We all become sentimentally attached to things that share our adventures: boots, jeans, rucsacs, T-shirts etc. But there is one sentimental attachment that could be fatal.
The warning that came with my Black Diamond Aspect harness is typical:
“LIFESPAN, INSPECTION AND RETIREMENT: The lifespan of your harness depends on how frequently you use it and on the conditions of use. With occasional use and proper care, the lifespan of a harness is 5-8 years. With frequent use and proper care, the lifespan is 2-5 years”.
Black Diamond and C.A.M.P. both say “The maximum shelf life is 10 years from the date of manufacture.” The warning with my DMM Alpine states “5 years from first use, 10 years from manufacture, whichever comes first” They also say: “It is possible to reduce the lifespan to ONE USE in exceptional circumstances”.
Guides, instructors, centres and climbing walls should keep accurate records about equipment. I suspect that most of the rest of us, who only climb for fun, don’t. We might think we know how long we’ve had a piece of kit – but memory can be deceptive and doesn’t improve with age (………what was I saying?).
I used my orange Petzl Gourou harness well beyond its recommended retirement age. This wasn’t because I have a cavalier attitude to safety – far from it. Nor that I was too mean to buy a new one – after all, harnesses are inexpensive and life is priceless. I just didn’t realise quite how long I’d had it and maybe I was a little reluctant to part with an old friend.
I shudder to think of the intense UV that webbing had absorbed at high altitude on Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and whilst skinning up numerous sun scorched alpine glaciers while ski touring.
UV rays knacker nylon. Just look at the faded abseil tat that we cut loose and replace after just one season. How many seasons had that harness been soaking up the rays and the rain? Many more than the manufacturer recommended, that’s for sure.
Hardware (belay devices, rocks, karabiners etc) can last for years. But software (harnesses, slings, etc) that connect us and our ropes to the hardware, is more readily damaged by abrasion, liquids and sunlight.
Some say old harnesses should be cut up to put them beyond use but that seems wasteful. I wouldn’t want to take a leader fall, or abseil into the void dangling from that faded, fluffy belay loop again, but I’m sure the waist belt will safely hold my jeans up for many years to come.
With needle and thread, plus a little imagination, repurposing kit for non-critical roles is easy. It costs nothing and keeps it out of landfill. Now I know that there is a long and happy afterlife for old harnesses, I’ll be to sure to retire them earlier in future.
Tell us about your “repurposing” tips in the comments section below this post, or via the KragRags Facebook page. The best story could win you a FREE KragRags 100% organic cotton T-shirt – which will last for years. And because our T-shirts are ethically made, using eco-friendly materials and renewable energy (wind and solar), it won’t cost us the Earth.
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