/ Double Ropes on Sports Climbs???????
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?
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.
My vision must be worse than I thought or maybe I am drunk as I see doubles quite frequently?
• 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.
Come on you can't provide statistics without a reference :-)
Does anyone else have any views or opinions on this one?
I'd think about doubles for multipitch with an abseil retreat or for pitches longer than 35m but otherwise I can't be bothered with the extra faff.
For multipitch sport routes, I think there is a clear case for twin ropes. But for most uses, I believe that your 'advantages' are mostly spurious. I mean, who has ever heard of an accident resulting from a knot abraiding against the rock?
You've listed lots of reasons why doubles have some purpose in the mountains or on multipitch or routes, but very few which support your assertation that they are useful on single pitch sport climbs. There's a reason why no one who does single pitch sport climbing regularly uses doubles to do so, and it's not a collective madness...
I also disagree that doubles are rarely seen on outcrops today - obviously never really on sport crags because they're a disadvantage and a faff, but I rarely see people climbing on singles on trad crags at all - if anything I think we use doubles too much, there's a lot of lines where you see people going up with doubles where the line is fairly short and relatively straight and you wonder what advantages the extra rope is really giving. Obviously the answer is that people rarely bring both to the crag, but still, I think there's a lot more places for single rope use on trad than I generally see.
Only if you only tie a rope on correctly 1 in 2 times. If this is the case, you are clearly already dead.
Lets say it is a more realistic but still highly worrying 1 in 100. Two ropes reduces your odds of daeth by 99% - much more worthwhile.
Misunderstanding of probabilities, much more relevantly, leads many people to underestimate the advantage of backing up dodgy runners.
Haven't wavered from using two half ropes in 45 of the 47 years I've been climbing. First came a single 300 foot (90m) length of No. 2 hawser laid nylon (equivalent to 7mm) to be used doubled - if you think you've seen a clusterf**k imagine what could happen to that!
After that me and partner would each have a 50m rope and use 'em as halves. We went thru a misguided "uber-safety" period when we'd climb on two 11mm ropes. We did most of what were regarded in the seventies as THE rock routes to do in Scotland thus - boy, we musta bin fit just to carry 'em to the crags!
We still use two half ropes, usually 60m x 8mm, but then about 75% of our climbing is multi-pitch, often with mult-ab descents. And yes, we've used 'em as halves on sport pitches when they were all we had with us. And I like it - saves that worrying phase when you pull up 4 feet of slack just as you think you're gonna fall.
On outcrops and sport I now generally use a 9.1mm "full" rope. Have to admit for eg Lakes/Snowdonia routes I've lately been thinking a 40m x 10mm would be ideal - 50m pitches are few and far between and it would mean less to carry now me old legs are weakening - one carries rope and t'other carries rack.
By the way, the pedant in me can't help pointing out your (mis)quote would have been more pungent in it's original form ie " . . . lies, damned lies, and statistics". Sorry - I just can't help meself!
> Does anyone else have any views or opinions on this one?
Have you ever been sports(sic) climbing?
I live in France where all the crags are grid-bolted, which is what you call "sports climbing" in Britain but I also wanted to go to the Alps and do bigger cliffs with abseil descents so I just bought a pair of double ropes, 8.6mm IIRC, and they are fine for bolted routes, generally just clipping both ropes into each bolt. I didn't want to buy a single rope as well and have never found any problem using the double... the knots for tying in are a bit bulky but that's no problem really, you have to do it on longer climbs anyway.
I wouldn't fancy being in bigger mountains with only a single rope though except on really easy stuff as if you get lost you want enough rope for long abseils and also for the redundancy factor, if you damage your only rope it's not much fun.
Obviously this applies up to a certain level, if you are planning on working hard routes yoyoing and such like then you wouldn't want to do this on thin double ropes perhaps, but by then you wouldn't need to ask the question on a forum either :-)
On sport routes you´d be a fool to regularly use anything but a single rope, halves won´t take the beating that repeated falls cause and they don´t work with a GriGri.
> On sport routes you´d be a fool to regularly use anything but a single rope, halves won´t take the beating that repeated falls cause and they don´t work with a GriGri.
Ah. But some of us go onto sport (i.e. bolt protected) routes to enjoy climbing them as opposed to pushing grades with the resultant "repeated falls" of which you speak.
A sometime partner of mine subtly differentiates this from sport climbing as "climbing with bolts for protection". We choose bolted climbs as we would traditionally protected climbs - to be, with any luck, just within our limits on the day. So we probably won't fall any more than we would when climbing "trad". We certainly won't be "dogging" or practicing moves -I'm afraid I no longer have the attention span for that - gotta keep moving!
So for us your "fool" assumption doesn't apply I hope. Incidentally, we don't use your (again assumed) GriGri. We'll typically climb the odd single pitch bolted route after the main event of a multi pitch route earlier in the day, or on a rest day, so we do it with the stuff we have with us - half ropes and a standard belay device, probably these days a Reverso type one.
By the way, Jim, having read some of your well informed comments in the past I'd appreciate your advice, if you've any experience of it, on the Mammut Smart belay device, in case I do decide to "go the whole sport hog" one day. Or do I take from your GrGri reference that that remains your device of choice?
