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Static rope glazing/heat damage

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Ultra Static, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. Ultra Static

    Ultra Static

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    Hi all, I'm fairly new to canyoneering, and would love to draw on the collective knowledge here to get some info about the state of my rope! Some background: I have a 65m BlueWater 9.2mm Canyon DS, fairly new- only seen about 6 canyons or so with various numbers of people rappelling on it.

    This past weekend, I was with a group and we were doing a 200ish foot rap, and since several people in the group were beginners to rapping, I had them use waist prusiks above their rappel device to back themselves up. Now, before I get jumped on, I have fully learned the lesson of NOT using waist prusiks to back up a rappel- they're difficult to release if engaged, and generate a lot of heat as I have seen first hand. We were using these in addition to a fireman's belay, for another layer of safety. Rest assured, if I need to back up a rappel in the future, I'll be using an autoblock on the leg loop, with the rappel extended. Anyway, one individual using the waist prusik generated so much heat that the 6mm paracord exterior melted during the rap. This individual was going down single strand on an ATC, and was not going at excessive speeds. After the rest of the group finished the rap, when I went to flake my rope into it's bag, I found it to be EXCEEDINGLY stiff- it wouldn't coil at all like a normal rope, and rather would kink and hold its shape anywhere I bent it. The majority of the rope is like this now, except for the very ends on both sides. From the limited info I've found online, it seems like I've glazed the sheath with the melted prusik. Is this rope still safe to use? Is there anything I can do (washing, soaking...) to return my rope to a semblance of flexibility? Thanks in advance for the feedback.
  2. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    This is just a guess on my part, but aside from it being stiff now my guess is the rope is still safe to use since it is the core that provides rope strength. The sheath is just there to protect the core, and it doesn't seem like the core would be damaged by this.
  3. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    If the sheath is not actually melted anywhere, The rope is fine. It got stiff because the sheath was pulled slightly down over the core, kind of like a Chinese finger trap, hence the looseness on the ends. Go use it a little more and it will return to a more familiar state, especially if it gets wet.

    The heat generated during descent was concentrated one small piece of cord, hence the melting of the prussik cord. The rope however, had its share of that energy dissipated over its length, hence no damage.





    Hope you were using real prussik cord and not “paracord” for your friction hitches.

    Worth investing in some technora friction cord for that added level of security and durability.

    Cheers.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
  4. Ultra Static

    Ultra Static

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    Thanks for the response!

    Based on your feedback, I will remain optimistic about my rope's future! That explanation is interesting and surprising though, I really can't overstate the stiffness of the rope. It's... glassy in the middle. But no visible melting to the sheath. Maybe it would be a good idea to give it a wash as well, to help things return to a nice equilibrium. Since I brought it up, is the consensus just to slosh the rope around in a bathtub or similar with some mild detergent thrown in? I've also heard of people using a small amount of fabric softener, any thoughts on that?

    Hmmm... I think it may indeed be paracord, it's whatever my local mom & pop climbing shop sold me for prussik cord. I'll look more into that.
  5. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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  6. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Hi Ultra Static
    You have trashed your rope (the sheath is partly melted, that is why it is so stiff)
    It is now a boat-rope / dog leash.
    Or chop out the affected area(s) and use the shorter pieces.
    And please get expert instruction before you have people using 'safety' techniques that are NOT safe.
    What about firemans belays?
  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    A fireman belay is a much more effective backup than any kind of prusik backup. In addition, you are attempting to train people to rappel, and this is best done if they are rappelling, rather than rappelling-while-managing-an-inept-autobloc.

    I disagree with some of the above. I think your rope now has melt from the cord smeared across the outside of the sheath. You might be able to save it with a good scrub with a stiff nylon bristle brush.

    You are not trying to get rid of oil or grease, so soap is not indicated. Fabric softener is not indicated for this problem. Swishing in water might help, but probably not.

    My number one rule for canyoneers is: "Don't be a beginner led by a beginner". Perhaps the corollary should be "Don't be a beginner leading beginners."

    The 6mm cord you bought at your local climbing shop is not "para-cord". Parachute cord (which has been shortened to para cord) is a very specific thing, at least to us old-school types. They sold you accessory cord, I hope. (Paracord is 2-3mm in diameter).

    Tom
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  8. Ultra Static

    Ultra Static

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    This is definitely a possibility I've been entertaining, but I'm skeptical that the ~120lb individual slowly rappelling w/ an ATC was able to generate the 464°F temperature necessary to melt the polyester portion of the sheath over almost the entire length of the rope- which is the portion demonstrating this behavior I'm referring to. Thoughts?

    As I mentioned in my original post, we were implementing firemans belays in addition to the prusiks. As I understand it, the waist prusik was traditionally a fairly common rappelling technique for some time. I was originally shown it by a much more experienced canyoneer than myself. I'm not defending it as a technique, because I've seen it's faults, but I also have an impression it was under consistent use for some time.
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  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    And we used to bleed people when their humours were unbalanced...

    Perhaps Kuenn can comment on the caving community, but... my impression is that use of "prusik rappel backups" has always been a minority viewpoint in the climbing community. Perhaps regionally popular. And I am thinking 50's and 60's...

    Tom
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  10. Ultra Static

    Ultra Static

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    Fair point, are there any situations where you would suggest using an adeptly-set-up-autobloc on a leg loop? Apart from the possibility of first person down the rope who may desire a backup? I realize there's an important functional distinction between a waist prusik and one set up off the leg loop, but I guess I find myself in the unsavory position of defending or at least wanting clarification on some sort of prusik backup because it was my impression that it was in fairly common use among canyoneers. Additionally, when I was taught beginning canyoneering technique by a certified guide employed by an outfitter in Zion Nat'l Park, I was taught to use a backup prusik.

