Stepping on the Rope OK?


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Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
May 12, 2013 - 11:17am PT
rgold, the voice of reason and common sense.

Trad climber
May 12, 2013 - 11:20am PT
Oh come on Locker.

Next you're going to be saying there is no one living on the back side of the Moon.

If it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
May 12, 2013 - 11:27am PT
I often gently step on my ropes when setting up rappels

nor would I hesitate to step on a rope running through an anchor to a surprise out of control falling climber if this were the last resort, as sometimes only a couple pounds are needed to arrest slippage.


Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
May 12, 2013 - 09:46pm PT
Question = "Stepping on the Rope OK?"

One Answer = "I often gently step on my ropes when setting up rappels"

So your answer ALSO is, "YES"...(EDITED: With explanation)

Well, at least you added the "with explanation" proviso. But if you are going to quote out of context, you could just have well quoted the part where I said stepping on the rope is "stupid."

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 12, 2013 - 09:54pm PT
Rope on snow the poons never penetrate

Uh, I guess you've knott done that experiment on neve. And just how could
it not do some damage? It may not do major damage but it can't
be good for it and it most certainly could do major damage cumulatively.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 12, 2013 - 10:19pm PT
Neve is neve, snow is snow. Not a great idea either way but not worth blowing your top at someone when you have a serious climb to deal with. keep it calm, keep it informative but do not treat it like a cardinal sin, a black and white rule that has been broken and now deserves serious repremanding. That approach will only ruin the vibe of the climb.

The rope I am useing today, a 10.2 Sterling Marathon. the very first day I used it was a GU FA of an 11a trad climb. I blew a bird beak drilling a bolt, took a 20 footer with the power drill, bolt kit, hammer, pins, FA rack etc. Well over 200lbs. Both Ed and I then took multiple falls in the same spot trying to free the climb. I have since then rapped many virgin rough cliffs cleaning and trundeling. Jumared quite a few pitches, bunch of solo gri gri TR time, lots of lowering and had a few additional falls on this rope. It will be retired soon not because of dirt but because of heavy use. BTW lowering causes more wear on your rope than just about any other climbing activity.

Today I had this rope stacked on a grassy dirt belay ledge. I kept my feet on the rope to keep my shoes dry after last nights rain. It was safer leading with dry shoes. I rarely use a rope bag/tarp as it is just one more gimick to carry around. YMMV

Trad climber
Costa Mesa, CA
May 13, 2013 - 03:50am PT
"""Observed faults and failures
The Technical Committee (*1 UIAA comment, see end of paragraph) has received 20 reports of failures and/or serious damage to ropes (both dynamic and static) over the last 15 years. Two failures were caused by contamination of the rope by corrosive substances, one (dynamic) rope was damaged but did not fail as a result of excessive jumaring (*2 UIAA comment, see end of paragraph) and the remainder were due to serious abrasion over rough or sharp rock edges. In a small number of cases, abrasion to the rope resulted in its failure during a fall with serious consequences, including one fatality.
UIAA Comments on this part
1) The BMC Technical Committee
2) use of a rope clamp

How to prevent failure in use
The key to preventing failure during use is to minimise abrasion, or at least recognise serious abrasion to a rope before you use it through regular physical inspection of the entire length of the rope. This is probably most easily done whilst coiling the rope after a climbing session, and should be practised without fail. Assuming that there is no visible damage to the rope when you begin using it, the overriding priority whilst in use is to avoid allowing the rope to drag over sharp edges and rough rock as in Figure 10.3. This necessitates constant attention to where the rope might run during a climb, and also to how and where it will be loaded over the rock in the event of a fall. This in turn requires some skill and knowledge on the part of the climbers whilst placing runners (look out for sharp edges and protrusions near your runner placements) and setting up top-rope or belay anchors (often the use of a rope protector or padding material is appropriate).

Figure 10.3 Serious damage to a rope in use Photo: BMC Collection
In addition:
Do not throw the rope down onto gritty or sandy ground if at all possible small particles of dirt or grit can adhere to the nylon and then be ground into the sheath or core during normal use. Potentially this could cut some of the ropes fibres and cause it to fail with no visible evidence that it had been weakened.
Avoid standing on your rope for the very same reason. It goes without saying that you should exercise extreme caution whilst using your rope with ice tools and crampons.
It is advisable to avoid speedy abseils, which allow the abseil device to heat up very rapidly and can cause melting of the rope if the descender remains in contact with it at the end of the abseil nylon has a low melting point!"""

For years I've been annoyed with snarky comments about stepping on ropes. I've always told my gang to try to avoid it but it was really not worth getting excited about. Certainly scolding someone about stepping on a rope was silly. But, recently I've read the UIAA and other reports that say my viewpoint is not correct. Chemicals, sharp edges, and dirt and grit are the main reasons ropes break.

The following link is making the same point, "don't step on the rope" may not be an old wives tale after all:

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
May 13, 2013 - 05:36am PT
what about sleeping on the rope, and danger from nocturnal emissions?

