A via ferrata set takes a lot of wear and tear. Every time it is used, its life expectancy is reduced. Even the best via ferrata set will inevitably get to the point where it can no longer guarantee adequate safety. However, in most cases it will already have become so uncomfortable to use that the owner will replace it. Many factors can weaken a safety set, such as wear due to falls, abrasion due to rocks and guide cables or UV radiation. Damp and frost impair the critical performance of the brake rope. However, the major risks remain dirt as well as chemical and mechanical damage.
Dirt on the brake rope or strap primarily makes handling more difficult. However, it may also increase friction in the brake mechanism and consequently increase impact force. Granitic dust and sand are also dangerous for rope material because the quartz crystals may penetrate into the interior and weaken the load-bearing core. This damage is evident in the form of weak points or uneven thicknesses. You should therefore not let your via ferrata set lie in the dirt or tread on it.
During via ferrata tours, material with sharp edges, such as protruding strands, may damage the via ferrata set's's rope or strap. If the rope cladding is pierced or the strap torn then the set has to be replaced. In the event of visible damage, for example due to rock impact, it is usually advisable to consult a specialist sports dealer who will be able to assess the reliability of the equipment.
Apart from falls at sharp edges (which are unusual during via ferrata tours), the few rope tears that still occur are all due to penetration by acid. This type of damage is not externally visible. It is therefore essential to keep your via ferrata set away from acids (for example the car battery)! And do not write on it with a felt-tip pen since the solvents present may have an unforeseeable effect on the material.
Stress due to falls
Hanging briefly in a via ferrata set to rest will not affect its functionality. However, as soon as a genuine fall triggers the brakes of a via ferrata set, you must replace it. This applies to via ferrata sets with rope brakes as well as those with webbing brakes. Even if there is no sign of any visible damage on the braking element of a via ferrata set, you must still replace the set after any fall. The via ferrata brake may have sustained invisible, mechanical damage during the fall to the extent that its braking function can no longer be guaranteed. In the case of a set with rope brakes, the brake rope must not be threaded back in its original condition after a fall. Even if there are no signs of visible damage, the brake rope may be unfit for use as a result of the thermal load (frictional heat) generated during the fall.
However, it is best to avoid falls during via ferrata tours since the height differences and protruding metal parts may result in injury.