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can a hot rap device melt through your slings?
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By Phill T
Oct 11, 2012

TLDR: No.

www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/journal/climb/all/qc-lab>>>

fun read though!


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By NickinCO
From colorado
Oct 11, 2012
after the hard stuff, into cruiser hands.

it will certainly burn through your skin! I have proof haha


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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Oct 11, 2012
Epic free solo with a pack on

"skin burns at 212 degrees F..."

I have a scar on my hand from a belay device from earlier this summer too


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By Peter Stokes
From Them Thar Hills
Oct 11, 2012
Wall Street, Moab, UT

That is a good read... I sometimes go pretty fast on rappel, and I've heated up my ATC and my rap biner quite a bit, but I've never melted anything. However, my ATC can get hot enough that I'm psyched to have gloves on. I'd be interested in the data from that same test with a steel belay device...


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By 20 kN
From Hawaii
Oct 11, 2012


Like many of the articles on BD's site, this one is deceiving. Okay, so the belay device wont melt a sling, but whatever, I don't tie into the belay device with a sling. The more important question is can belay devices get hot enough to melt a rope and put your life in danger? The answer is YES, despite what this BD guy is trying to imply. Just ask any experienced caver. Cavers pretty much always use huge rappel racks on long rappels because they know that any other device will overheat and melt the rope. BD's own evidence proves it. In that article BD said that in one 175-foot test rap, they were able to get the device up to 130c. Keep in mind that was only 175 feet and the weight was not free hanging which does made a difference. So if 175 feet can produce 130c, how much do you think 300' free hanging could produce? Better yet, how much could the 1,000' - 3,000' feet of rope cavers often rap down could produce? Keep in mind, in 175 feet they reached 79% of the temperature required to cause strength loss in nylon. So yes, if you are doing a rap longer than 50m, you do need to be careful or else you could critically weaken the rope from the heat. Do not read this article and think you can rap at maximum speed down any rope and never put yourself in danger of melting the rope.

Also, I dont know where they got that info about the skin burning at 212f, but here some info from John Hopkins University:

water temp --- 1st deg burn --- 2nd or 3rd deg burn
F ----------------- time(min) ------- time(min)
111.2 ----------- 300 --------------- 420
116.6 ----------- 35 ----------------- 45
118.4 ----------- 10 ----------------- 14
122.0 ----------- 1 ------------------- 5
131.0 ----------- 0.0833 ---------- 0.4167
140.0 ----------- 0.0333 ---------- 0.0500
149.0 ----------- 0.0167 ---------- 0.0333

Granted that is water, but you get the point. An object does not need to be 212f to burn you.


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By Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Oct 11, 2012

20 kN wrote:
Cavers pretty much always use huge rappel racks on long rappels because they know that any other device will overheat and melt the rope.

I use rappel racks to moderate the amount of friction I am applying relative to the weight of the rope. I have never come close to overheating the rack but I have only done up to 1200 feet.


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By H..
From Washingtonville NY
Oct 11, 2012



As far as devices burning through the rope itself, i doubt it, though caution on the side of borderline paranoia may not hurt...

might be one of those myths like dropped biners being unsafe...
fatcanyoners.org/bush-guide/dropped-carabiners/


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By 20 kN
From Hawaii
Oct 11, 2012

Brendan N. (grayhghost) wrote:
I use rappel racks to moderate the amount of friction I am applying relative to the weight of the rope. I have never come close to overheating the rack but I have only done up to 1200 feet.

Well yes, they have multiple advantages. But, my point is that cavers dont rap 1/4th a mile down on an ATC for a reason, they mostly use rap racks. I learned this when I was about to do my first 1200' rap a long time ago and I asked around on a caving forum for advice. Every reply warned me not to use anything except a large rap rack. Now, it is possible maybe a huge figure eight and some water would work, but if you try to rap a thousand feet on an ATC, expect some issues.

As far as this "myth" goes, it is not a myth. Feel free to cruise over to a caving forum and post something up along the lines of "hey guys, I am looking to do that 1250' rap down into the Cave of Swallows in Mexico and I am wondering if it is safe to use an ATC." Try it, and post up the link. It will be a shark feeding frenzy.

Also, Petzl says not to use the GriGri for raps longer than 50m for the exact same reason. They warn that raps longer than that can produce enough heat to damage the rope.


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By cjon3s
From Sterling, VA
Oct 12, 2012
Hanging at Seneca

I get what you're saying but that's why it was done in relation to climbers, not cavers. Never did they mention you could do long, free rappels and be fine. In reality, I think it was totally fine. They're not being misleading by doing this in the slightest.


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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Oct 12, 2012

We did a not-dissimilar project on heating and cooling in belay devices (for abseiling) and the first thing to know is that using an IR thermometer means you are not actually measuring the temperature of the device, merely how good it is at radiating (emitting)heat in the IR spectrum. You have to make a black body radiation calibration table to get the true temperature. A stainless device for example reads about half the temperature that it really is.


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By Finn the Human
From The Land of Ooo
Oct 12, 2012
Mathematical!

