When to Retire a Climbing Rope?

Retiring your Climbing Rope

When should you retire your climbing rope is a question all climbers should ask themselves.  As a professional guide service, Montana Alpine Guides keeps regular logs and inspections as to when we retire ropes.  This level of professionalism is expected.  We often get the question from participants in our Climbing Courses, “When should I retire my old climbing ropes?  This answer is best left to the companies who make the ropes; in this case, one of our lead sponsors Mammut has the answers:

“Even some ancient ropes can still hold a «short» sport climbing fall, whilst in comparison, a brand new rope can break over a sharp edge. Therefore, the lifespan of a rope is difficult to define. It depends on the type and the length of use, on shock loading and other influences that weaken the rope. In the end, with the private user, it’s a personal safety decision. At the latest, if you no longer have confidence in your old, furry, unmanageable rope you should «down grade» it to top roping only.  For commercial users keeping a rope log is recommended”.

INDEPENDENT OF FREQUENCY OF USE, A ROPE SHOULD BE DISPOSED OF IF:

  • The rope came in contact with chemicals, particularly acids.
  • The sheath is damaged and the core is visible.
  • The sheath is extremely worn, or particularly fuzzy.
  • The sheath has slipped noticeably
  • Strong deformations are present (stiffness, nicks, sponginess).
  • The rope was subjected to extreme loads (e.g. heavy falls, clearly over fall factor 1).
  • The rope is extremely dirty (grease, oil, tar).
  • Heat, abrasion, or friction burns have caused damage.

 

The following table gives reference values for the usability of the rope:

 

Frequency of Use  Approximate Life Span
Never usedTen years maximum
Rarely used: twice per yearUp to 7 years
Occasionally used: once per month  Up to 5 years
Regularly used: several times per month Up to 3 years
Frequently used: each weekUp to 1 year
Constantly used: almost dailyLess than 1 year

Table and Text: Compliments of Mammut North America.