Here at Sterling, we appreciate the power of gravity and your need to confront it safely. We build our products to stand up to the rigors of climbing and we take that level of trust very seriously. Ropes, however, do not last forever. Climbing and technical rope work exposes ropes to abrasion, fatigue, sunlight and constant loading. Severe falls, lack of protection over an edge, exposure to excessive temperatures, chemicals or improper use will shorten the life span of any rope. These scenarios, while unusual, point to the importance of checking and protecting your rope. Sterling is committed to supporting you to enhance your overall experience and that includes taking good care of your ropes.
First, it’s a good idea to check and see when your ropes were manufactured to ensure they have not already exceeded their shelf life. (What is a rope’s average shelf life)? If you don’t know the age of a rope, here’s a handy tip: using scissors, cut off a 1-meter section of the rope from one end and remove the identification tape from inside the core strands. It should list the manufacturer, the year and quarter it was made and the certifications it meets. If the tape does not have this information, or is missing altogether, retire the rope from use immediately. Now that you know the age of the rope, you can do a physical inspection.
Take care to notice any of the following:
- Excessive fraying
- Softness or stiffness
- Exposed cores
- Damage due to glazing or hard spots
- Lack of uniformity in diameter, color or texture
Dirt and other contaminants dramatically reduce the working life of ropes. Clean your ropes by washing them in warm or hot water with a mild soap. If you’re unsure what to use, Sterling sells Wicked Good Rope Wash. It’s a biodegradable technical wash and comes in one-ounce shots- enough to clean one rope. Rinse thoroughly and hang to dry in the shade. Do not put your ropes into a dryer.
The working life of your rope depends on the frequency and type of use. Here are some general timelines given average and proper use:
- Extensive use: Up to 1 year
- Regular to occasional use: Up to 5 years
- Rarely used: Up to 10 years
During your physical inspection, if you noticed any of the five conditions listed under “REVIEW”, it’s probably time to retire the rope from service. Additionally, if your rope has been exposed to excessive UV light, sharp edges, or any type of chemical contamination, retire the rope immediately. Never store ropes near chemicals, because even the fumes can dissolve the rope’s filaments (think sulphuric acid from a car battery, etc.). The damage can be invisible to the naked eye, making it especially dangerous.
When replacing ropes, take the time to ensure that the material construction matches your call areas. You want to choose materials that will have a working life that fits your usage profile. Be sure to select a diameter that will be compatible with other gear and equipment. Lastly, confirm your choice meets the necessary certifications.
If you have any questions, please contact Sterling at 800-788-ROPE.