It looks like all their tests were done on single strands. I'd be interested in seeing the temperatures generated from a 35m or 40m free-hanging double strand rappel.


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By H..
From Washingtonville NY
Oct 12, 2012

I wish there were more scientific style studies with climbing related stuff. It's easy to come across things that go "so and so said they did this and that and everything was fine", and not so much studies with methods and data.


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By Gunkiemike
Oct 12, 2012

Taylor Ogden wrote:
It looks like all their tests were done on single strands. I'd be interested in seeing the temperatures generated from a 35m or 40m free-hanging double strand rappel.


Just go slowly and I guarantee you won't melt anything.


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By Rob Dillon
Oct 12, 2012

What about searing a hole in your thigh with a drill bit?


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By randy88fj62
Oct 12, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades

H.. wrote:
I wish there were more scientific style studies with climbing related stuff. It's easy to come across things that go "so and so said they did this and that and everything was fine", and not so much studies with methods and data.


The best resource we have in my opinion is, "accidents of north america" which is printed annually and gives first hand accounts and analysis of situations. This gives you a good idea of the risks involved and how people fared during their crisis.


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By Nathan Bell
From La Grande, Oregon
Oct 12, 2012
After a day bouldering at Hoffer Lake in the Elkhorn Mountains of eastern Oregon.

I saw a guy burn his willy on his belay device. Correction, I did not see the willy but did hear the scream.


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By Finn the Human
From The Land of Ooo
Oct 12, 2012
Mathematical!

Gunkiemike wrote:
Just go slowly and I guarantee you won't melt anything.


Well, obviously. I'm still interested in the temperatures that might be generated.


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By EvanH
From Boone, NC
Oct 16, 2012

Even with a rappel rack, you can heat ropes beyond the melting point if you go down too quickly. There are multiple examples of long drop deaths where the rappeller was found at the bottom of the wall with globs of melted nylon on the rack.

Heated belay devices can also "glaze" or melt the sheath of your ropes fairly easily. I do a fair bit of ascending/descending fixed lines for work and we end up replacing our lines often due to rapping with heavy loads (usually on a GriGri) too quickly. I'll see if I can get a picture up of our latest retired rope.


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By Gunkiemike
Oct 16, 2012

EvanH wrote:
Even with a rappel rack, you can heat ropes beyond the melting point if you go down too quickly. There are multiple examples of long drop deaths where the rappeller was found at the bottom of the wall with globs of melted nylon on the rack.


That would be expected on a long drop if the rapper long control of the descent. It certainly doesn't prove that excessive heat and rope melting CAUSED the accident. Heck, several years ago, a sport rappeller tried to rap ElCap in one humongous drop. He lost control way up there and raced down the line to the bottom. When they found him, his torso was sawn nearly in half by the rope. No one suggested that was the cause of the accident.

Taylor - I think my point that "slow is cool enough" is more relevant to safety than your "how hot COULD it get?" inquiry. The answer to the latter of course is, "Well, how fast can you go?". And I think we all know where that leads.


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By MJMobes
From The land of steady habits
Oct 16, 2012
modern man

Gunkiemike wrote:
That would be expected on a long drop if the rapper long control of the descent. It certainly doesn't prove that excessive heat and rope melting CAUSED the accident. Heck, several years ago, a sport rappeller tried to rap ElCap in one humongous drop. He lost control way up there and raced down the line to the bottom. When they found him, his torso was sawn nearly in half by the rope. No one suggested that was the cause of the accident. Taylor - I think my point that "slow is cool enough" is more relevant to safety than your "how hot COULD it get?" inquiry. The answer to the latter of course is, "Well, how fast can you go?". And I think we all know where that leads.


where does one get that length of rope?
fuk 70m


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By Senior Hernandez
Oct 16, 2012
on the trip

Let me guess, it leads greatness?

I am thinking that everyone interested should burn their peckers on hot rap devices and post up to prove their point!


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By Finn the Human
From The Land of Ooo
Oct 16, 2012
Mathematical!

Gunkiemike wrote:
Taylor - I think my point that "slow is cool enough" is more relevant to safety than your "how hot COULD it get?" inquiry. The answer to the latter of course is, "Well, how fast can you go?". And I think we all know where that leads.


You're right Mike, I'm simply curious. Your answer is the most relevant and simple.

Still, I think it would be good to have some data on double strand rappels. I don't know about the rest of you, but I only very rarely do single strand rappels. It seems to me that double strands = more surface area on the belay device = more friction = potential for higher temps. Of course, more friction also = slower speeds. That's why I was interested in a "worse case scenario" rappel on two strands.


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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Oct 17, 2012

Taylor Ogden wrote:
You're right Mike, I'm simply curious. Your answer is the most relevant and simple. Still, I think it would be good to have some data on double strand rappels. I don't know about the rest of you, but I only very rarely do single strand rappels. It seems to me that double strands = more surface area on the belay device = more friction = potential for higher temps. Of course, more friction also = slower speeds. That's why I was interested in a "worse case scenario" rappel on two strands.


Most of the resistance through the belay device is created inside the rope and with two-rope raps the plate runs considerably cooler.


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