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Have you guys ever had the sheath start to accumulate on your locking binner when lowering or rapelling? As far as I can tell I can't tell any obvious damage but its been well loved. 2 seasons of ice climbing, 1 season of alpine rock (think lots of granite ridges), and lots of rock climbing (top and lead). I'm going to buy a new rope, but what use does it have after? Haul line? Cut to 30m for glacier?

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Have you guys ever had the sheath start to accumulate on your locking binner when lowering or rapelling?

 

You mean rope fuzz?

What's worse is when static elec. builds up and that rope fuzz starts getting on your face when you're rapping.

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I think Kevinos talkin about when the sheath slips relative to the core. Yeah, I had a thick rope that I rapped single line with a Cinch on when it was new, and the sheath started slipping and it still does and has since the event. (Beal/Black Diamond)

 

Climbed on it last night toproping. But it's a 19 fall 11 mil that is 3 years old with no falls on it.

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What are your thoughts about retiring ropes after a certain number of crampon/ice tool sticks - especially when there is no visible core damage (pieces of core material sticking through sheath, obvious divots).

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Many years ago, Chris Harmston (BD QA manager) pull tested some old ropes. Strength-wise, they held up amazingly well. Old ropes do lose elasticity though and this can increase the load during falls. Fish has some of the old wreck dot climbing articles collected here:

 

http://www.fishproducts.com/tech/rope.html

 

The crampon thing seems to be not worth losing sleep over either.

 

Edited by froodish

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The most important thing is to keep the thing in a rope bag. Even having rope bags but just putting it down unbagged by the side of the road before putting it in your bag can open you up to invisible sulpheric acid damage. (say bubba had his battery out on the road right there the previous week) Some guy found this out not long ago when his relatively new rope parted in 2 as he was taking his gym certification lead climbing fall. Short fall. rope broke. Link to rope story

 

Although it's rare, I've have personally seen this occur one time, at Elgin Wall, and that was enough for me. Light kid rappelling. Rope failed. Fortunately the screaming ended soon enough when the kid went unconscious. We carried the kid out on a rope stretcher we made and he was lucky to have survived. Bless cell phones:-) They were not around then.

 

The German UIAA president had posted a treatise essentially that age doesn't matter as long as there is not visible damage (cores/rockfall - feel the rope for internal issues like Joseph says above) and there's not any chemical issues. You can google for it. This flew in the face of the rope Mfg recommendations which is generally much shorter (mfg dependant) like 1-3 years retire it depending on how much climbing you are doing. I think climbing every weekend they are talking 3 years. Each rope comes with a tag detailing lots of dos and dont's and what that mfg is suggesting for that rope.

 

The phrase "When in doubt, throw it out" should be memorized. (ie, not throw it in the garbage per see - make a lead rope a toprope or a toprope a backup or cleaning line) I know I memorized it, but have a difficult time following the advice.

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Many years ago, Chris Harmston (BD QA manager) pull tested some old ropes. Strength-wise, they held up amazingly well. Old ropes do lose elasticity though and this can increase the load during falls. Fish has some of the old wreck dot climbing articles collected here:

 

http://www.fishproducts.com/tech/rope.html

 

The crampon thing seems to be not worth losing sleep over either.

Just to play devil's advocate for a second, my experience with a couple well-used/older ropes is that they become more elastic with age, closer to bungee cord-like, which can be somewhat unsafe as well as that would lead to longer falls. Anyone else have experience like that?

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I have a few that are ready to be retired. They are more stretched out so I'd think if anything, there'd be less stretch on a fall. I haven't noticed more stretch on mine.

 

Kevino, could it be the weight of the climber has increased over the years rather than the elasticty of the rope? Just asking :)

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Have you guys ever had the sheath start to accumulate on your locking binner when lowering or rapelling?

 

I had an interesting experience a few weekends ago. I began a series of raps and the first one was through some fine dust/dirt.

 

The ropes were wet and absorbed this dirt, then I proceeded to do 8 60 m raps, when I got home I noticed the dirty ropes acted like sand paper. They sawed through a significant portion of my biner, sanded off all the ridges on my BD guide device and actually started cutting through the belay device in multiple places.

 

Was quite surprising, the ropes went into the bath and look good as new. However I retired the biner and device

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I just managed to knick the sheath of my favorite rope with something sharp while hanging on it. Yes, dumb! Cut a couple of the sheath strands, enough so that you can even see the core a little bit.

 

But I've rationalized that the core is fine and it provides a majority of the strength, nothing a little tape won't fix.

 

Am I nuts??

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Dberdinka: short answer is yes! :P

 

Jmace, I've heard of that happening in the desert while rapping, on sandstone after a rain and the sand is a slurry. Never seen it myself fortunately.

 

This one is 3 years old (the cheap $100 Mammut 10.5 came with a rope bag) and this happened with a heavy guy and myself rappelling on it, and I was toprope soloing up it, and only for 25-35 feet till I pitched and took this horrendous testicular shrinking king swing and couldn't get back on route so I bagged it. Next weekend, I came down from the top, rappelled the first rope, this was the 2nd, I was still 160 feet off the deck or so when my hand felt the core shot. I had a rope protector, but it must have slipped.

 

This rope below. (I haven't retired it yet as it's only 3 years old. Just using it still elsewhere seen in this pic @ 2 weeks ago, 6 months after the chop and trying not to use the core shotted end.)

Bill_with_the_Holy_Mammut_on_Drop_Zone_Ledge_resized.jpg

This overhang I'm rapping. It wore where it was touching the rope, right near the top there.

it_overhangs_a_bit_resized.jpg

 

Holy crap, I totally forgot about taking a shot at soloing up on that rope until I read this. I remember now what a F*ing rush that peeler was!!! Now, in retrospect, trying to climb on that rope in that location ....crazy.

 

Here's the spot on that rope.

 

 

P1030325.JPG

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