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During my senior year of high school, my friends and I were bored. We decided we collectively knew enough about climbing for it to be safe. We went to the local outfitter and bought harnesses, carabiners, and belay devices, but we scoffed at the price of a rope. It was way outside our budget. Instead, we went to Home Depot and bought 100 feet of poly cord that was rated for 200 pounds. We climbed on that rope all day, just easy 5.3 climbing on toprope. I’ve included a couple photos. It wasn’t until I was lowering at the end of the day that I realized what a mistake I’d made. The 100-foot rope had stretched to about 200 feet, shrinking to the size of 8mm cord. I bought a real climbing rope the following week. Wanted to share because we are all new at some point and even with the best intentions mistakes are made. We should collectively work together to improve safety across the sport. I wish someone would have stopped us from climbing on that poly rope.
—Kyle Harris, via email
LESSON: Modern climbing ropes include a number of climber-friendly features. They can hold thousands of pounds of force. They have durable sheaths that prevent abrasion and cutting. They have the ideal amount of stretch to catch a fall softly, and then bounce back to their original length and diameter. They’re supple and easy to tie and untie. They’re tested to meet rigorous safety standards. And they work great with modern belay devices. A random hardware store rope is not designed with any of these goals in mind, and can’t be expected to meet them. Always use proper climbing gear designed and rated for climbing.
Want more? Check out more installments in our ever-growing hall of shame: