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10 Year Old Rope

Original Post
CPJ · · Fairfax, Virginia · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 30

Last week I received a rope from a friend who at one point thought she was going to get into climbing. The rope was made February 2001, its a 10.5 Bluewater. It has been sitting in her closet since she bought it and hasn't been used once. In fact it's still in the original packaging. Would you climb with this rope? I haven't used it and wanted some other opinions before I do anything.

Ray Pinpillage · · West Egg · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 180

How much is your life worth?

Yer gonna die!

When in doubt, retire it.

Did I miss any? I'd climb on it.

NickMartel · · Tucson, Arizona · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 1,350

The rope I am climbing on was bought in 2003/4 so who knows when it was made but probably less than 12 months prior to that. I used it a little bit in 2003/2004 then it sat in its rope bag/tarp until Feb 2011 when I started useing it again. I have been useing it HEAVILY (2-4 full days a week) since Feb 2011 with no problems. However I am planninng on getting a new primary rope in the next few weeks but I will keep this one and still use it when the situation dictates. It is a Bluewater Energizer 10.0.

Roger Harris · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 855

Do us a favor and have this rope tested to failure. Nylon ropes kept out of the UV and not subject to any use, or exposure to volatile chemicals are probably OK, but there isn't much test data that I've been able to find. I doubt there is a chemist out there who can give us a valid explanation of why a ten-year old rope isn't nearly as strong as a new one. I would think that atmospheric ozone degradation would be the biggest risk factor. Any chemists out there who can correct me? (I'm a geophysicist, for what that's worth.)

Read this paper: "The Shelf Life of Rope" - note the comment that every rope manufacturer is "covering their rear ends" with their shelf life recommendations. See:…

For old ropes:…

Testing a rope:…

Good luck and let us know the result of the testing ... my guess would be you biggest risk of rope failure is this one:…

NickMartel · · Tucson, Arizona · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 1,350

Really interesting read. I dont think his rope being 10 years old has anything to do with this kind of failure. If you fall and pendulum across a sharp edge with the rope under tension you can cut any rope regardless of age (the ropes the SAR group tested were undoubtedly new).

NickMartel · · Tucson, Arizona · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 1,350

This does make me consider using twin ropes.

Martin le Roux · · Superior, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 234
Roger Harris wrote:Nylon ropes kept out of the UV and not subject to any use, or exposure to volatile chemicals are probably OK, but there isn't much test data that I've been able to find. I doubt there is a chemist out there who can give us a valid explanation of why a ten-year old rope isn't nearly as strong as a new one.
On a related note... does anyone know if there's any test data on the shelf life of Dyneema/Spectra, as opposed to nylon? I'd heard anectodally from a guide/SAR trainer up in Canada that tests of Spectra slings had shown significant deterioration in strength after a few years. But it wasn't clear if the deterioration was due to usage or age.
Matt N · · Santa Barbara, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 273

Ropes don't break; they get cut.

At the least its a good TR rope or cut into 2-3 gym ropes.

paintrain · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 75

I have heard various anecdotal mention of synthetic fibers losing elasticity over time at a certain percentage per year. There are also some materials that don't fare well with the various chemicals (TICs and TIMs) that outgas from standard building materials.

I would personally retire it, but everyone has their threshold for accepting used/old gear.


Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110

Covering their ass is the exact answer. Nylon clothes are much more fragile than ropes and get plenty of sun and yet do not degrade' to the point of tossing them out in 10 years. So I can't see how a rope kept in controlled storage would degrade to the point that it would fail on your first use. Top rope should be plenty safe use. Can't see how it could 100% fail on a fall.

