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Climbing On Wet Rope?

Original Post
Brian Snider · · NorCal · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 732

So we rapped next to a water fall yesterday and the ends of the rope got wet. We still top roped the route and just left a long tail and an extra back up knot. When we pulled the rope it got the middle wet as it landed in the steram. I was going to lead the next route but was unsure of the affect water has on a rope, poor strech, slipping knots, device friction, ect. So we pack up and called it a good weekend, but my question is how safe is it to climb on wet rope? Top or lead does it matter?

Scott McMahon · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 1,425

Think ice climbing....or rain storms for that matter.

I'm sure it affects it, but it happens. Makes it heavy as all get out tho...if it's huge concern stick to dry ropes.

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145

It doesn't matter; unless it was a steram of H2SO4

doligo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 264

your rope is all damaged and not good for fair-weather climbing conditions of Cali - send it to the East Coast!

Luke to Zuke · · Anchorage · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 220

? get the picture?

Brian Snider · · NorCal · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 732

Yep. Figured as much but didn't realy know for sure. Don't realy need a dry rope for Cali climbing, when it starts to rain again in 5 months ill go snowboarding.

Chase Roskos · · Golden, CO · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 90

From Sterling Ropes Technical Manual:
3. What happens to my nylon rope when it’s wet?
Nylon fiber is affected by the absorbtion of water. Nylon is hydrophilic meaning it will absorb water. The overall strength and stretch can be greatly affected by moisture in the fiber. Whenever possible try and keep your ropes away from water and as dry as possible. Our in-house testing shows that loss of strength in wet ropes may be as high as 70% in nylon ropes without DryCore™ but only 40% in ropes with DryCore™. A 11mm Drycore™ rope that holds 11 falls dry, holds 7 falls wet. That same rope without DryCore™ may hold only 3 falls when wet. In general the data shows that the loss of strength through the presence of water in nylon ropes is significant. The good news is that nylon’s original strength and elongation returns when the rope dries.

sterlingrope.com/media/docu…

From p.11

Seems you were right to be wary.

Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 13,696

Ropes are weaker when they are soaked:

theuiaa.org/upload_area/fil…

But ropes are over-engineered for ordinary use (TRs and low fall factor lead falls), so getting your rope soaked is only an issue for huge (catastrophic) lead falls [my conclusion, not theirs].

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145

oh please, you're not gonna snap a wet rope from a small whipper; sure, if you repeatedly bungi off a bridge, maybe that 8th launch is the killer.

Chris Sheridan · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 1,693

Sorry Mark. I've got to disagree with your first post. (It took me a while to write all this, so when I finally posted it Chase and Doug had just posted their comments)

I did some experiments along these lines when I was studying mechanical engineering in college. We tested both the static and dynamic strength ropes in three groups.

Dry (control group)
Wet: soaked in water for 24 hours
Frozen: soaked in water for 24 hours then frozen

Each group performed identically in the static load test, however the results from the dynamic tests were drastic. I don't have the data in front of me, but I'll recall what I remember.

Our test consisted of a factor 2 fall on a [6ft] section of rope. We used figure eight knots [to attach the rope to a chain anchor on one side and an 80kg mass on the other] Note that this is not exactly the procedure used in the standard UIAA test.

The dry group typically failed after 6 to 10 falls where as the wet group almost always failed on the third fall. A few wet ropes even failed on the second fall. The frozen ropes would typically fail on the fourth to sixth fall.

My theory was that water in the rope served as a lubricant between fibers. On the first fall, the rope would stretch to its maximum extension, much more then the dry sections of rope. On the subsequent falls, the rope no longer had the ability to stretch any more to absorb the shock.

The frozen ropes would thaw during the first two or so falls. After that they behaved identically to the wet ropes.

Now tying all this back to the real world. Soaking in water for 24 hours sounds like a lot, but I've had ropes get just as wet when caught in an afternoon rain storm in North Carolina.

There's no effect on the static strength of the rope, so you can top-rope on a soaking wet rope all day long without any problems.

Water does dramatically effect the dynamic strength of the rope. If your rope gets wet, do what you can to avoid multiple harsh falls. If you fall on one side of the rope, consider switching to the other side of the rope. With proper rope work, you can always avoid a factor 2 fall. Doing so will help your rope survive a few more consecutive (lower fall factor) falls, but you're still not free and clear.

