When Should I Replace My Climbing Rope?

Making the decision to retire a climbing rope can be difficult. A good dynamic climbing rope isn’t cheap, after all. Not to mention the memories you share with your rope. Maybe it was there for you when you lead your first route, or maybe it was there when sent your hardest grade. Your climbing rope has been there for you through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows. But climbing ropes don’t last forever. Don’t let sentiment get in the way of your safety. Your climbing rope is meant to keep you safe not be your friend. But how do you know when you should replace your climbing rope?

It’s difficult to know when you should replace a climbing rope. It’s not an exact science, and it depends on a number of different factors. Here are some things that you should keep in mind that can help you decide whether or not it’s time to retire your climbing rope.

Falls

Each climbing rope is rated for a certain number of UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) falls. This type of fall means that the climber falls below their belayer, which – if climbing in Arkansas – probably isn’t going to happen. For example, a Monster 9.2 mm Dynamic Rope from Metolius is rated for 5-6 UIAA falls. Does this mean that you should toss your rope after taking 5-6 lead falls? No.

Since climbers will rarely generate the force of a UIAA fall, even after taking a nasty lead fall, you can’t rely on this rating alone. It can be a good idea, however, to keep a tally of big lead falls, so you at least have a sense of the stress that’s been put on your rope. Some recommend replacing a rope after 20+ falls on a single end of a climbing rope.

Time

Some things get better with age. Climbing ropes do not. Fibers in a climbing rope can weaken or grow brittle over time, especially if not properly stored or maintained. While many climbing ropes have been worked for over a decade, you should consider replacing your rope at least after 6+ years.

Sheath

The sheath of a rope is the other material that protects the inner fibers of the rope’s core. Basically, the sheath is the part of the rope that you see, and the core of the rope is what gives the rope its strength. If your climbing rope sheath is worn through, and the inner core of the rope is exposed, do not use it. Even though the sheath doesn’t do most of the work, it protects the core. If the core is exposed, the integrity of the rope is compromised, and the rope can fail.

Core

A core shot rope is dangerous. Sometimes the inner core of your climbing rope may be damaged, even if the sheath doesn’t show any visible wear. Your climbing rope should arch when you fold any section of it. If the rope bends – and both sides touch flush – the core is damaged, and you should replace your climbing rope.

Tips to get more out of your climbing rope

While some people push their ropes to get every last climb out of them, this can be dangerous. If you have to say, “the rope is fine as long as you don’t fall”, you shouldn’t be using it. Here are some things that you can do to safely extend the life of a climbing rope.

  • Store your climbing rope in a cool, dry, clean place out of direct sunlight.
  • While you don’t want to get in the habit of washing your rope, occasionally cleaning your rope with rope wash can help extend its life.
  • Avoid dragging your rope over sharp ledges and edges that can damage or slice your rope.
  • Always inspect your rope for wear before and after climbing
  • Water and dirt can weaken climbing ropes. Bring a tarp of ground cover to help protect your rope.
  • Alternate the end of the rope that you climb on.

Stop by and see us in Northwest Arkansas if you need a new climbing rope, or any other climbing gear!

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