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Methods of protecting in-situ ropes from unwanted usage

Pete K

Well-known member
Here's 2 different examples of fixed 'project' rigging local to me.
We had a cave rigged for a few days while were doing a rebolting project. A laminated note was attached to the start to tell people why the rigging was there and who to contact about it. They were good ropes and we were okay with others using them if they wished. This was not a trade route.
Another nearby cave had a long term dig at the bottom and the diggers had left it rigged for quite a considerable amount of time. This rigging was on the trade route of a very popular cave and so got in the way and quickly became ragged. It was in the way and starting to rust to the anchors. There was no indication who owned the rope unless you happened to know them or visit the right threads on UKC.

Essentially my point is that fixed rigging for projects has an appropriate time and place, but use your common sense to consider how much impact it'll have on other users and balance that up against the time you intend to leave it in. If you're gonna leave it in, at least put a notice on so people can chew your ear off if the rigging is crap or in the way, or let you know it has become unsafe.

Fixed aids like handlines... now that is a different issue. Let's stop leaving tatty old ropes and just use stainless chain handlines. Safer, better for the environment, and lasts forever when done well.

Oh, regarding database.... in the very few locations DCA has needed to install an actual fixed rope (e.g. up pitch in Odin), it is on a database and the rigging guide.
 

Ian Ball

Well-known member
Hi Pete, why is a stainless steel chain better for the environment than using a retired SRT rope as a handline? I would say a second life for a product that would be binned is better? Although the continuous replacement is a pain, if it's a popular and required thing then getting a new one in and old one out shouldn't be too tough.
 

topcat

Member
I don't see a difference, in legal terms, between in situ ropes and in situ anchors.
I can't see any legal claim being successful in the event of an accident.
 

Pete K

Well-known member
Hi Pete, why is a stainless steel chain better for the environment than using a retired SRT rope as a handline? I would say a second life for a product that would be binned is better? Although the continuous replacement is a pain, if it's a popular and required thing then getting a new one in and old one out shouldn't be too tough.
At the risk of derailing the thread...
Rope left in the cave will degrade due to physical damage from use and potentially being bashed about in water. Those fibres enter the cave environment and will ultimately end up in watercourses and the wider environment. I know this is minor stuff in the big picture, but this is another way we are introducing microplastics into the water network. I had my eyes opened a few years ago when I started to use a UV torch to show people phosphorescence of calcite in Giants Hole. The rock in places is covered in tiny fibres that can only be seen when under UV light. Of course that is not just rope here, it'll be clothing fibres, farm plastics, and virtually anything else plasticky or fibrous that can be carried in. It's a tiny thing in the scheme of things when compared to all the other crap the human race does, but it is a contribution none the less. I completely agree with the re-purpose old rope thinking, but that is not without problems too (e.g. most ropes that get left underground are already out of date or knackered). I just think in some high traffic places, or places where the ropes get trashed quickly, a chain handline could be a better option.

Yes, I drive a diesel van to caves, use plastic caving gear, know that old ropes don't regularly snap and kill people, know chain may take more energy to make etc.., and putting in some chain as a handline instead of rope does not save the planet on its own. But that doesn't mean we should not consider it instead of old rope where it is appropriate (e.g. handline climbs). Rope in caves is not exactly an environmental disaster, but when we can do better we should, IMO.
 

mikem

Well-known member
Realistically, the database will be used for a short period & then forgotten about / ignored
 

Loki

Active member
Is Deaths Head still rigged from the successful attempt on the Grand Traverse? or is this more recent?
Is it rigged on 9mil rope with bowline type knots on the rebelays? In which case yes gt related. If not no and I don’t know whose they are in either case.
Ireby don’t know the answer but someone else asked me the same question the other day. Aparrently there is/was other kit down there too elsewhere in the system.
When we were doing the rift connection and other stuff we had bubbles rigged and the high level route over well and rope meaning all our rigging was off the trade route entirely.
 

Fulk

Well-known member
I think that the rope on the main pitch (9-mm 'red rope' – Mammut performance static, perhaps?) is tied directly into a bolt using a bowline-on-the-bight.
 

