Ropes are literally a lifeline for climbers so one important skill to learn is how to check your own rope for damage so you know when a rope is safe to climb on or when it’s time to retire the rope.
If you are not familiar with the anatomy of climbing rope it’s fairly simple, you have an outer protective layer called the sheath and an inner layer of the rope called the core.
Checking the Rope for Damage
Checking your rope for damage is a fairly easy process and is split into two parts/checks that you should undertake at the very least once a year.
Check 1 – Checking the Sheath
The first check you want to make is checking the outer sheath of the rope, this can be done by slowly moving the rope through your hands feeling it for any signs of damage along with visually checking.
The signs of damage to the sheath you are looking for are:
- Frayed Strands
- Fuzzy Areas
- Signs of chemicals
Using the guide above guide will allow you to see what the different types of damages look like and identify the same type of damage on your own rope.
If after inspecting the sheath you find any signs of damage or cuts you should retire the rope immediately. But rather than throwing it away, you should recycle it into something else.
Check 2 – Checking The Core
If your rope managed to pass the first set of inspections dont celebrate just yet as you now need to check the core of the rope for any signs of damage.
The pinch test is the most reliable way to check your core for damage and can be done by flexing the rope and seeing if it bends in a curve which means the core is intact. If your rope flattens together instead then it means your core is shot and the rope is no longer safe to climb on.
Along with the visual reference provided by Petzl, the British Mountaineering Council also has a great video guide.
Using both of these methods you can ensure that your rope is suitable for climbing on allowing you to climb safely and securely.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Should I Use A Climbing Rope For?
Climbing ropes on average have a 10-year life span but it will depend on the manufacturer. Petzl has a great guide on how to identify the age of climbing ropes which can be found here.
What Is A Core Shot Rope?
Climbing ropes are made of the outer sheath and the inner core, a coreshot rope means the inner core has been compromised in someway and is no longer safe to climb on.
When To Retire Climbing Rope?
You should perform a check on the outer sheath and the inner core and if either is damage the rope should be retired.
Can I Put My Climbing Rope In The Washer?
Climbing Ropes should never be washed in a washing machine as it may expose it to unsuitable chemicals, you should wash your rope by hand and use water or a rope cleaner.