8,000-Meter Trust Falls? Maybe Not

Fixed ropes are the handrails of the Himalayas. Strung up on steep, exposed pitches at nosebleed-inducing heights, they're placed as climbing aids, particularly on mountains that see a lot of commercial traffic. They're typically medium-duty rope, striking an acceptable balance between strength and (for the poor suckers hauling them up the mountain) weight. But for anyone who's ever climbed into the hairy conditions that are typical above 20,000 feet, you have to wonder what UV rays and weather have done to your ratty-looking lifeline. Not to mention how long it's been parked up there. What, in other words, are you clipping into?

Wonder no more. The gear gurus at Black Diamond got their calloused hands on a piece of rope that was fixed to Nepal's 22,349-foot Ama Dablam, and put it through a battery of failure tests in their quality control lab. The result? Depending on how the rope was tested—tied in various knots, attached to carabiners and ascenders, or just a plain old section of straight rope—it broke at somewhere between a quarter and a half of the force sewn slings must meet. There's some food for thought.

The lesson, according to climber and Black Diamond techie Kolin Powick, is simple: "Don't fall on fixed lines—you just shouldn't." Got it?

Via Black Diamond.