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Gear Guy

Project Rope Safety

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“I have a rope hanging on my project. how long will it be safe up there?”

Every day your rope is on your project it becomes less safe. Leave it up there long enough and it will become unsafe. That tipping point is for you to judge. I can’t tell you whether your rope is safe anymore than I can tell you your soup needs more salt. I can’t taste it, you can.

Leaving a rope on a project for an entire season will almost certainly waste it. The sun will bleach and crisp it, and the effects of even an infrequent gentle breeze will abrade the sheath against the rock.

The danger here is that most of us suffer from illusory superiority, and this rubs off on our thinking about ropes. That is, other people’s cords are jankey while ours in the same situation lasts forever.

Inspect your project rope before you tie into it. If you can’t see the full length of the rope, pull it down. If you have a second rope you can tape one of its ends to an end of your fixed rope, then pull the fixed rope and the new cord will slither up and through the draws and anchor and back to you. Voila—you have a fresh rope to climb on. Cloth athletic tape works well for joining the ropes. Use more wraps than you think you’ll need, and immediately remove the tape so no one climbs on the taped ropes believing they are knotted together.

I can’t give you a timeline for fixed rope “safeness.” It just depends. I do know that if you are leaving your rope hanging at a popular crag it’ll likely be stolen long before it gets trashed. Gear Guy has spoken!

This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 248 (February 2018).

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