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Climbing Rope Care and Maintenance

Climbing Rope Care and Maintenance

by Lucas McDevitt

We all know how vital ropes are in the climbing world; without such, we wouldn’t be able to explore the taller walls and enjoy the higher world of climbing that we all know and love. However, when should we trust a rope and when should we leave it to rest? There are many different ideas on when and how long a rope is usable but the general consensus in the climbing community is no longer than 10 years no matter the wear. Montana Alpine Guides and Mammut North America provide a table to help rope users better understand their rope wear and longevity of rope life:

Frequency of use Approximate life span
Never used 10 years maximum
Rarely used: twice per year Up 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 week Up to 1 year
Constantly used:  almost daily Less than 1 year

Independent of the frequency of use, ropes should also be retired from climbing if one of the following has occurred:

  • 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.

For other information and understanding on rope wear and longevity please direct to the following: When to Replace Your Climbing Rope and When to Retire A Climbing Rope.

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