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Topic - Double Ropes on Sports Climbs???????

michaelc54 - on 12 Nov 2012
With the advent of fixed protection sports climbs the use of double ropes has declined to the point where they are rarely seen on outdoor outcrops today.

However, as time has gone on and I climb more frequently on single ropes I become more convinced that there is a very strong case for using double ropes - even on sports climbs with fixed protection.

Here are some of the reasons:

• With two ropes the chance of accidental and potentially fatal rope damage is significantly reduced – you have 18mm of rope to abrade not just 10.5mm.
• If a retreat from a high cliff is required the rap distance is dramatically increased. You can abseil 20 metres further on two 50 metre ropes than a doubled 60 metre rope.
• Even with well placed fixed protection, drag can be significantly reduced by using double ropes to remove bends in the lines of fixed pro
• Double ropes can reduce the amount of time spent on a route. A reduction in rope drag allows multiple pitches to be joined together, Recently we did a route when there was a forecast of storms. We doubled up pitches and got off the route early, thus missing exposure to a big electrical storm.
• When clipping long reaches, the use of double ropes significantly reduces potential fall distances. This is particularly true when climbing a horizontal roof. You are a metre and a half from your last point of pro, you pull 2 metres of rope to clip the next pro point and then run out of puff and fall off You will fall 3.5 metres plus the slack in the belay system
• Alternately clipped double ropes will reduce this fall distance to only the distance from the last point of pro plus the system slack.
• When double ropes properly laid out on a long pitch there is less drag – accordingly, you are more likely to ‘make’ a critical, strenuous move.
• You tie on twice – often a fall on less than vertical rock includes a slide down a rock face. Typically, knots stick out of the front of a harness and are often abraded by the fall / slide. Double ropes give you two bites of the safety cherry in these situations.
• You tie on twice, this is twice as good as tying on once as there is a 50% lower chance of mucking up the tie in.
• In the event of a rope damaging rock fall you will have lower the chance of ropes being dangerously cut with double ropes.
• If you rap and ropes get stuck, if you have pulled down a fair bit of the rope already when the rope get stuck you potentially have a lot more rope to retreat with when using double ropes!
• The loading from a fall is frequently shared by two runners on separate ropes thus reducing the load on individual runners
• Double ropes are more dynamic and thus load up runners more slowly thus reducing the possibility of runner failure
• When lowering off fixed pro or runners the load is frequently shared between two points and thus halved reducing the risk of failure
• In the event of an anchor failure during lowering the amount of slack in the system before the next anchor point is taken up is shorter, reducing the fall distance

There are some clear disadvantages:

• Double ropes are more difficult for a belayer to manage safely.
• They are thinner – individually the cut easier.
• They are more difficult to abseil on as they pass faster through a belay device and potentially generate more heat.
• They wear / wear through quicker.
• They are more dynamic (advantage or disadvantage?).
• There is twice as much rope to coil at the end of a climb.

But for me, the potential reduction in fall distances, the ability to move more quickly on a climb and the potential for reduction in drag more than compensates for the handling problems.

Does anyone else have any views or opinions on this one?
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