I had a 10+ yr. old 9mm rope, used in Colorado at altitude, retired it, then used as a dog pillow in back of a pick up truck( = pee'd upon plenty)for a year or so. Then used it one day as a second back up anchor for a climbing wall stunt. The other equipment failed and when the full force of person and 100 lbs of plywood came tumbling down, well it ended up on that old 9mmm,which held up and was the only life line that kept everything from hitting the ground. I trust ropes are much stronger than the manufacturers let on. They #1 want to cover their insured ass, and of course sell you a new rope every couple years too.

bearbreeder · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 3,065

as long as it aint damaged, and looks fine ...

now id personally be iffy about climbing on a 15 year old rope on TR, but thats my own fear speaking…

In practice, todayÂ’s ropes will neither
break in the attachment knot, nor at the
karabiner of a running belay, where the
rope is pivoted in the case of a drop, nor
in the partner belay, no matter what be-
lay method is used: the HMS knot, the
figure-of-eight, or any type of brake
plate. And in the free rope length a rope
will not break in any case.
These facts also hold for 10- or even
15-year-old ropes. This has been
proved by many tests of such old ropes
(not even 25-year-old ropes and one
30-year-old rope broke in tests in accor-
dance with the standard; they still held
at least one drop; this means that they
will not break in practice, unless loaded
over a sharp edge, in which case they
may break).

If the reader does not believe these
statements and becomes anxious if his
used rope is strong enough or not, he
should use it for bottom lowering, or
abseiling, or on glaciers. In these cases
a rope will not break, because of the
low load.


But all acids are very dangerous!
During the 17 years quoted above with
only one rope breaking at a sharp rock
edge (at Hörndlwand), there have been
four (!) rope breakages in Germany and
Austria proven to be due to the influ-
ence of sulphuric acid (liquid from bat-
teries?). By now, also in Britain several
such rope breakages became known,
and in the US and in Canada one each.
In all cases, other than Britain, it was
due to sulphuric acid. In the British
cases, wherever the acid was known, it
was also found to be sulphuric. How-
ever, in all cases except one nobody
could find out how the sulphuric acid
came into contact with the rope; in the
one case, it can be assumed that it was
battery acid, because the rope had been
stored in a camper van of a German
mountain rescue team for some years.
The damage by any acid has the prob-
lem that it cannot be recognized on the
rope; there is no visible indication of its
The PPE1) Regulations in the EU
(European Union) require the manufac-
turerÂ’s indication of time of use in the
instructions for use. Such indications
may be as follows: “Four years if rarely
used, two years if often used, one year
or even less if very often used.” Of
course, the question arises, what is
“rarely used” and “often used”.
Of course, every indication of time of
use is just a rough estimate like a house
number. Why?
If a rope is not loaded over a rock
edge by a fall, even a 10- or 15-year-old
rope will not break (influence of sharp
edges and any acid of course excluded).
However, if a practically brand-new
rope is loaded over a sharp rock edge
within the minimum time of use indi-
cated by the manufacturer, it may break
at the first drop.
One such case has been
documented: Arope of the mountain
troops of the German army broke on the
first fall in the Laserzwand in the Dolo-
mites (1981), on investigation found to
be cut over a sharp rock edge. It was
known from the log book that the rope
had been used only for 10 hours and
that it had not been loaded by a fall dur-
ing this period. The army mountain
guide fell to his death.
This shows the doubtfulness of any
indication of time of use for ropes.
Conclusion: If you want to survive
whilst climbing and mountaineering,
please do no fall so that your rope
comes tight over a sharp rock edge, and
do not touch the rope with any acid!

CPJ · · Fairfax, Virginia · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 30

Some great info on this thread thanks for the replies. I'm not sure if it makes me more or less comfortable with using this rope. Maybe its destined to be a rope rug.

CPJ · · Fairfax, Virginia · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 30

Here are some pictures of the rope in question. Thought it would be good so people could see what I'm talking about.


Tag with date
Billy Danger · · Asheville, NC · Joined Mar 2005 · Points: 233

I'd use it for a lead rope. I generally burn through a rope every six months, but I climb a lot.

Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110

It looks pristine. No problems for me leading on that rope either. You could always sell it here at MP for something, and use the cash for buying a newer rope if you feel better that way.

thecornyman · · Oakland, CA · Joined May 2010 · Points: 140

You're gonna die. Send it to me and I'll 'test' it this weekend.

bearbreeder · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 3,065

look unused .... if its been stored away from sunlight and acid ... id use it

its a beefy 10.5 u say? ...

if you dont want to use it ... i suggest donating it to a route developer for use as a handline

though that developer will likely climb on it anyways ;)

Josh · · Golden, CO · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 955

Always a valuable discussion topic-- we can all use constant refining of our understanding of the dynamics of safety in our sport (i.e. what is genuinely contributing to decreased risk; what is it exactly about a rope that is providing the safety in a climbing system, etc.).

