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All About Canyoneering Ropes

Rope Comparison

Rope/Size Sheath/Core Strength Elongation #/100’ Features $/200’
Imlay Canyon Fire 8.3mm Polyester/Polyester 4100lbf 1.2% @ 300lbf 3.9# Hydrophobic, Tight Weave, Durable $160
Imlay Canyonero 9.2mm Polyester/Polyester 5000lbf 1.25% @ 500lbf 4.19# Hydrophobic, Tight Weave, Durable $175
Sterling CIV 9mm Technora/Polypropolene 4,653lbf 2% (feels like more!) 3.2# Durable, Heat Deflection, Core Helps Float $239
Bluewater Canyon Pro DS 8mm Polyester &Technora/Dyneema 5,000lbf 1.4% @ 300lbf 2.76# Cut Resistant, Durable, 58% Sheath $350
Bluewater Canyon Extreme 8mm Technora/Dyneema 5,400lbf 2.6% @ 300lbf (feels like less) 2.8# Cut Resistant, 58% Sheath, Heat Deflection $390

 Note: 1 meter = 3.28084 feet (or) 1 foot = .3048 meters

  • Polyester stretches less and soaks up less water than nylon.
  • Mark the middle of a rope with phenol-free markers made for that purpose, not with magic markers or a Sharpie. Beal Rope Marker is the most popular brand.
  • All other things being equal, terminations are best accomplished by using a retraced figure 8 knot, or 8-on-a-bight. This knot results in the least amount of strength loss possible (see Bends for Joining Ropes chart)

When to retire your rope:

The following are general guidelines that can assist you in deciding when to retire a rope.

  • Abrasion/Sheath Wear – the core is visible or more than half of the outer sheath yarns are abraded.
  • Significant Fraying – indicates broken or damaged sheath bundles which is an indication of abrasion or overloading.
  • Glazing and/or Glossy Marks – or hard, stiff areas signify heat damage. Typically this is the result of contact with a descender that has become overheated in a fast rappel.
  • Discoloration – a change in the rope’s original color is an indication of chemical damage or exposure to the elements of nature including Ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  • Exposed Core Fibers (Core Shot) – indicate severe sheath damage and possible core damage.
  • Lack of Uniformity – indicates core damage. This is noted by a depression or hourglass shape in the diameter of the rope, excessive lumpiness or exposed core strands protruding from the rope.
  • Use/Age – The rope can become simply worn out over time. BlueWater recommends a low elongation/static rope be removed from service after about 10 years of its manufacture.
  • Loss of Faith – If you feel uncomfortable for any reason or suspect there may be a problem with your rope, it must be retired.

How to care for your rope

  • Sheath Abrasion – Take care to protect your rope from abrasion. Always use proper edge protection. Sheath damage is the most common cause of early rope retirement.
  • Avoid Stepping On Your Rope – Besides the potential of cutting the sheath or tripping on your rope, stepping on a rope might grind grit into the core, which can cause internal abrasion/cutting.
  • Keep Your Rope Clean – Dirt, mud, and grit will shorten the life of your rope by increasing internal and external abrasion. Wash your rope occasionally in cold water with small amounts of mild soap. DO NOT USE ANY CLEANERS WITH BLEACH OR BLEACH SUBSTITUTES. Rinse the rope in several baths of clean water to remove all traces of soap residue. The rope should be loosely coiled and air-dried in the shade away from direct sunlight. Do not dry rope in a clothes dryer.
  • Avoid High Temperatures – Do not expose any rope to flame or high temperatures as it will melt or burn causing rope failure. The melting point of polyester is 500F.
  • Accidental Dynamic Loading – Although low elongation rope is designed to HELP absorb the energy of ACCIDENTAL dynamic loading, if an accidental dynamic loading does occur, the rope should be retired and destroyed, as there may be invisible damage to the core.
  • Always Use Proper Rappelling and Belaying Techniques – Fast rappels, bounding, swinging, sharp edges and shock loading are some of the examples of uses that damage rope and will cause failure, injury and death. Belay devices, rappel devices, ascenders and knots/hitches can put drastic bends in a rope and contribute to rope abrasion. Fast rappels cause excessive heat from friction that will damage your rope. ALWAYS take care to rappel and lower slowly and in control.
  • Chemical Contamination – Protect your rope from exposure to harsh chemicals. DO NOT allow your rope to come into contact with any compounds containing acids, alkalis, oxidizing agents, phenol or bleaching compounds. Be especially careful to avoid contact with battery acid. Remember – Contaminants can be in the form of liquids, solids, mists and vapors. Contamination may not be visible and may not be detectable. If you suspect your rope has been contaminated, you must destroy it by cutting it into unusable sections to prevent future use.
  • Ultraviolet Ray Exposure – Ropes should always be stored in a rope bag to reduce the possibility of exposure to contaminants and unnecessary exposure to UV rays. Solar degradation should be checked, by rubbing the surface of the rope with the thumbnail. If degradation has taken place, the surface material will come off as powder.

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