By Mr. Everest
Rock climbing gear needs to be assessed every two years, but under heavy use you’ll want to do it at least once a year. This is when you’ll likely place old harnesses into retirement and recycle heavily-worn or grooved carabiners. Our lives depend upon the performance of our gear. No sense dirt bagging it and using old equipment just to save a dime. It’ll cost you in the end.
So, how’s a climber to sustainably get rid of one’s gear? Donating your perfectly good gear is a great place to start. The Khumbu Climbing Center, in Phortse, Nepal, where I have directed the last six years, is always in need of gear in good condition. Here’s a list of what they could use: Helmets, carabiners, cordelettes, nuts, ice screws, crampons, ice tools, harnesses, rock shoes, and headlamps. Email the Khumbu Climbing Center from their website to find out how to send in your gear.
If you live in the UK, you can post your gear for sale or for free on the Recycle Outdoor Gear (ROG) site. They also have a great initiative called Gift Your Gear with all Rohan shops that you should check out.
Below, is our simple guide to help you reuse or recycle specific rock climbing gear:
Harnesses: There’s not much you can do with harnesses because they have so many buckles and bar-tacking.
1) If it has removable leg loops you could save them for spare parts for another harness.
2) Use your old climbing harness as a skijoring harness.
3) Climb On Sister transformed her climbing harness into a belt.
Climbing Ropes: Ropes should be visually inspected each climbing day and upon coiling and uncoiling for nicks, burrs, cuts, and dents. If you find any core shots then you need to retire the rope or if the cut is close to the end then you can continue to use your rope if you cut off the damaged short piece. Damaged rope can follow a few paths:
1) Reuse it in a non-climbing application. We use our ropes for many projects, like tethering trees we’re bringing down on our property, hauling out snow-bound cars, tying down Christmas trees to our car roof. You get the picture.
2) Make dog leashes and leads.
3) Send your ropes to Sterling Rope’s Climbing Rope Recycling Initiative. They transform ropes into dog leashes, rugs, and hammocks, among other things.
4) Send your climbing rope to Green Guru Gear or look up a location where you can drop it off to be recycled.
1) Retired ‘biners can be used for many odd jobs around the home and office. Our kids use them to clip things onto their backpacks.
2) My daughter uses one as a hair tie organizer.
3) Like all your hardware, carabiners can be thrown in your nearest scrap metal recycling bin. They’re made of aluminum and can be melted down into new things. This is pretty much closed loop recycling so please recycle your metals in scrap bins whenever you can.
Hardware like Pitons, Camming Devices, Belay Devices, Mechanical Ascenders:
1) A mechanical ascender is my friend in logging. When I cut a tree down, the mechanical ascender works as my ratchet in a tethering system.
2) As with carabiners, your other hardware can be recycled in your nearest scrap metal bin.
1) Donate your climbing shoes to a nearby rock gym or give them to a friend who wants to learn how to climb. Our children’s rock shoes get passed along to other kids just like we do with their other shoes.
2) If your climbing shoes are just not wearable anymore. Take them to your nearest Clothes the Loop drop box at The North Face stores. You’ll get a $10 discount on your next purchase at the store and proceeds from recycling your shoes go to the Conservation Alliance. Here’s a list of where you can find the Clothes the Loop bins.
Slings & Draws:
As with rope, you’ll likely find a lot of reuse potential for slings and draws. We hung our children’s swings from our car port rafters with slings, my son plays Robin Hood with slings slung around his shoulders as part of his woodsy getup. They’re an item you always seem to need, but they can get damaged. If you’re ready to trash any slings and draws, simply take them to the Clothes the Loop bin.
Chalk Bags: These are essentially cloth bags that can be reused in many ways. I’ve seen one used as a toiletry kit once all the chalk was removed. If it’s truly bit the (chalk) dust, you can also recycle these little textile bags through The North Face’s Clothes the Loop program.
Haul Bags: We use haul bags over and over again. They’re the classic reusable bag. You never need to send ’em away but if you’re hoping to downsize, you can certainly pass your haul bags on to another climber, or post them on Craigslist or Freecycle. They’re yet another candidate, surely, for the Clothes the Loop bin.
Helmets: Treat your climbing helmets like bike or motorcycle helmets. If they’ve taken a beating, retire them and don’t pass them on to another climber. Our heads need the best of protection.
1) If you live in the Portland, OR area you could recycle your climbing helmet along with bike helmets at drop bins in most bike shops. This feel-good story is about a Portland resident who came up with the idea to get the shops, along with many other stores, to simply provide drop boxes for helmet recycling. Once or twice a year volunteers gather to break the helmets down and the materials are sent to recyclers worldwide.
2) If you don’t live in Portland, Grist gives you a few ideas to prolong your helmet’s life before landfill-dom. Turning it into a planter might appeal to some.
Crash Pads: Crash pads are pretty tough to beat up so that they’re unusable. If you’re done with your crash pad, pass it on to another climber. Or it could always be reused as an at-home crash pad/couch in the corner or dog bed.
If you’re interested in some more reuses for your climbing rope, visit our Trash Backwards app: