A perma-draw is a quickdraw left in place on a steep sport route. Unusual wear patterns can leave sharp edges on the rope karabiner, with devastating consequences if you should fall. Virgil Scott from the BMC Technical Committee reports.
A climber in Switzerland suffered a fatal ground fall after his rope was severed, and in other incidents climbers have had their ropes cut but escaped with less severe injuries. In each of these cases their ropes were cut by sharp edges worn into permanent quickdraws.
Some sport routes have quickdraws permanently left in place (in-situ). It's often done on very steep routes where stripping the quickdraws can be a nightmare.. It may make the route more convenient, but it can also make it much more dangerous.
Each time a climber lowers off from a route the rope rubs against the quickdraws below, and if the quickdraws are left there permanently they will get rubbed in exactly the same place each time. In these lower quickdraws, the rope traverses the surface of the carabiners at a shallow angle – which tends to form a sharp edged slot. If the rope has sand or dirt ingrained this wear can happen surprisingly quickly.
Disaster may strike when someone falls off after clipping into a sharp edged carabiner, as this may well cut the rope.
It is essential to check all in-situ quickdraws before using them. Since these perma-draws tend to be used more on steep routes it may not be easy to thoroughly inspect them without actually clipping in to them. One way to reduce the risk is to first clip into one of your own quickdraws so that you can hang from it while inspecting. If you're satisfied that the in-situ quickdraw is safe you simply clip into it instead. Regardless of whether it's awkward, it is absolutely crucial to check all in-situ gear before using it - after all, you may well trust your life to it.
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