OK, so I always thought the problem with old climbing ropes was twofold: first, nylon breaks down over time, and second, the twisted fibers in the core of a dynamic climbing rope (the part that makes it dynamic to begin with) untwist themselves a bit over time, perhaps even without use.

Here we have a rope that has been sheltered from UV rays (and acids or any other factor that could accelerate the breakdown) its entire life, so even if nylon decomposes without UV radiation, this rope is likely to have seen minimal breakdown over its 10 years of being sidelined with the Rollerblades and the Abflex. Others in the thread above have spoken well to the question of how much nylon decomposition matters. It sure sounds like ropes that have experienced a lot more UV exposure and wear than this one have been demonstrated to still exceed the required breaking strength for climbing use.

On the second issue (loss of dynamic capacity, or stretch), I'd be curious if anyone has nay data on how much this occurs in a rope simply sitting there for a long time. In general, this would be the bigger concern for me than the nylon decomposition thing if I was thinking about climbing on the rope in question. Less dynamic elongation means higher forces transmitted to the gear and to you. In the extreme, this could theoretically mean increased chances of injury to you in a big fall (not just cuz of gear or anchor failure-- the Big Injury-- but because of sudden force snapping at your pelvis and spine at the bottom of a big whipper). That's why most of us will "retire" a rope from lead climbing use long before retiring it altogether and even when said rope has only caught a few falls.

Incidentally, this is exactly the story with my own Bluewater 10.5 rope from about ten years ago. According to your pictures, it looks to be exactly the same one that your friend has given you. I led on it for a bunch of years, plus used it for toproping and such. I took very few falls on it (this was the early days of my lead climbing, and I was and still am pretty timid). Nonetheless, all that coiling and uncoiling and belaying and rappelling and toproping stretches the core out, too. The core started to pop out of the rope ends, a sure sign that the twisted fibers are slowly but permanently untwisting (in contrast to the braided mantle, which doesn't elongate as much). So, I bought a new rope to lead on, but I still use the Bluewater for toproping, under the theory that, as someone stated above, ropes don't simply "break," and the forces generated on an anchor and on the climber and belayer in a toprope situation are not as high as those generated in a lead fall.

If something, anything happened to my current lead rope to make me suspicious about its ability to a) catch a fall, and b) minimize the impact forces transmitted to my gear and my belayer, I'd retire it from leading-- but not because it technically couldn't be led on. I wouldn't want the additional stress while on the sharp end of wondering about whether my rope is reeeeally gonna work when I need it to, even if the actual chance of failure is tiny. Speaking for myself, my brain is not in its 100% rational place when on lead.

But would I climb on your rope on toprope? Sure.

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,745

Add me to the list of folks who would happily TR on it tomorrow. (let me know if you want to sell it. I won't pay much, but it beats making a rug out of it!)

fat cow · · St. Paul, MN · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 10

was it also stored in a bag and therefore isolated from most of the oxidation effects? that shit looks pristine use it

Justin Crossland · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 0

This is what Petzl has to say.

Source (…)

8. Petzl general information
Lifetime / When to retire your
For Petzl plastic and textile products, the
maximum lifetime is 10 years from the date of
manufacture. It is indefinite for metallic products.
ATTENTION: an exceptional event can lead you
to retire a product after only one use, depending
on the type and intensity of usage and the
environment of usage (harsh environments,
sharp edges, extreme temperatures, chemical
products, etc.).
A product must be retired when:
- It is over 10 years old and made of plastic or
- It has been subjected to a major fall (or load).
- It fails to pass inspection. You have any doubt
as to its reliability.
- You do not know its full usage history.
- When it becomes obsolete due to changes
in legislation, standards, technique or
incompatibility with other equipment, etc.
Destroy retired equipment to prevent further

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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