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I know there is a degree of "gray" in this question but:

I have a Beal Top gun II 10.5mm, I've had this rope for around 4 years now and I'm starting to think about retiring it.

  • It's been used mainly for indoor lead climbing but also outdoor trad and top roping.
  • It had a year of, practically, zero use (Where I got seriously into my bouldering in preperation for a trip to Fontainbleu).
  • I've always keept it in my wardrobe so it's not been exposed to sunlight or extremes of temperatures for any amount of time.
  • It's never had any serious falls, at most 2m on an indoor lead wall (I weight about 12 stone 77Kg or so, so I'm also not heavy).
  • There has been a light increase in the amount of stretch to the rope but nothing major
  • I inspect it often and there is no "seath slippage" or damage of note
  • I have noticed that the rope has a tendency to go a "bit square" when under load. I don't really know what this means?

Any thought about when this rope should be retired?

I'm thinking about semi retiring it now as it's 60m long and quite heavy. I rarely use half of this amount and my back would appreciate a lighter shorter rope!

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Thanks for the Accept. I just added one more section/reference to my answer. –  Mr.Wizard Feb 7 at 16:11
    
cheers @Mr.Wizard, helpful as always! –  Liam Feb 7 at 16:12
    

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The manufacturer of your rope says:

Time in use : The potential lifetime of BEAL PPE in use is up to a maximum of 10 years. The lifetime of the rope in use must never exceed 10 years.

The rope must be retired immediately:

  • if it has held a major fall, approaching fall factor 2
  • if inspection reveals or even indicates damage to the core
  • if the sheath is very worn
  • if it has been in contact with any active or dangerous chemicals
  • if there is the slightest doubt about its security

Note that the severity of a fall is not measured by distance but by fall factor. Short falls with little rope out (in a gym) may have a higher fall factor than longer falls with a lot of rope out (outdoors).

They also give a general guideline for expected rope lifetime:

  • Intensive and daily use: 1 year
  • Weekly and intensive use: 2 years
  • Daily in-season use of average intensity: 3 years
  • Weekly in-season use of average intensity: 5 years
  • Several uses during the year of average intensity: 7 years
  • Very occasional light use: 10 years.

This PDF from BEAL gives visual guidelines for rope wear:

enter image description here (click for larger)


(Although not directly describing dynamic climbing rope)

Rescue Tech 1 guidelines for inspection/retirement of kernmantle life safety rope:

If your rope has any of the following characteristics it must be retired:

  • Abrasion/Sheath Wear - The core is exposed or more than half of the outer sheath yarns are abraded.
  • Fraying indicates broken or damaged sheath bundles caused by abrasion or overloading.
  • Glazing and/or glossy marks or hard, stiff areas which signify heat damage.
  • Discoloration, a change in the ropes original color is an indication of chemical damage or overexposure to the elements of nature including UV radiation.
  • Exposed Core Fibers indicate severe sheath damage and possible core damage.
  • A Lack of Uniformity in Diameter or Size indicates core damage. This is noted by a depression in the diameter of the rope, lumpiness of the rope or exposure of white core fibers protruding from the sheath.
  • Flexibility and/or inconsistency in texture including, but not limited to, stiff or soft areas signify possible core damage.
  • Use/Age - the rope is simply worn out from use. We recommend a low elongation/static rope be removed from service after ten years under ideal use and storage condition.
  • Loss of Faith - if you feel uncomfortable for any reason or suspect there may be a problem with your rope it must be retired and destroyed.It is not possible to pre-determine an expected life span for a rescue kernmantle rope. Consistent, accurate record keeping, with a careful inspection program, are the best methods for determining when to remove a rope from service.
  • No type of visual inspection can be guaranteed to determine accurately and precisely actual residual strength. When the fibers show wear in any given area, the rope should be downgraded or replaced.
  • Service / Storage Life: Rescue Technology recommends that Low stretch Kernmantle Life Safety Ropes should be retired within 10 years of its production date. We also recommend that Life Safety Ropes be put into active service within 5 years of its production date in order to enjoy the rope's handling characteristics. These stated time limits in no way preclude the requirement of regular inspection by a competent person skilled in the inspection of Life Safety Rope and appropriate use by trained rescuers. Warning: Lack of accountability of a ropes purchase date, usage dates and types, inspection dates and results can impact the suitability of any rope used for life safety.
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Short falls with little rope out (in a gym) may have a higher fall factor than longer falls with a lot of rope out (outdoors). But the maximum fall factor you can get in the gym is 1, because the belay station is on the ground and it's not possible to fall past the belay station. –  Ben Crowell Jun 14 at 16:55
    
@BenCrowell Indeed, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. I meant that comment a a parenthetical, and merely that gym falls can still put significant stress on a rope. I think there is a tendency to look at a short wall and figure it's small stuff and won't really stress your equipment, when in fact the forces can be quite high and they get concentrated on a short section of rope near the ends. Do you agree with that? Perhaps this answer wasn't the best place for this. –  Mr.Wizard Jun 14 at 19:03
    
there is a tendency to look at a short wall and figure it's small stuff and won't really stress your equipment, when in fact the forces can be quite high and they get concentrated on a short section of rope near the ends. I don't think that analysis is right. The fall factor is actually a measure of how much the force is concentrated per unit length of rope. So I think if you compare a long fall-factor-1 fall to the kind of short fall-factor-1 fall you're likely to see in the gym, the damage per unit length is equal, but in the long fall there's simply a longer damaged section. –  Ben Crowell Jun 15 at 16:33
    
@BenCrowell I agree with (my understanding of) what you wrote. All I meant to communicate is that a short factor-1 fall puts (almost*) as much stress on the rope as a long factor-1 fall, just over a shorter area, which I think is what you just said, but more clearly. (* Almost, because there are common energy absorbing elements in the system besides the rope that do not change with the length of fall, therefore a very short factor-2 fall will not reach as high a peak force as a full-rope-length factor-2 fall, even momentarily, and the impulse is much longer as well.) –  Mr.Wizard Jun 16 at 11:04

If you ask the rope manufacturers they typically advise to drop a rope after between two and ten years depending on the usage. For most non-professional climbers I would typically head more towards ten than towards 2 years, as long as there haven't been any incidents that substantiate suspicion that it might have any damage. According to this article from the UIAA your rope should develop handling issues such as getting stiff and/or kind of "furry" at the outside long before it will have serious safety issues as long as it has not been loaded over some sharp edge during a fall.

So according to your description I would guess that in technical terms your rope should still be perfectly fine and stay so for some time.

You seem to have some non-technical issues with it and from your question I believe to read some idea of buying a new rope, but are still searching for a reason to get rid of the old one, as you mention that it's a bit heavy and too long for most of the stuff you do. In this case you could cut your old rope into two halves and use them as your gym ropes (30m should be enough for most gyms) while getting a new lighter and maybe shorter one for the other stuff.

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good point, I'd not considered cutting it. That could be a good solution and save me some money, thanks Benedikt. –  Liam Feb 7 at 8:28
    
This actually ties in with my need for some half ropes for trad climbing also, though they'd be heavy half ropes. This is a revelation! :P –  Liam Feb 7 at 8:33

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