How Many Falls Can A Rope Take?

Steph, how are you? How many falls a rope can take (small falls inside the gym)? I always hear different arguments and wanted to know from you 🙂 Thanks

Hi Romulo,
I believe in using my climbing ropes for as long as possible. I don’t like wasting things in general, and I know it takes resources from the planet to make anything out of nylon so I am always determined to get full use out of any rope. I also think that ropes in general are stronger and more durable than most people’s perception based on appearance of wear, so for the most part I use ropes until they are fuzzy, fraying and starting to develop core shots. Then I use them for fixed ropes, hand lines, tie down straps, dog leashes or garden projects. (A good friend of mine, who is a well known and witty climbing writer, once threatened to write an article about me called “The Last True Dirtbag” because he claims I’m the only sponsored climber he’s ever seen using a rope with core shots.) For me, the time to replace a rope is either when my friends won’t stop talking about how old my rope is, or when there are too many fuzzy spots (or I have cut off the ends a few times). I have seen ropes fray and cut over edges when rigged improperly, but I have never seen a rope break.

So now I have some official information that will actually be of help to you in deciding how long to use YOUR rope 🙂

Here are some guidelines from Mammut, with their recommendations for ropes and retirement–you’ll see, it’s mostly visual inspection and using your common sense, so you can trust your judgement if it matches the points in the Life Span section.

This section will be of interest too, with more specifics on falls and how that relates to life span:
Short, sport climbing falls only minimally damage a rope; it can withstand hundreds of them. If the rope end becomes stiff or rough you can cut off the damaged section. Also, bigger falls of ten or fifteen meters don’t have to mean the end for the rope, assuming a dynamic belay technique has been used. fall factor and impact force are critical for the well being of a rope. A longer fall with fall factor over 1, which is not gently braked, can clearly reduce a rope’s safety reserve. Even then it may still hold simple sport climbing falls, but can, however, break with edge loading, even over a less sharp edge, when compared with a new rope. Under no circumstance should it be used in alpine terrain or in climbing areas with rough edges. Safety oriented climbers will replace a rope after such a «heavy» fall.”

I hope that helps with your decisions 🙂

2 responses to “How Many Falls Can A Rope Take?”

  1. “Use your rope as long as possible, but no longer” advised the free soloist

    Words to live by (hopefully)

    “Rope Life”

    Use your rope until it breaks
    But not a second more
    Cuz broken rope, for goodness sakes
    Will put you on the floor

    Yesterday, I used my 30 year old rope to lead a hard roof/chimney climb (I was up on my roof cleaning out my chimney)

  2. “How many falls can a rope take?”

    How many loads must a rope haul on up
    Before you can call it “retired”?
    Yes and how many screamers will one rope take
    Before you throw it on the fire?
    Yes and how many times must the eyebrows be raised
    Before a new rope is acquired?
    The answer my friend
    Is bowin’ in The Winds
    The answer is blowin’ in The Winds

    Yes and how many years must a Mammut exist
    Before it is thrown in the trash?
    Yes and how many years must the questions persist
    Before partners finally dash?
    Yes and how many times can a climber turn her head
    And pretend that she just lacks the cash?
    The answer my friend
    Is blowin’ in The Winds
    The answer is blowin’ in The Winds


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