Old slings / tape in canyons

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Full name: Tim Vollmer
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Old slings / tape in canyons

Post by T2 » 11 Mar 2019, 12:43

I just thought I'd share this interesting discussion from the Canyon Collective forum in the US (http://canyoncollective.com/threads/web ... ing.25665/).

A group of canyoners came to an anchor where two separate pieces of tape came out from under a large rock. The only visible part of the tape was where it came out of the dirt to the maillons / quick links. The webbing felt supple and appeared to be tan in colour. There were good length tails. It did have some fraying, so they decided to test it by bouncing on the anchor. On the third bounce, the webbing failed.

After the failure, they dug up the remainder of the tape. It turned out that it was extremely old and faded. It was actually red originally, but had been sun bleached to a uniform tan colour. (Images below).
Willie01.jpg (292.49 KiB) Viewed 202 times
Willie02.jpg (253.64 KiB) Viewed 202 times
There are some interesting points made in the discussion, but the key ones are:

1) Always inspect tape before abseiling on it. If it is buried under a rock or wrapped around a chockstone, go to the effort of inspecting the entire length. If it appears to be damages (cuts, nicks, excessive abrasion, etc), cut it out and replace it.

2) Pulling on, or even bouncing on a sling, are not a reliable test. In this case, the first two bounces did not break it, but it would have been incredibly dangerous to abseil on at that point. Sometimes the process of bouncing can actually make the anchor more likely to fail, as it adds wear and can actually bring a marginal tape closer to the point of failure.

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Full name: Dylan Jones
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Re: Old slings / tape in canyons

Post by dyl_jo » 15 Mar 2019, 19:49

In addition to the suggestions above, I think it's also worth adding that it is highly desirable to back up anchors to test them. For example, for the first person down, they rig up on a single rope attached directly to the anchor in question (sling/maillion/tree/etc), then the other half of the rope (or a separate rope) is used to belay the first abseiler of a totally separate anchor (eg your own sling on the same tree, or an artificial removable anchor like a few cams equalised together, or even a meat anchor!). That way if the "questionable anchor fails, then the first abseiler is protected. And if the questionable anchor passes the test, you can then remove the back up and have the rest of your group descend with more confidence. (and ideally, the back up remains until the "LAPAR": last person at risk. Bonus if the LAPAR is the smallest person in the party! [but ideally they also need to be very competent at self rescue as there is no-one else left at the top])

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