    Now that you say it, this seems like the most likely scenario. This would account for extended exposure to elevated yet sub-400°F temperatures experienced by the accessory cord. While talking about accessory cord, what is the typical material and melting point for that? Do you recommend it in what seems to be it's commonly used application as a friction knot?
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  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I used to guide for ZAC, and we use a CAREFULLY MANAGED autobloc as part of our protocol for guests. However, we also ADD a bottom belay after the first person is down. Autobloc has its place, but is very difficult to get right. Thus it has a place for guiding by professionals. Used it every day when guiding; on the first day when teaching; never to rarely on my personal trips. Canyoneers in general do not use a (self-managed) rappel backup. (Canyoneers do use bottom belays, especially on long rappels).

    By the by, the nomenclature is "above the device" and "below the device". Above the device generally considered not desirable to dangerous; below the device considered useful in certain situations. Some people will disagree, but remember I said "generally".

    ASIDE: how do you know your guide was Certified? There is no REAL certification program for canyon guides in the USA (well, unless you count ICPro, which I do, but it is new IN the USA). /ASIDE

    Accessory cord is usually nylon. Melting point 428 deg F

    IF you want to do a rap backup, buy yourself a VT Prusik. Excellent tool for this application. Technora sheath does not melt.

    Tom
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
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  12. scottensign

    scottensign

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    The bluewater VT prusiks designed by Rich Carlson work great as an autobloc either above or below the rappel device. They come in both 7 mm and 8 mm widths for 8 mm or 9-10 mm ropes respectively. I always use one of these now if I am the first one going down on a long rappel. I usually use it above the device, but sometimes below on the leg loop. With one above and one below, it is easy to pass a knot on a rope without needing ascenders or slings. I recommend watching Rich's excellent video on how to tie and use the VT prusik:

    https://canyonsandcrags.com/shop/
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  13. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Regarding the condition of your rope...
    I have assumed the sliding nylon prussick melted itself onto the dual sheath rope, meaning some of the molten nylon has bonded to
    the polyester component of the sheath.
    Aside from any possible strength loss (which may be small)
    I hate to see ANY change in how the rope is supposed to handle.
    How will it behave when used with different rap devices?
    ..with a muenter?
    and- will this (new) behavior be consistent?
    Just doesn't seem worth the risks.
    And Tom has great deals on new ropes!
    Boot boy also as some good looking technora sheath prussicks.
    :D
  14. Ultra Static

    Ultra Static

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    Thank you for the feedback, valuable knowledge for me to have going forward. Are there factors in addition to the following that make above the device undesirable? Here's what I can think of off the top of my head:
    • More heat produced at the prusik above the device
    • Has the potential to "lock" out of reach of the user, if length is too long to start with
    • It seems like it may be more difficult to release, but this is unfounded and just my impression.
    I am perfectly comfortable rappelling without a backup, I just had a desire to do things "by the book," although now I'm learning that my idea of the book was incorrect.
  15. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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  16. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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  17. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    If I may, couple of observations without being critical...hopefully.

    Why on earth would you have that level of redundancy? (no response is necessary) In the vein of two wrongs don't make a right - two rights don't make a better right, either. But sounds like you learned that lesson. Valuable learning, maybe not the right time and place on a long rappel with beginners, but again, I think that lesson learned too.

    (Disclaimer: Determining possible damage to rope can be a precarious discussion, so take the following comments accordingly.)

    If glazing a rope is synonymous with trashing a rope, I need to dumpster fire 50% of my rope inventory, minimum. And if glazing is a safety hazard, I should have been a dead man long long ago. Granted, it depends on the cause of the glazing, degree of heat, etc. That said, I’ve smoked my share of rope over the years (one example here) on some rather lengthy rappels and many of those ropes are still in production today, without concern/hesitation.

    Yes, the stiffness issues are certainly a hassle. But, I wouldn’t waste time on fabric softener or even think that washing will help (unless it's dirty). Use will most likely resolve much of the glazing. Stiffness is a natural result of well used static rope. You've either fused some of the fibers or "painted" them with melted cord smear (as Tom suggested) which is my guess for the shiny glaze/premature-stiffness issues. (BTW, I have a 300' piece of 9.2 Canyonero rope in the same state, not the least bit afraid to use it.) As the glazing goes away the rope sheath will most likely fuzz up some, which has been my experience.

    Not in my circles. Akin to sticking your foot out to stop the car, when you have perfectly working brakes. (Well, maybe a little hyperbole.)

    "And we used to bleed people when their humours were unbalanced..." is that an deprecated practice now??
    (Made me laugh.)
  18. Ultra Static

    Ultra Static

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    Sure thing. First photo is from a stiffer section, second photo showing that same section but with a kink I put in the rope and how well it holds it's shape, third photo the end of the rope next to the middle.[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Sent from my BLN-L24 using Tapatalk
  19. Ultra Static

    Ultra Static

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    I appreciate the feedback Kuenn. Definitely a handful of valuable lessons learned, all in fairly short order as well! Glad to hear your experience with glazed rope. The hassle was my primary concern, it's a pain just to get it in the rope bag now, but I suppose the only thing for it is to head down south and get some more use on it. Might give it a wash in the interim, just for the hell of it.

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  20. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    Ok, that’s not canyon DS.
    That’s canyonator.

    After rapping on that stuff, it does get stiff and will kinda kink up. But I will work back out after bagging, coiling, and lighter use.

    From what I can tell, the sheath looks just fine.

    Ropes can get a little bit of a shine on them when used in dry conditions. The aluminum sort of polishes the fibers.

    Does the rope feel like melted plastic? Like rough, snaggy texture?

    No reason to suspect that the rope is compromised. Go use it I say.


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