Every time we abseil, we trust our lives to our equipment. Whether it's the anchor, rope, hardware, or our harness, a single point of failure can be catastrophic. Ensuring you only use properly rated gear, and regularly check it for damage, are pretty sensible steps. But you may not realise that many common household items can seriously degrade canyoning equipment.
Black Diamond did some in depth research into the topic after receiving an email from a customer who described the failure of a harness while top roping at an indoor climbing gym. As he was being lowered, he heard a "pop", looked down and saw that his harness had ripped off at the waist. He managed to grab the rope and was lowered to the ground without injury. The incident raised some serious issues about how a harness in near-new condition could have catastrophically failed in use.
The full testing that was undertaken is really interesting, and well worth a read. It can be found here: https://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/e ... id-harness
As part of trying to find out what had caused the failure, they tested a range of common household products to see what exposure to them can do to Nylon and Dyneema.
Swimming pool and aquarium products were the worst offenders, with a half hour exposure to one product enough to decrease the strength of Nylon by more than 90%.
While acids and other chemicals might seem obvious risks, one that surprised me was vinegar. This is often used as an environmentally friendly cleaning product, and I'm sure there are people who have used it to clean outdoor gear. Yet the testing showed a loss of strength from exposure to this.
The takeaway messages from the Black Diamond testing were pretty simply, but worth remembering: protect your gear from exposure to potentially hazardous materials; visually inspect it regularly for any signs of damage; store gear securely; know the complete history of your gear; and if you think there's any chance safety-critical gear may have been exposed to harmful chemicals, retire it immediately.
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