A climbing rope is a climber’s lifeline, a key that opens many vertical adventures. It is imperative for every climber to know when to replace their climbing ropes, and that answer could make a world of difference. It is the high time that you enjoy your climbing without worrying about your climbing rope.
The question is, how can you know when to buy a new rope or how many times you can cut one before it needs to be retired? Here at Trek Amaze, one of our aims is to make your life easier when it comes to making big decisions about the most essential gear. Here we break down rope anatomy and care, how to inspect ropes for damage, how to cut ropes, and when to replace them all.
ANATOMY OF CLIMBERING ROPES
It is common for rope manufacturers to keep their rope secrets as if they were the key to heaven. However, most dynamic climbing ropes are a kernmantle construction. By this we mean that the rope is made with a nylon sheath protecting a core that is inside the rope, increasing its strength and protecting it from abrasion.
The rope’s core is manufactured from nylon filament and yarn, giving it a strong core and allowing it to absorb shock across a wider area as it stretches around 6 to 7 percent.
CLIMBING ROPE STRENGTH
Ropes are all rated according to UIAA (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) standards. To test single ropes, a weight of 80 kg is dropped from a height of 7.5 feet onto a 9 foot length of rope. A rope stretch causes the weight to fall about 16.5ft. The force of the weight on the rope produces a fall factor of 1.77, which is usually greater than a standard climbing fall.
A half rope for rope climbing is tested with a 55kg weight. In order to purchase half ropes, UIAA will test one of the half ropes, and another number for both half ropes.
The number of test falls a rope is able to withstand before breaking is the UIAA number. An indication of the general strength of a rope, not how many falls it can survive before breaking. Ropes can actually withstand far more big falls than the UIAA rating allows.
The rope will also be rated for a certain number of kilonewtons and the force of one kilonewtons is equal to about 225 pounds; most single climbing ropes are rated to hold around 9kN, about 2000 pounds.
INSPECTING THE ROPE IN 5 STEPS
You might notice that your rope has become significantly weakened after using it for a while. If you follow these steps, inspecting a rope will be easy.
CUTS IN THE SHEATH
Take a look at the rope along its length and see if there is any noticeable damage. Even if some of the stitching on the sheath has become loose, the rope is still in good shape. Sheath cuts are usually only noteworthy if they are large enough to expose the rope’s core.
The sheath of a rope may develop holes after it has been caught a lot and is subjected to heavy wear. Whenever a hole in the rope sheath is visible, you have core shot – an indication that you should replace or cut the rope.
If the sheath is fuzzy, it may be damaged as well. It generally means that there is a greater chance of more fuzz damaging the sheath and that the shot could be on the verge of becoming core shot. Keep an eye on a section of rope that is getting fuzzier, and if it becomes core shot, cut or replace it.
Sometimes, the sheath can separate from the core. You can feel the sheath along the length of the rope, but there is little core underneath, indicating that the sheath has slipped. As a result, the rope is weak at that point, since the sheath is no longer protecting the core.
CORE FLAT SPOTS
You will notice flat spots as your rope wears, as this indicates the core is weakening. You can check for flat spots by pinching a loop along the length of the rope: if it holds the loop, the core is still good, but if you can pinch it into a sharp bend and the core has also been weakened.
Watch this video to learn how to inspect rope
CUTTING YOUR ROPE
Whenever you find any weak spots in the rope, it’s time to take action. A new rope might not be necessary, however. In most cases, ropes become damaged at the ends, which take the brunt of a fall. It is all too common to find a weak point within the first 15-20ft of a rope when inspecting it.
Wrap climbing tape around the core shot or weak spot in your rope to cut it. Here is where your cuts will be made. Using a helper or by wrapping the rope around your legs, tie the rope taut, then carefully cut through the tape.
After the rope has been cut, use a flame to melt the edges around the new rope end. By doing this, you will prevent the ends from fraying. Make sure you know the length of your cut rope and do not get on a 35-meter route with a rope that was once 70 meters long but is now 67 meters long.
Watch this video to learn how to cut your rope
Normally, a rope that has been cut will need more frequent inspection – but if you are vigilant, you can cut it many times and still remain safe for climbing. For instance, climbers often use 40m ropes at gyms, where routes barely extend higher than 20m.
You should buy a new rope if yours is not long enough to climb the routes you want, or if you have any doubt about its integrity.
Although ropes cannot last forever, you can follow some steps to increase their life.
DRY AND CLEAN YOUR ROPE
Wet or dirty ropes are significantly weaker than clean, dry ones. The strength of rope is reduced by 30% when wet, and dirt can weaken it by 20% to 40% when it’s in the core. Clean and dry your rope if you can.
A rope (bathtubs are handy) can be washed in water no warmer than 86 degrees and dried in a cool place away from sunlight. Climbers sometimes use mild soap rather than detergent to wash their ropes, while others avoid chemicals entirely by rinsing their rope in water or using rope-specific soaps.
While climbing, a rope-bag can prevent dirt from collecting on the rope. You have to take proper care of your climbing rope.
KEEP YOUR ROPE OUT OF THE SUN
The sun has been known to damage ropes, so keep your rope out of the sun to prolong its life. Make sure it’s kept cool and dry.
When you don’t use a rope for 10 years, it may still be safe if it hasn’t been exposed to sunlight, heat, dirt, or chemicals.
WATCH OUT FOR HAZARDS
When climbing, be aware of sharp edges that can damage or even cut your rope. Remember that a taut rope is much easier to cut than a loose one, so ensure that the rope runs smoothly on the rock surface and away from sharp edges – especially in a fall line or rappelling line.
A quickdraw can be used to anchor yourself into protection if you find yourself falling a lot while projecting a climb. One quickdraw carabiner should be clipped to the harness belay loop, the other should be clipped to the rock face protection.
Your belayer can give you some rope slack once you are anchored. In addition to giving your belayer a rest, this is also kinder to your rope. Make sure you are kept on belay by your belayer.
You can also extend the life of your rope if you fall on it a lot. Switching your ends regularly can also help. When you’ve fallen on your project and come down for a rest, switch the ends of the rope before going back up.
Ropes don’t last forever. It is generally recommended that a single climbing rope is good for one year of heavy use. If you only use a rope on the weekends and don’t fall often, then it should last two to three years.
A safe rope will save your life, so err on the side of caution and inspect your rope often. In case of doubt, get a new one.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How do you tell if a climbing rope is damaged?
To know how to check whether the climbing rope is damaged or not, you need to check out this video.
How long should a climbing rope last?
Unused ropes have an average life expectancy of ten years, as long as they aren’t damaged by external factors. In other words, your four-year-old rope in the bag is likely just as ready to climb as you are. Whereas the climbing rope which is used every week then it will last for 1 year and the climbing rope used every month then the rope will last for 3 years.
What is the breaking strength of climbing rope?
A climbing rope can break with a breaking strain of up to 2,500kg, which is way more than a car or even an SUV! Such is the power of this little piece of the climbing tool. A climbing rope’s overall strength is determined by its weight.
Should I wash my climbing rope?
It is possible to wash a rope because it is a textile product. Washing your rope will actually improve its handling if it is really dirty. Shop at a specialist retailer for mild synthetic detergents. Your rope should be washed by hand in lukewarm water.
How many falls can a climbing rope take?
An ISO-approved climbing rope can withstand at least five falls.
What to do with old climbing ropes?
With an old climbing rope you can make rope basket , rope toy, a leash for your pet dog and many other creative things, but make sure that you don’t use it for climbing purpose.