Photo Credit: AJBC Photography
Do you have a saddle with rope bridges? If so, you've probably wondered how often the bridge should be replaced. This is what Buckingham says on the issue, “Due to the rigorous strain the Rope Suspension Bridge endures, it should be replaced at the earliest signs of wear. Suspension bridge inspection is extremely important and must be performed prior to each use. This inspection should include but not be limited to: webbing and rope cuts, nicks, tears, kinks, abrasions, burns, excessive swelling, excessive wear, discoloration, cracks, charring, broken, fraying or unraveling fibers, loose stitching chemical or physical exposure. Failure to regularly inspect and replace the Rope Suspension Bridge could result in injury or death due to Suspension Bridge failure.”
Though this doesn't give us a definite timeline, it does give us some important things to look for when inspecting. If at any time you see or feel any of the above, remove the bridge and cut it in half so it will not be used by accident.
We met with a crew a week ago to drop off some gear they had purchased. During our meeting, we inspected the rope bridge on one of their harnesses and sure enough it needed to be replaced. The bridge looked pretty beat up but the thing that really stood out was the change in diameter and the squishy center that felt nothing like the rest of the bridge. The next day we brought out a replacement bridge for them.
Unfortunately, two days later we receive a phone call... The climber was lifted into the tree with a crane and after he had tied in, the bridge broke. 30 feet off the ground the climber heard a loud “pop” and fell 2 feet onto the limb below him. Thankfully he was able to grab on and get a grip on the tree after realizing what happened.
Even though we dropped off the replacement bridge a few days before, it was never replaced.
Obviously the bridge should have been replaced months or even a year before this incident. Fortunately everyone came out of this incident without injuries and hopefully a better sense of what needs to be inspected and when it should be replaced.
Please be sure to stay up on your inspections and replace things when they need to be replaced! There is no excuse for not being safe!