receipt of new gear (and all gear before each day’s climbing) inspect
every piece of equipment, your harness and rope.
1. CARABINERS: Check carabiners for smooth operation. Look for proper gate alignment, firm spring tension and “snappy” (complete) closure. Inspect for wear – divots caused by “sharp” bolt hangers (sand smooth with emery cloth), grooves & edges from dirty ropes and lowering off “sport pitches” - these can destroy ropes and slings. Locking 'biners: Check manual (screw gate), semi-auto (twist lock) and fully auto locking (triple action) mechanisms. Make sure they close completely and lock securely. Tip: Orient screwgates with the locking barrel positioned "down" as gravity will increase security. Retire suspect biners and recycle them or mark with black tape for non-climbing use.
2. QUICK DRAWS: Make sure carabiners are properly fitted onto your quick draw slings. Both carabiners must be clipped around the fabric sling for the unit to be strong. If in doubt, give an agressive “bounce” test close to the ground. Very important if you transition your rack from sport to trad and then back again. New climbers – get familiar with this!
3. SEWN SLINGS & RUNNERS: Check fabric quick draws, runners, anchor slings and cam and chock slings for nicks and cuts. These are the points where the sling will fail under extreme load. The UIAA recommends 5 years of occasional use for runner life. If your cams are older then 5 years, consider getting them reslung by an experienced professional.
4. TIED SLINGS & RUNNERS: Use an accepted knot for cord or webbing loops, typically a double fisherman's knot. For runners that may need to be untied and threaded thru gear or anchor use a water knot, but check it often! Tension and “set” the knot by bounce testing. Double check and remove any tape from webbing – that may conceal a manufacturer's splice - with zero strength.
5. ROPE: Check your rope for lumps, bumps and thin spots (that may indicate internal damage) and also abrasions, cuts or glazed spots on the outer sheath. Run the rope through your hands to feel for any imperfections. Key indicators: If the diameter changes radically at any one point, if 50% or more of the sheath fibers are worn through or you can see the “white core” at any one point…it’s time to retire the rope. In any event, once a rope has been deployed and after 5 year’s occasional use its life has been used up and it will not meet UIAA minimums for energy absorbtion or test falls held. Invest in a new rope - and your future - and store and carry in a rope bag.
6. CAMS: Check your cams for smooth triggering. If “sticky” clean with fresh hot water, mild soap and an old tooth brush (to remove built up grease). Dry in a warm spot on newspaper for several days, then lube with light oil, wiping off any excess. Inspect each cam lobe’s surface. If extreme wear is present (indicator grooves worn away) and / or the lobe is lopsided - the effective cam angle (and holding power) has changed beyond the design parameters of the manufacturer. Retire - SLCDs don't last forever! Inspect the trigger wires – look for bent and broken strands and straighten as best you can. Replace wires when kinked or partially broken as needed and well before launching up a route where lack of trigger function can turn your cam into a fixed piece. Dyneema fishing line works good for do-it-yourselfers.
METAL GEAR: Inspect all metal hardware
at points where dissimilar metals are in contact and for sharp or rough
edges. Has your belay tube worn thin and does it present a sharp edge
to the rope? Cams –
where the aluminum lobes bear on the steel axle; Carabiners
– (solid gates) where the hinge and hook pins are pressed or riveted
into the gate and body; (wire gates) – at their hinge point; passive
cams (Tri Cams) –
where the scroll pin passes through the body of the cam. Stress corrosion
can and have caused cracks at these junctures and may weaken
the piece. You might need a magnifying glass to identify any stress cracks
and discern from common scratches incurred with normal use. Find a crack?
Retire and destroy the unit! Manufacturers consider 10 years (12 absolute)
or “indefinite” the recommended useful life of metal climbing
gear. Besides new designs are typically lighter, stronger and better performing!
9. HELMET: Check for cracks and deep grooves (more than surface scratches). Hybrid thin-skinned helmets (like bicycle helmets) are light and less durable than molded jobs – has the outer “skin” been perforated? If so it is weak at this point. For molded helmets – any cracks? Look at suspension mounting hardware for any defects or corrosion. Plastics, Nylon and Polyester materials weaken over time and exposure to elements. Frequent users should retire and replace helmet after 2-5 years; occasional user 5-8 years! You wouldn't forget your head... don't forget your helmet!
IS A NON-EXHAUSTIVE LIST.
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