Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Gear Guy

Using Steel Carabiners for Fixed Quickdraws

I have recently been told that steel biners on fixed quickdraws do not dissipate the heat well enough and can cause damage to your rope. If I am not m...

Lock Icon

Become a member to unlock this story and receive other great perks.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

All-Access
Intro Offer
$3.99 / month*

  • A $500 value with 25+ benefits including:
  • Access to all member-only content on all 17 publications in the Outside network like Rock and Ice, Climbing, Outside, Backpacker, Trail Runner and more
  • Annual subscription to Climbing magazine.
  • Annual gear guides for climbing, camping, skiing, cycling, and more
  • Gaia GPS Premium with hundreds of maps and global trail recommendations, a $39.99 value
  • Outside Learn, our new online education hub loaded with more than 2,000 videos across 450 lessons including 6 Weeks to Stronger Fingers and Strength Training for Injury Prevention
  • Premium access to Outside TV and 1,000+ hours of exclusive shows
  • Annual subscription to Outside magazine
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. Print subscriptions available to U.S. residents only. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

I have recently been told that steel biners on fixed quickdraws do not dissipate the heat well enough and can cause damage to your rope. If I am not mistaken most climbing gyms around the country use steel biners on their fixed draws. What do you think?


Who told you that, the Tin Man? Steel carabiners are great for high-traffic applications, such as those in a gym and for lowering stations on sport climbs. Steel carabiners are durable, strong and won’t melt your rope any more than aluminum ones.

Certainly, aluminum will dissipate heat more quickly than steel, which has more thermal mass, but denser, heavier steel takes longer to heat up. Because of this, aluminum is used for car radiators and computer heat sinks, while steel is used for expensive skillets.

In our world, the differences are insignificant—carabiners made of either material can theoretically get hot enough to damage a rope. Nylon will start to melt or glaze around 250 degrees F. Tests have shown that a 70-meter rappel, at one meter per second, can heat an aluminum brake bar to 300 degrees. I’ve seen ropes get glazed by a hot, aluminum, rappel device. This was on a hot day, and multiple 165-foot rappels on free-hanging ropes with little cool-down time between rope transfers.

But we’re talking about lowering off a quickdraw, not rappelling, and on a sport route to boot. In this situation, any carabiner, steel or aluminum, will be nearly impossible to heat to the point it will cause rope damage. The distance you’ll lower, especially in a gym, is simply too short. If you’re worried about the top carabiner or anchor getting too hot, insist that your belayer lower you at a sane speed (a great practice, regardless), one that will keep heat build-up to a minimum. And when you fall, don’t mad-dash right back onto the wall. Let your gear (and yourself) chill for a minute. Allowing the rope fibers to cool and regain their elasticity will lower impact forces and add life to your rope much more than trifling with a carabiner.