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If I was to buy pre-owned climbing rope could I use it for hiking and/or keeping in my car for emergency uses? I couple of speculations I had in mind were:

  1. Pulling someone out of a swamp on moorland without getting yourself into trouble too
  2. Abseiling someone down
  3. Pulling someone from a ditch
  4. Confidence rope whilst hiking
  5. Winching a car out of trouble in winter weather conditions using a pulley system

I wont be using this rope for any lead climbing or scrambling but I instead keeping it with me in my backpack whilst hiking and in my car for emergency situations. In these cases I don't need rope with any kind of fall protection but something that can take a bit of load.

Are there any practical uses I can use old pre-owned climbing rope outdoors in emergency situations? Take this scenario, your in the middle of the Moors with you and a friend and you discover a person shouting for help at the bottom of ditch unable to get back up. Could you use the rope to help them out?

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    8mm static cord/rope 20-30m is the typical solution that is recommended , it is light and sufficiently strong, inexpensive for a reasonable length. Perfect for handlines or abseils on non-vertical terrain
    – crasic
    Feb 4 at 8:23

3 Answers 3

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No, not only for safety but also for practical reasons.

Climbing ropes are unsuited for most of your use cases. A climbing rope is dynamic, which means it will stretch under load. This is exactly what you do not want to winch out a car. You want a static rope for this. Also for pulling people out you want a static rope. Abseiling can be done with both static and dynamic ropes.
Regarding the "confidence rope"...you should never ever use a rope without an appropriate belay technique just because it boosts your confidence.

And there is the problem of used climbing gear. Ropes and slings are sensitive to storage and can fail if stored improperly, e.g. being exposed to UV for a long time. The worst of all is storage near acids which will cause invisible damage that breaks your rope already under low static loads.

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    My recovery kit for my car includes a 'snatch strap', which is a dynamic strap. I would never use a used climbing rope however, when a real rated strap (and rated recovery points) are available. Too many things can go wrong.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 3 at 18:40
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    And, @JonCuster, car towing stuff tends to be far cheaper than climbing kit.
    – Chris H
    Feb 3 at 19:06
  • Regarding the "confidence rope"...you should never ever use a rope without an appropriate belay technique just because it boosts your confidence.. Maybe "confidence rope" isn't a good term, but as a (temporary) hand-rail, used rope is quite reasonable - but static rope would be better. For thing like hauling kayaks up a bank you could use an old climbing rope, but the chances are you're carrying something better anyway
    – Chris H
    Feb 3 at 19:08
  • @ChrisH - Not properly rated recovery gear. Stuff that can handle multi-ton loads safely is not cheap.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 3 at 19:09
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    The "confidence" rope is a real thing and I don't know why it got that silly name. If some members of the party can get up a short section without a rope and some can't, an upper belay can prevent a dangerous fall without ever developing enough force to pull the belayer out of his stance. I have actually stopped a fall from such a belay. The reason this works is the length is short (view) and the belayer can anticipate the fall and check it before it develops.
    – Joshua
    Feb 4 at 2:19
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What you are asking for is not all that uncommon.

The recommendation is to purchase 20m-30m of 8mm cord/rope. An example of a suitable product is the Petzl Conga which is semi-static and mfg approved for handlines. Old climbing rope can be used in the same application, the dynamic element does not make it unsafe, provided it is in reasonably good shape and has not seen more than its rated number of falls. Recommendation is to still cut the rope to 20-30m.

Any rope system has to be examined with respect to the forces applied.

For example. If you are only going to be anchoring via yourself, then there is no need for too much strength in your rope, you won't be able to hold much more than a few hundred pounds of static weight without slipping off your stance. (#1 - Pulling someone out of a swamp on moorland without getting yourself into trouble too)

If you carry only a rope with no additional gear you will be limited to natural anchors like trees and stones, and your ability to belay or abseil will be limited by the friction of your body or hands. (#2 - Abseiling someone down)

Once you start putting more force on the rope, either with dynamic actions, higher angle, or more weight: the basic system will not be sufficient to be safe. So components of the system will need to be upgraded - harnesses, belay devices, slings, and carabiners. To amplify the friction and holding power. The 8mm rope can still remain as part of that system, provided the angle remains low (#3 - Pulling someone from a ditch)

For low angle terrain, handlines, or confidence ropes can provide a welcome handhold and make travel convenient and quicker, while remaining safe. But in steeper terrain, or where a fall can result in serious injury/death - a simple handline may present a false sense of security and will not be safe without additional equipment, larger rope, or even a belay. The most minimal viable upgrade is a harness and set of two prusik slings. The prusik slings are a natural dynamic load limiter and are useful for self-belay. (#4 - Confidence rope whilst hiking )

Application of mechanical amplification via pulley systems can greatly increase the tension on the rope beyond anything that can occur in belay or rappel situation. It is easy to generate forces that can break even rescue rated 13mm static rope. Mechanical amplification is used with human loads and standard equipment to effect rescue by helping to raise a subject, such as out of a crevasse, and this can be done safely with good climbing rope or ideally 10-11mm static. For vehicle towing, the amount of force can easily exceed the breaking point of any rope, so towing equipment is different and is typically 4-5" wide flat webbing and some dynamic elements are carried instead. Winching should be saved for the winches! (#5 - Winching a car out of trouble in winter weather conditions using a pulley system)

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For several of your cases climbing rope is too thick. You will not want to carry 10 kilo (21 pound) (that is likely heavier than the real rope, see comments) of rope on top of your outdoor gear in case you might need it, where a spool of 1 kilo, (about 2 pound) (which is also likely to be heavier than the real string) of specialist string will do and likely do better as you can more easily get it thrown to the victim over water or swamp.
And as indicated in the comments on the first answer, climbing rope is not really suitable for heavy pulling as a car can do.

On top of that, many places that use and discard climbing rope will not let people have useful lengths as they fear that it will be used for climbing again.

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    Climbing ropes come in all sorts of thcknesses. My twins/halfs (combined rating) are quite light. I did anctually carry one on via ferratas in case someone needs it. And 10 kilos? That is absurd. My 80 m 11 mm static rope may weigh that, but that is quite extreme. Most are shorter and narrower. BTW, I call my static ropes "climbing ropes" as well. Is it really wrong? Feb 4 at 13:41
  • Climbing (single) ropes are usually around ~50–85g/m. A 10kg rope would be at least 120m long. A typical 60m rope will weigh around 3.5kg.
    – Michael
    Feb 6 at 9:39
  • I might have over estimated the weight of the rope itself, (but do add a good bag and it does go up a bit,) but when hiking long distances you will not want a big bag of heavy rope.
    – Willeke
    Feb 6 at 11:29

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