You should always take care of your rope. The proper care and maintenance is critical for your safety and ensures longer lifespan for the rope. Here are some things you should and shouldn’t do, how to take care and clean the rope, how and where to store the rope and when it is time to replace the old rope with a new one.
What to do:
- Uncoiling a new rope: Hold it like it is a spool of rope and have a partner pull the rope from the spool stacking it in a random pile.
- Coiling: Use a “backpack” or “butterfly” coil to avoid twists. To do so, stack the rope in the palm of your hand or behind your neck. Rather than looping it over your neck, go back and forth, putting a bight of rope on the one side, then the next. Cinch the rope in the standard way.
- Check your rope regularly. Check your rope for signs of wear and tear such as damaged sheath, fraying, and abrasion before and after each climb.
- Use your rope only to where it is designed for. In other words, Climbing Ropes should be for climbing purposes only.
- Twisted rope: Let it hang free and encourage the twist to unwind with your hand.
What not to do:
- Do not step on the rope. Dirt particles can go deeper and damage rope fibers.
- Use a rope tarp to minimize contact with dirt. Dirt works into the fibers and the sharp crystals can cut rope fibers, weakening the rope.
- Avoid direct hits with crampon spikes and ice axe picks.
- Sunshine from day-to-day climbing is not likely to damage your rope. Too much sun, however, such as leaving the rope out for days on end for a fixed line or webbing at a belay station, can considerably weaken your rope. Also keep your rope away from acids and oxidizing agents that can weaken your rope and shorten rope life.
- UIAA tests of a few years ago showed that marking ropes with liquids such as those in felt-tipped pens can damage the rope; this even includes those markers sold specifically for marking ropes. Therefore, the UIAA Safety Commission warns against marking a rope with any substance unless it has been approved specifically by the manufacturer of that rope.
Cleaning the rope
Wash the rope by hand with water and non-detergent soap. Avoid using bleach and other chemicals that can weaken the nylon rope. Rinse it well, and spread it out to air-dry, away from the direct sunlight. You can also use specialized cleaning products like brushes.
Store the rope
It is best to store the climbing rope in a rope bag if you are not using it, in a dry area at a room temperature and away from chemicals.
Replacing the rope
- Occasional use, e.g., alternate weekends: every 4 years
- Every Weekend: every 2 years
- Sport climbing involving frequent short falls: every 3 – 6 months
- Major fall (approaching factor 2): immediately
- Flat spots, soft spots, becoming stiff, sheath damage: immediately
- Unsure of condition or history: immediately