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Can an ATC burn through a rope?

Original Post
Alex Langfield · · Colorado · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 65

Something I’ve always wondered, after rappelling full two 70s and got back to my anchors my ATC burnt the absolute shit out of my hand. I was wondering if anyone has seen tests on ATCs and if they burn can ropes or not. 

drew A · · Portland, OR · Joined Oct 2018 · Points: 6

I doubt it since you're always moving to a different part of the rope. And I don't think it gets all that hot. But I'm curious too. 

Bill Lawry · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,812

Hah - reminds of having that sense of urgency to de-rig after a long rap on a hot day.  :)

But it’s when temps get up around only 120 deg F that it gets hard to hold onto to something by hand. And the melting point of nylon is around 500 deg F.  Still, there is some advantage to rap devices with higher mass than a plain ATC.

dave dave · · Sydney, AU · Joined Mar 2022 · Points: 0

[Focused on slings, but testing included nylon webbing]


Bottom Line

The bottom line is that we couldn't get a belay device in a realistic scenario to a temperature where it would melt a sling. JT is more at risk of burning his hands than melting through the single 10mm sling that he's anchored to while rapping a multi-pitch route.

However, a few things you can do to reduce your stress level:

  • Rappel slower—this keeps the temperature of the belay device lower
  • Rappel with lower loads—this also keeps the temperature of the belay device lower
  • Use nylon slings to anchor in with—they have a higher melting temperature
  • Always anchor in with two slings—this is just good practice
  • If unsure, the spit test can give you an idea of approximate temperature


Be safe out there,


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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