How do I Retire a Rock Climbing Rope?

How do I Retire a Rock Climbing Rope?
As Kolin Powick, Black Diamond Equipment's quality assurance manager, discovered in the article "Retiring Old Ropes," worn-out climbing ropes can potentially break from the force generated by a falling climber. Retire climbing ropes at the right time to prevent this.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Uncoil the rope or take it out of your rope bag, and place it on a flat, clean surface such as a tile floor. Start at one end of the rope and pull up the rope until you hold a section of about 2 or 3 feet in both of your hands.
Step 2
Scrutinize this portion of the rope. Look for signs of wear such as faded color, sheath fraying and "core shots"---places where the sheath has worn through completely, exposing the rope's core. Check if the rope's diameter appears fatter than its original size.
Step 3
Feel for inconsistencies in and on the rope such as burrs on the sheath and areas of core softness or sponginess concealed by the sheath. Observe if the rope handles more stiffly or has more kinks than it did when new.
Step 4
Inspect each subsequent 2- to 3-foot section of the climbing rope, searching with your eyes and hands for inconsistencies.
Step 5
Retire the rope (meaning do not use it again) from rock climbing if you discover core shots or areas of softness or sponginess in the core. The other signs of wear indicate diminished performance and efficacy as well, strongly suggesting retirement as the safest choice.

Tips & Warnings

If your climbing rope comes in contact with abrasive substances such as bleach, harsh chemicals like battery acid, or gasoline, retire it instantly.
Repeated and/or large lead falls diminish a rope's performance and integrity. Keeping a written log of what you've put your rope through can help determine when to retire the rope due to falls. Even one fall of significant impact can reduce a rope's efficacy.
If the rope feels less dynamic than it once was when you take a climbing fall, retire the rope.
Even if you only use your climbing rope occasionally, retire it after four years.
Do not attempt to use a climbing rope without receiving safety instruction from a qualified professional.
Never purchase a used climbing rope for rock-climbing purposes.
Never use a climbing rope without inspecting it first.

Article Written By Alli Rainey

A professional writer since 1997, Harvard graduate Alli Rainey has written several books, including "Wyoming: An Explorer's Guide." Her articles have appeared in "Climbing Magazine," "Rock & Ice," and "Men's Fitness," among many others.

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