A_Northerner

Active member
At the risk of derailing the thread...
Rope left in the cave will degrade due to physical damage from use and potentially being bashed about in water. Those fibres enter the cave environment and will ultimately end up in watercourses and the wider environment. I know this is minor stuff in the big picture, but this is another way we are introducing microplastics into the water network. I had my eyes opened a few years ago when I started to use a UV torch to show people phosphorescence of calcite in Giants Hole. The rock in places is covered in tiny fibres that can only be seen when under UV light. Of course that is not just rope here, it'll be clothing fibres, farm plastics, and virtually anything else plasticky or fibrous that can be carried in. It's a tiny thing in the scheme of things when compared to all the other crap the human race does, but it is a contribution none the less. I completely agree with the re-purpose old rope thinking, but that is not without problems too (e.g. most ropes that get left underground are already out of date or knackered). I just think in some high traffic places, or places where the ropes get trashed quickly, a chain handline could be a better option.

Yes, I drive a diesel van to caves, use plastic caving gear, know that old ropes don't regularly snap and kill people, know chain may take more energy to make etc.., and putting in some chain as a handline instead of rope does not save the planet on its own. But that doesn't mean we should not consider it instead of old rope where it is appropriate (e.g. handline climbs). Rope in caves is not exactly an environmental disaster, but when we can do better we should, IMO.
Can you recommend a standard of chain to be used for in-situ rigging?
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Can you recommend a standard of chain to be used for in-situ rigging?
Chunky :)

Is there a standard for handlines? Not really...

Any chain with a minimum breaking strength of 1t or above would seem more than sufficient (e.g. 6mm stainless). Climbing walls sometimes use chains as part of their anchors, so it's obviously doable although perhaps you need a structural engineer to sign off on it (maybe it's considered part of the structure rather than the 'climbing' part)?

Non-stainless chains have a bad habit of leaving rust everywhere. Loose chains in streamways can cause issues where they wear away at the rock (which can be mitigated by securing them at the bottom.

Using EN 818-2 chain might be appropriate.
 

Fjell

Active member
Chunky :)

Is there a standard for handlines? Not really...

Any chain with a minimum breaking strength of 1t or above would seem more than sufficient (e.g. 6mm stainless). Climbing walls sometimes use chains as part of their anchors, so it's obviously doable although perhaps you need a structural engineer to sign off on it (maybe it's considered part of the structure rather than the 'climbing' part)?

Non-stainless chains have a bad habit of leaving rust everywhere. Loose chains in streamways can cause issues where they wear away at the rock (which can be mitigated by securing them at the bottom.

Using EN 818-2 chain might be appropriate.
Either 316 or duplex stainless would last a very long time. If you get proof chain then there is little need to get excited given you are probably talking over 5 tonnes BL for anything big enough to hold (8mm+ ?), and it will not degrade with time. I have had some 8mm duplex for about 6 years in a much more corrosive environment and it is very shiny still. The weakness inevitably comes from things like threaded shackles and connectors. The size of the bar that will pass inside the chain is almost always the weak point unless you buy a chain with an oversized link at the end (special order). However the thing is so sillily overspecced that may not be a consideration.

EN 818-2 is a grade 8 lifting chain is it not? It will go wusty eventually, galvanised or not. If you get pervasive rock abrasion, the galvanising will disappear very quickly.

if you are talking belays then it might be better to get made up stuff from someone like Raumer who forge links directly to rings etc, no threads involved. And it is properly tested and certified so you are covered (enough for a court anyway).
 

Pete K

Well-known member
I've spec'd and installed a number of chain belays in caves and mines, for work and play. Stainless DIN 766 chain, 8-10mm for belays. 6mm strong enough for handlines, but hard to hold if muddy. 8mm chain pairs perfectly well with 7mm Maillon Rapides (stainless too) and can then attach to your choice of stainless anchors. Centre points for Y hangs or pull-throughs can be created by using a 7-8mm delta MR.
Buy certified chain and ensure suitable safety factor. Use only PPE rated connectors. Attach it to proper stainless anchor bolts. Don't mix metals anywhere in the setup, stick to 316 stainless throughout and don't be tempted to use that cheap galv maillon, it'll be a ball of rust in months if wet.
It is not a cheap system, and that's probably why cavers tend to use old gear, but it is robust and long lasting.

