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I received an old climbing rope, whose history is unknown. I know this rope should not be used for any situations where a fall is possible since it may have already sustained one.

However, can it be used for rappelling (from a tree) as this will not allow the chance of a fall?

Is there any way to evaluate the condition of the rope by examining it?

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    No, use it for something non-life threatening – endolith Feb 15 at 22:18
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    Can you : Yes. Should you: NO WAY, your life is worth more than a few hundread bucks. Never cut corners with safety gear. Go budget options with shoes, chalk bags, packs etc, not stuff that your life depends on. – Jon P Feb 17 at 4:11
  • @endolith something like a rug or other craft – fyrepenguin Feb 17 at 16:50
  • @fyrepenguin Or tying up a boat, or hanging a swing, ... – endolith Feb 17 at 16:59
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    Here's something to think about. Sharp rock fragments can get underneath the sheath and eat the core of the rope from the inside, without causing visible damage. Was your rope used unprotected in an area with flint, shale or slate? You don't know. – Adam Chalcraft Feb 18 at 4:11
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You probably should not use it any more. Old ropes seem to be surprisingly strong. A German mountaineering magazine made tests with old ropes. Of 14 tested ropes, 10 would still have been strong enough to lead on them without risk. However, these were unused or only little used ropes. The results may differ for ropes that have been used very often or have prior damage.

Your biggest problem is not the age of the rope. Pure ageing is unlikely to degrade a rope to break at 2-3 kN while rappelling. Your problem is that it is not possible to determine the safety of a rope with unknown origin by simple inspection. The only way to reliably test a rope is a destructive test fall until it breaks. See also this and this SE questions

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  • Completely agree. Ropes should be retired after a certain number of high impact falls (which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer). You don't know the history, how it has been stored, how much punishment it has taken. If you want to re-use it, then instead consider using it to help set up some rope around routes to the crag to help people route find or have something to pull on on steep sections, or chop it up and give it to people to practise knots on! – Dave Kerr Feb 17 at 1:36
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    The real question is: Can you tell if a rope has been weakened by previous falls? Obviously the sheath is easy to inspect for normal wear&tear, but are there any tell-tale signs for the core? – Michael Feb 17 at 9:29
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    Previous falls probably are not the most dangerous issue with a rope. Damage by acid (not just real contact, fumes are sufficient) can happen by bad storage (put it next to batteries for example) and cannot be seen by any visual inspection. See eu.blackdiamondequipment.com/de_DE/qc-lab-acid-harness.html – Manziel Feb 17 at 10:17
  • "this and this" are the same question. – user253751 Feb 17 at 12:49
  • Thanks, fixed it – Manziel Feb 17 at 13:02
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No, it’s not worth the risk. Ropes aren’t that expensive and if it breaks you could hurt yourself.

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  • 10
    Well, ropes are kind of expensive actually but they are still much cheaper than emergency room bills. – Qudit Feb 16 at 6:37
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    In my opinion they are very expensive, hence my question. – Jesse Yishai Feb 17 at 3:24
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    @Qudit: Unless you live in a country with proper health insurance. – Michael Feb 17 at 9:25
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    @Michael That would be nice! I hear that funerals can still be pricy though! – Qudit Feb 17 at 9:52

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