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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
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2 Answers

up vote 6 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)

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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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