BTW, Thanks to Gary Neptune for donating rope for these experiments.

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145

I can buy all that even if you didn't standardize; the OP isn't going to subject his rope to that kind of punishment though, which is where I was going with it.

If my rope is wet, and I have to climb due to commitment and continued exposure to the elements, I'll rope up and climb.

Luke to Zuke · · Anchorage · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 220
Chris Sheridan wrote:The dry group typically failed after 6 to 10 falls where as the wet group almost always failed on the third fall. A few wet ropes even failed on the second fall. The frozen ropes would typically fail on the fourth to sixth fall.
Dry rope failed on the 6th-10th?!?!?! what kinda weight were you using!!!

I dont understand all the physics behind it, but from my climbing history.. my ropes have taken wayyy more than 6-10 falls...(not counting bloopers)

kinda bizarre the frozen one lasted longer...
Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145

He's talking measurable falls, those little dink whippers with a dynamic or counterbalanced belay don't add to up to much of anything. I don't have a problem with the numbers, half-ropes have even less margin and I'm spacing out for potential falls to be much greater, but then I am counting on the opposing strand for distribution.

But you guys are right, I should have said it doesn't matter that much in protectable lead climbs as long as you don't .... (get to the top of a cliff, tie a hippo on the end, put slack into the system, and launch it off from tree anchor..) -- But, I dunno Brian, you look like a pretty big guy.

Ryan Malarky · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 110

Chris,

You didn't just drop that same knowledge below Friday the 13th at Vedauwoo this weekend, did you? If so, pretty interesting and thanks. If not, I'm having deja vu...

Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 13,696
Luke to Zuke wrote: ... kinda bizarre the frozen one lasted longer...
Heat changes the plasticity of nylon polymers - heat up nylon (to a couple hundred degrees F, say) and it tears easily. With frozen ropes you just see the other end of the temperature spectrum.

So when you are ice climbing, freezing and soaking have opposite effects. (Good luck working with that stiff rope, though!)

Mark Nelson wrote: ... the OP isn't going to subject his rope to that kind of punishment though
The problem with accidents is they seldom happen exactly the way you plan them to.
Chris Sheridan · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 1,693

Luke: We were able to use an 80kg mass as per the standard UIAA test. See edits above. We used the civil engineering department's lab which had wenches and high ceilings, but not high enough to use the exact standard setup UIAA uses.

Ryan: Yeah, that was me. Funny that the topic has come up twice now this week. I haven't talked about it in years.

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145
Doug Hemken wrote: The problem with accidents is they seldom happen exactly the way you plan them to.
As alluded, the ANAM is chock-full of wet ropes snapping on climbers and planned accidents. (sarcasm here -- as there are no...you probably get where I'm going)

Like I said, I don't have a problem with the numbers, you just won't see this climbing; but it is a good point to know the limits of the rope and when to call it a day and bail. If you're repeatedly taking a 40-50 footer on the same rope that has its elasticity reduced, yes, something is going to give.
Brian Snider · · NorCal · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 732

Ok, so the rope should hold as long as I don't fall? Or at least 6 times on a factor 2 fall. It was a single pitch 5.6 so 6 factor 2 falls was just not going to happen but as a new climber with little expiercence I aviod taking chances when In question. Thanks guys.

Anonymous · · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0
Brian Snider wrote:Ok, so the rope should hold as long as I don't fall? Or at least 6 times on a factor 2 fall. It was a single pitch 5.6 so 6 factor 2 falls was just not going to happen but as a new climber with little expiercence I aviod taking chances when In question. Thanks guys.
Brian, It's good that you understand fall factors. If you're climbing single pitches, you have very little to worry about with a wet rope. It's good that you're cautious, though. What Mark says in this thread is sound advice.

If you want to understand fall factors better, do a search on MP.com or google. When these guys talk about testing ropes, they're doing FF 2 with an 80 kg weight on the same spot in the rope repeatedly.
olddog Crothers · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0
Tim Pegg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 5
Chris Sheridan wrote:We used the civil engineering department's lab which had wenches...
I wish my lab had wenches. Not enough women in physics.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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