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 13, 2013 - 06:18am PT
The UIAA thing seems to be totally unscientific. they say that all the rope failures were caused by weighting over sharp edges and then go off about stepping on the rope with no connection to any actual tests or failures. I read tests years ago that said rapelling and lowering were the biggest culprits and a new rope with something like 10 lowering cycles had lost 40% of it's strength.

Trad climber
Nevada City
May 13, 2013 - 08:36am PT
that would depend what emissions you are talking about sprock. to my understanding most are safe.
Todd Eastman

Bellingham, WA
May 13, 2013 - 09:01am PT
The UIAA still thinks climbers are using nailed boots at the crags.

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Jun 4, 2013 - 08:34pm PT

you know, the boys at REI and the other shops would laugh to see this thread. almost certainly those precious "cords o'life" are drop-kicked from the semi trailer to the warehouse pallet; and probably worse -- probably hung from the window (to show that it's an authentic "Climbing Shoppe") on a rusty nail, getting pounded by California UV day after day after day after day.

Until you -- he, who does not step on ropes -- buys it off the floor.


Trad climber
Jun 4, 2013 - 09:07pm PT
I make it a point to never disrespect anyone or anything my life depends on.

Jun 4, 2013 - 09:16pm PT
When I was a kid you'd get yelled at for stepping on the rope. We were climbing on goldline, which had no sheath, so you were stepping right on the core. It would also get kinda ratty after a while. I still don't step on the rope myself, just an old habit. Maybe "don't step on the rope!" is a legacy thing, might not be such an issue with kernmantle.

Trad climber
Jun 4, 2013 - 09:18pm PT

rc strikes again.

we had this conversation on rc years ago. tradman was there and talking about how he used the flaked rope to clean his feet at the start of climbs. then he got into how crampons wouldn't hurt the rope.

then curt stepped in, with his foot-belay photo. that was ironic, of course, but it seems that the grommie the op met took it way too literally.

rgold's sensible commentary is as out of place here as it ever was on rc.

Crazy Bat

Sport climber
Birmingham, AL & Sweanee, TN
Jun 4, 2013 - 09:37pm PT
I was lucky enough to hang out at PMI when Alan Padgett was doing research for his book, ON ROPE. He was doing destructive testing of caving ropes with various levels of sheath damage created by rubbing the rope over the edge of a carborendum stone. It was amazing how a little sheath damage could reduce the breaking stregth. Read the book if you want the actual numbers. Cavers are very careful with their ropes and they have a sheath that is designed to withstand as much abrasion as possible.

Dont step on my rope if you can avoid it.

I have some freinds who performed a more visceral test. They filled five gallon buckets with concrete and hung it from a rope. Then they took a knife to the rope. Do that a few times and you wont step on any ropes you can avoid. Just a little damage to the core is like a zipper effect when its under weight.
i'm gumby dammit

Sport climber
da ow
Jun 6, 2013 - 02:53am PT
this happened today dammit. DON"T STEP ON MY ROPE!!!
Credit: i'm gumby dammit

when i'm clearing loose boulders off the top of a route. it's not a safe place to be apparently
Credit: i'm gumby dammit

Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Apr 8, 2014 - 01:04am PT
Expert footwork.
Expert footwork.
Credit: Spider Savage
mark miller

Social climber
Apr 8, 2014 - 02:31am PT
Modern ropes are incredibly well built , but why beat up your tools?
Take care of it and it will take care of you by being able to do it's job when necessary.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Apr 8, 2014 - 08:57am PT
My current single rope 10.2 marathon pro. it will be retired this spring after two seasons. The very first day out I took a 20 footer when a beak popped. Full ascent rack, pins cams nuts, hammer bolt kit, wire brush and the Bosch hanging off my ass. Tipping the scales well over 200lbs. Since then there have been many more falls as well as countless pitches jugged, lots of rapelling and trundeling and the biggest culprit of all sport lowering. if you are going to throw a hissy every time someone steps on your rope you better NEVER sport lower. A single sport lower does more damage to your rope than a years worth of standing on the rope. I generaly avoide stepping on the rope but i will not throw a hissy lets yell at the noob fit if someone does step on it. I do not use a tarp/rope bag when climbing as it is just one more thing to carry arround. My ropes wear out from abuse on the rock long before a little dirt at the base of the cliff has a chance to be a factor.
I am anal about not letting the rope hit the pavement in the parkinglot or letting the rope come into contact with any battery related contamination. I keep the jumper cables in a plastic garbage bag and never near the rope. etc.

Recognize the real threat and do not worry about those things that do not pose a real threat. Don't sweat the small stuff or you will end up like Ron drawing down on the oh so scary biscuit dough with a $2,000 Kimber pro ;)

PS. If I expected a rope to last me 5 to 10 years I would be much more anal about the stepping on the rope thing. I climb enough that the rope wears out from climbing and dirt is a non factor.
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