Carabiners and potential rope damage

10 November, 2011

An important consideration when using quickdraws is being totally consistent in which carabiner of the pair is used for connecting into the protection and which is used for connecting to the rope. This is because some types of protection, especially old steel pegs and steel plate bolts, can damage the inner surface of the relatively soft aluminium carabiner when loaded, leaving small rough burrs and score-marks.

These burrs may seem insignificant when you run your fingers over them but they can do a lot of damage to textile products especially when the textile runs across the damaged surface at speed and whilst under load.

The accompanying video demonstrates this happening. The carabiner used has slight damage that is typical from being used to clip square-edged bolts, with several small nicks and burrs on the inside rope radius from being loaded against the harder steel bolt. We set up the drop tower to simulate a leader fall on to the damaged carabiner to demonstrate the potential adverse effects of these nicks on a brand new rope. The scenario was similar to a climber working a hard section on a sport route.

After a couple of falls the sheath was showing obvious damage and after only half-a-dozen drops/falls the sheath was severed. The main point of this video is to emphasise that you should always use the same end of the quickdraw for clipping the rope into – this way the inner surface of the rope carabiner always remains smooth.

Most solid gate quickdraws such as the DMM Alpha Sport, Shadow and Aero have a straight-gate carabiner for bolt clipping at one end and at the other you have one with a curved gate for rope clipping. Thus it’s pretty simple to make sure you always clip the rope into the correct carabiner.

Wiregate quickdraws however need more attention as both ends of the quickdraw can look very similar (‘bent’ wiregates are not very common as they tend to be more prone to accidental unclipping). In this case anodising each carabiner a different colour is often used to make identifying the different ends fast and easy.

Another common quickdraw set-up is having one of the carabiners retained – it is always the rope carabiner that is retained and the bolt/protection end that is allowed to float loose.