*Editor’s Note: This post has been co-conspired by Tyler Scheer
Often, after normal wear and tear, the ends of structurally sound ropes can become unraveled, or “core-shot.” If neglected, the compromised portion of the rope will grow rapidly, resulting in a shorter, less safe cord.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be MacGyver to fix a core-shot rope. All you need are a pair of scissors, a lighter, and one minute.
Step 1: Inspect the rope past the obvious fray. Locate the point where the damage ends, and the rope is in good shape. Soft spots, flat spots, loose sheath, or other deformities often occur well past the visible core-shot piece. Such sections must be removed.
Step 2: Trim the rope. Cut through the good section, removing all questionable length.
Step 3: Melt the end. Make sure there are no loose braids or nylon strands sticking out. The cross section should be smooth and uniformly melted.
This is a quick, easy fix that will prolong the life of your rope. It can also be used to repair a rope that has been damaged further up the line.
A word of caution: Know the new length of your rope. If a sixty meter rope is required to lower or rap off a climb, and you’ve cut off five meters, then someone’s going to be in for a nasty surprise. Make sure the people you’re with know that your rope is short. Also know that if you have to trim a lengthy section from the end, a middle-marked rope will no longer be accurate.
A note on rope construction and specifically why climbing on a core-shot rope is a bad idea:
Climbing ropes are made with a kernmantle construction. On the interior of the rope is the kern, which are braided nylon strands woven together in a pattern that allows them to stretch. Surrounding and protecting those strands is the mantle, a sheath that gives the rope its flexibility and abrasion resistance. Ropes are woven together in long spools, and cut to length with a tool that melts the ends, allowing the nylon to hold itself together. If the end is damaged, or worn down from snapping off the tops of climbs, then it can fray. The sheath contributes a great deal of strength to the rope, and if it separates from the kern, then the rope is weakened in that area.