If it is too muddy to make climbing a chain handline safe, perhaps consider a 16mm combination rope or 20mm polyprop handline instead. I know I'm now advocating plastic, but any aid has to be safe to use, and chain can be very hard to grip when dirty.
 

AlanClark

New member
Any thoughts on possible problems with a chain hand line on a climb? It's occurred to me that people using a chain will clip it with their cows tails in the same way as many I've seen (and done my self) clipped butterflies on a hand line if I think there is the possibility of a fall with consequence. A fall on to a butterfly in a rope has some degree of stretch along with the rope which reduces any impact forces on the anchor as well as the squishy organic thing on the end. A fall on to a chain relies solely on the very limited stretch in the cows tail to reduce the impact force seen by the anchor in what could easily be a factor two fall.
I know the forces required to pull an anchor are plenty high enough to do bad things to the person long before the anchor fails but it's a consideration, especially if it happens repeatedly. Also clipping in to a chain link places unfavourable loading on to the krab if weighted as it doesn't sit cleanly in the bottom of a link but straddling the next link down, there is video out there of krabs failing much lower than expected when clipped in to a bolt which already has something beneath it.

As for what chain, you could go silly and copy the Elie Chain Walk, but that's proper heavy stuff.
 

mikem

Well-known member
Safer way to clip a chain would be to have a third cowstail (so less likely to create more than a factor one fall) - although situations where you use a chain are less likely to involve freefall
 

shotlighter

Active member
My feet slipped off the wall while climbing the old chain hand line out of Eating House in Giants. My full body weight was born very briefly by my right arm, tearing an old surgical repair to my shoulder. I'm sure that the combination of the (brief) extra grip on the chain & its unyielding nature, produced a much higher shock load than if my hand had slid down a rope hand line.
 

mikem

Well-known member
The extra grip is more likely to have been the major factor, but then in most people's cases that could have stopped them hitting the floor, which they might still have done on a rope...
 

Fjell

Active member
You won’t be able to clip a krab into a normal 8 or 10mm chain, and if somehow you managed it prob won’t come out again very easily. It would need very large links, which is not the chain used on chain gypsies (would need a very large drum, is weaker, more prone to bending) or commonly available as properly tested for load bearing except maybe for architectural purposes.

I think if you are worried enough to clip into it, you have the wrong solution and need a rope.

This is what I use to get a temporary purchase on chain with a rope. Or you use a rolling hitch.

23374E3F-258C-4C0E-A9FD-51B86FC0AA31.jpeg
 
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Pete K

Well-known member
Use a chain only where no one needs to clip it, i.e, as a handline. If you need security then that is a traverse/clip-line, and that should be rope as per normal surely?
 
I think most cavers would prefer a fixed rope to a fixed chain.
But it needs to be maintained.
Caving is stuffed with people who would be competent to take on the job of replacing the handlines in a cave on a regular basis and make an entry in an online register (on UKC?) to say when it had been done.
Is the Descent Adopt a Cave scheme still going?
The obvious problem is that many would be too scared of any legal comeback.
I have no understanding if such things, but if the ropes on Block Hall, Victoria Aven etc in Peak/Speedwell can be looked after in this way I would have thought it could be made to happen elsewhere.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Any thoughts on possible problems with a chain hand line on a climb? It's occurred to me that people using a chain will clip it with their cows tails in the same way as many I've seen (and done my self) clipped butterflies on a hand line if I think there is the possibility of a fall with consequence. A fall on to a butterfly in a rope has some degree of stretch along with the rope which reduces any impact forces on the anchor as well as the squishy organic thing on the end. A fall on to a chain relies solely on the very limited stretch in the cows tail to reduce the impact force seen by the anchor in what could easily be a factor two fall.
Falling on a bit of chain is no worse than falling while clipped into an anchor. Tied cowstails should (just) keep the impact force under 6kN on a FF 2 fall. If you are clipping into a chain you probably have both cowstails in and should be keeping one above you, in which case you should probably be only looking at FF1 and may also have a backup in case of snapping the first carabiner due to unfavorable loading.

So clipping into a chain should be fine, if you consider clipping into a bolt fine? I certainly wouldn't worry about it.
 
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