In the decades I have been climbing, I have been forced to make this decision multiple times as well as advise others that their rope is reaching the end of its life. Sometimes this can be hard to decide though as a rope can look perfectly fine and still be a hazard.
All climbing ropes have a limited lifespan and should be retired after a certain amount of use or if they are damaged. There are a few key factors to consider when determining when to retire a climbing rope, including the rope's age, the number of falls it has been subjected to, and any visible damage or signs of wear.
To decide if it is time to retire a climbing rope, you should first consider the age of the rope. In general, a climbing rope should be retired after about 5-10 years of use, regardless of how many falls it has been subjected to or whether it has sustained any damage. This is because the materials used in climbing ropes can deteriorate over time, even if they have not been used extensively, which can compromise the rope's strength and safety. Some manufacturers may provide guidelines for when to retire their ropes, so it's always a good idea to check the manufacturer's website or instruction manual for specific recommendations.
Next, you should consider the number of falls the rope has been subjected to. While a climbing rope is designed to withstand a certain number of falls, it will eventually become less reliable if it has been subjected to too many falls. As a general rule of thumb, a rope should be retired after it has been subjected to about 10-15 falls, depending on the type of rope and the severity of the falls. If a rope has been involved in a significant fall, it should be retired immediately as it may have exceeded the safety limit of the rope.
Finally, you should look for any visible damage or signs of wear on the rope. Even if a rope is relatively new or has not been subjected to many falls, it should be retired if it has sustained significant damage, such as cuts, frayed strands, or excessive stiffness. It's important to inspect your rope regularly and to retire it if you notice any signs of wear or damage, in order to ensure your safety while climbing.
In summary, the key factors to consider when deciding if it is time to retire a climbing rope are its age, the number of falls it has been subjected to, and any visible damage or signs of wear. It's important to retire a rope if it is old, has been subjected to many falls, or is damaged, in order to ensure your safety while climbing.
Remember - If you are retiring any equipment because it is unfit for climbing, it should be destroyed or marked clearly to prevent anyone from using it again for climbing.