Using a brand new climbing rope is a special feeling for any climber. However, admiring its impeccable strength, fresh color, and smooth landing will not last for a long time. Sooner than you’d like it to happen, the rope will weaken and you may even consider retiring it.
Since there are so many things that affect its lifespan, there is no definitive formula that determines when to retire a climbing rope. Because of this, it is important to get familiar with how long do climbing ropes last so you can determine the best time to retire. Keep on reading to find out when is the best time to retire your climbing rope.
When to Retire Climbing Rope – Factors
Climbing ropes are made from nylon (polyamide) fibers that slowly break down over time. It is recommended to retire a rope after 10 years even if it has not been used at all. There are no manufacturers that recommend using a rope that is more than 10 years old.
According to some studies, many unused 10-15-year-old ropes can handle the UIAA test drops. But, the UIAA only certifies and tests brand new ropes. That means that there is no standard on how climbing ropes age. Furthermore, no definitive evidence states whether an old rope can be used safely.
So, how long do climbing ropes last? Here are the official BMC recommendations that could come in handy next time you are wondering whether it is worth it to use an old rope:
- Less than a year – constant use, daily
- Up to one year – frequent use, every week
- Up to three years – regular use, several times per month
- Up to five years – occasional use, once per month
- Up to seven years – rare use, twice per year
- Ten years – the maximum lifespan of a climbing rope that has never been used
Rope ‘fuzziness’ is the most obvious sign of use, caused by friction and abrasion. It is usually caused by a weighted rope running over an edge, such as a sharp rock or carabiners when rappelling or lowering. The sharper the rock and the greater the load – the greater the sign of usage on the rope.
Bodyweight causes more damage when lowering or rappelling than seconding and leading without any weight. If you’re wondering how long do climbing ropes last under abrasion, rappelling reduces its lifespan by two to three-factor compared with regular climbing. Top roping and lowering speeds up the aging process by a five to ten factor.
The lifespan is reduced as a result of the fibers being torn and abraded. A fuzzy rope could even wear through to the core. It comes as no surprise that fuzzy ropes are much more likely to snap over an edge than new ropes just because there are fewer fibers.
According to the British Mountaineering Council’s Technical Committee, 85% of both dynamic and static rope failures are caused by prolonged abrasion over sharp or rough rock edges. The other failures are a result of corrosive substance contamination.
3. Cut Resistance
The rope’s ability to resist being cut is crucial during a fall. This, to some extent, depends on how much abrasion is present. If there are fewer fabrics to cut through then the rope has less cut resistance. Cut resistance depends on energy absorption as well. If the climbing rope can absorb more force, there is less fall force applied onto the edge.
It is very important to monitor the condition of your rope and decide when to retire a climbing rope. Since ropes can cut easily if they are damaged, it is not surprising that there have been numerous fatal and severe accidents with severed ropes in the past 5 years. The accidents were a result of both sharp rock edges and worn hardware.
You should inspect your climbing rope before and after a climbing session. Even though this may seem like it takes a lot of time, it decreases the risk of injuries and accidents. Simply take a glance at your climbing rope to see whether it shows any signs of damage.
4. Energy Absorption
Whenever a rope gets loaded, it loses a bit of its energy-absorbing ability. So, if you are wondering when to retire climbing rope, keep on reading to find out more about it. If you allow your rope to relax after it is being loaded, it will regain the majority of its previous performance. However, bear in mind that it can never fully recover.
The higher the force and the larger the fall, the less your climbing rope will recover. You are probably wondering how long do climbing ropes last in such conditions. If the fall factor is greater than 1, downgrading the rope and using it for rappelling or TR is suggested by many manufacturers. Alternatively, you can retire such a rope.
Even though ropes that have endured these conditions are likely to handle smaller falls, you need to be extremely careful when using them. They are much more prone to cutting if loaded than any new rope. Carefully inspect the condition and decide when to retire climbing rope for maximum safety.
Q: How Long Should a Climbing Rope Last?
The lifespan of a climbing rope is 10 years in case it has never been used. It is not recommended to use a rope that has been sitting for more than 10 years since nylon fibers slowly break down with time. On the other hand, if you use your rope more often, that means its lifespan gets shorter.
Q: Do Climbing Ropes Ever Break?
Ropes are generally cut over a surface, such as a sharp rock. They rarely break because they are made from strong material. However, if your rope is very old and damaged, it means there are fewer fabrics left in it. This can lead to the rope being cut when it comes across a sharp surface, so you should be careful.
Q: What Can I Do With an Old Climbing Rope?
There’s no need to throw away your old climbing rope because you can recycle it into something useful. For example, you can use old ropes to make a rug. Or, you can use your old rope to create a dog leash. In addition, you can even make furniture out of it. All you need is creativity and some time.
Q: How Do You Take Care of a Climbing Rope?
If you want to keep your rope in a good condition don’t throw it directly on the ground. Instead, use a ground cloth or a climbing backpack. Also, you should brush the first 5-6 foot of each rope end to protect it from dirt, pebbles, and chalk. You can even wash your rope using mild water and soap.
Q: How Should I Store My Climbing Rope?
You should control your climbing rope away from the sun and water. Get a rope bag and fold it in a neat fashion. Make sure the rope ends are tied to the tabs so you can find them easily. Lastly, fold your rope bag and store it in a dry place. You can even use the bag to carry your rope.
Q: What Do You Clean a Climbing Rope With?
Use a gentle brush in order to remove dirt, pebbles, and chalk. If your rope is really dirty, you can use mild water and soap to wash it. In addition, you can even use the washing machine. Just make sure you use cold water and run a delicate cycle. It is also important to clean the detergent tray beforehand.
Q: How Strong is Climbing Rope?
Climbing ropes typically range from 9.8 mm to 10.2 mm in diameter. The strength of the climbing rope is measured in kN (kilonewtons). It refers to the force it can give a falling climber under test conditions simulating a hard fall. Generally, climbing ropes range from 9 kN to 24kN.
Q: Can Climbing Ropes Get Wet?
Generally, most climbing ropes can get wet without much problem, but there are some exceptions. Nylon climbing ropes are actually 16% weaker when they get wet compared to when they are dry. On the other hand, polypropylene climbing ropes get stronger when they are wet.
Globo Surf Overview
Climbing ropes are one of the most important items for any climber. They are responsible for your safety and should be replaced if their performance is decreased. However, since there is no definitive standard on how long do climbing ropes last, you should pay attention to any visible signs of damage.
If a rope has not been used in more than ten years, you should retire it because it is not safe to use such a rope. ‘Fuzziness’ is a certain sign of abrasion that should not be overlooked. It is crucial to inspect your climbing rope regularly to prevent possible injuries.