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.
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.
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.
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.
I think it's more about ettiquette than actual safety/wear concerns.
You are stepping on someone's lifeline. It's rude, ropes are expensive. You wouldn't stand on the hood of some stranger's car (unless you wanted a round of fisticuffs or a free ride from the Po-po).
But you'll end up stepping on your own, or your partners' ropes, plenty. I know I move around quite a bit when belaying...maybe to spot at the beginning, or get out of a fall/swing zone, then back directly under the first bolt to not get dragged around in a fall, etc.