So it sounds like it worked then ;0)
If anyone has seen Odyssey i was quite intrigued that they often used what appeared to be twin ropes - or at least there was a lot of clipping 2 ropes into 1 bit of gear going on.
I think these are doubles - both clipped to the first piece of protection above the belay to protect the belay.
Or in Caroline Ciavaldini's case, then both clipped into each subsequent piece of gear. Not quite sure why really - could this reduce impact force on marginal gear?
I use doubles all the time on sports routes especially multi-pitch and routes longer than the halfway point on my 50 or 60 metre half ropes where I can then abb off. So do lots of other trad climbers I've seen!
You can clip both half ropes into the same quickdraw for simplicity or use them like half ropes on every second clip to avoid drag and weight on long pitches. The important thing whatever you do is that you either do one or the other to avoid potential rope damage in the event of a fall...
> You can clip both half ropes into the same quickdraw for simplicity or use them like half ropes on every second clip to avoid drag and weight on long pitches. The important thing whatever you do is that you either do one or the other to avoid potential rope damage in the event of a fall...
Yes I understand that. But if you've seen the Odyssey film, it does seem like the guys are using their ropes (on trad routes) as twins for some clips and as doubles for others - which seems strange.....I'll have to watch it again to check.
It's hard to really tell though without seeing unedited footage.
At a recent rope seminar I attended, the rope manufacturer's rep highlighted that clipping both half ropes into a runner can be a very bad idea, as this increases the force on the runner (this is because using both ropes reduces the amount each rope will stretch in a fall). Unless the ropes are also rated as twins, which are designed to be used this way, the increased force can be high enough to cause marginal runners to fail.
His advice was, when you get gripped, just clip one rope, as it's generally safer.
> Ah. But some of us go onto sport (i.e. bolt protected) routes to enjoy climbing them as opposed to pushing grades with the resultant "repeated falls" of which you speak.
> A sometime partner of mine subtly differentiates this from sport climbing as "climbing with bolts for protection". We choose bolted climbs as we would traditionally protected climbs - to be, with any luck, just within our limits on the day. So we probably won't fall any more than we would when climbing "trad". We certainly won't be "dogging" or practicing moves -I'm afraid I no longer have the attention span for that - gotta keep moving!
> So for us your "fool" assumption doesn't apply I hope. Incidentally, we don't use your (again assumed) GriGri. We'll typically climb the odd single pitch bolted route after the main event of a multi pitch route earlier in the day, or on a rest day, so we do it with the stuff we have with us - half ropes and a standard belay device, probably these days a Reverso type one.
> By the way, Jim, having read some of your well informed comments in the past I'd appreciate your advice, if you've any experience of it, on the Mammut Smart belay device, in case I do decide to "go the whole sport hog" one day. Or do I take from your GrGri reference that that remains your device of choice?
The OP referred to "sports climbs" (sic) and my comments were directed at that, climbing bolt protected routes with the same mental, physical and ethical approach as trad clmimbing is a completely different game as you noted. For some semi-trad routes with fixed protection half ropes are useful but for sport routes a waste of time (as a generality). I´ve never climbed a sport route with halves myself and don´t know any sport climber that does.
I can´t really comment on the Smart as I´ve never used or tested one, it lies in a no-mans land between conventional plates and the GriGri but doesn´t have the versatility of either as far as I can tell (I climb with someone who uses one sometimes though). From comments by experienced users they strike me as being too finicky on rope diameter and abseiling to replace an ATC XP and don´t lock-up convincingly enough to replace the trusty Mk1 GriGri.
> At a recent rope seminar I attended, the rope manufacturer's rep highlighted that clipping both half ropes into a runner can be a very bad idea, as this increases the force on the runner (this is because using both ropes reduces the amount each rope will stretch in a fall).
This is what I had always understood, including with actual twin ropes, which is why the continental habit of using twin ropes on ice climbs seems such an odd solution. It did make me wonder on those scary routes shown on Odyssey if it was such a good system to be using even if they are 'real' twin ropes rather than half ropes - but, hey, those guys are climbing E8 and falling off lots - things that I don't do at all in the first case and don't do much in the second, so what do I know!? :-)
Just clip them both in systematically.
They're much thinner, not really for use on sports routes.
> They're much thinner, not really for use on sports routes.
Except when they're not. Like the Beal Joker (for instance, though there are now others too) which is 9.1mm and also usable as a single or half. It's rated as a twin too as are many of the new "multi function" thin singles, though why you would use it as one is a bit beyond me.
I think (although I admit this is a bit of a crap definition) that the main thing which defines a rope as a twin is just the manufacturer having bothered to have it certified as one, as many (most) half and single ropes would also pass the twin rope tests if only they were run through it.
Ropes which only pass the twin test and nothing else on the other hand are pretty much as Bruce says. Very thin, very light, quite weak.
I may be a bit out of date :-) I thought the whole point of a twin rope was something really light for easyish alpine climbing, usable double for not too hard climbing, light as one half rope but retaining the abseil possibility of two ropes... Never very popular though. I don't see how a 9.1mm rope could fit the description, it would be as heavy as ordinary double ropes, heavier even as many are 8.5mm.
Am I the only one who finds the terms single, twin, half rope and double a little confusing? There have been dozens of threads which stumble on the terms... why not cut it down to three terms, for example single, double and lightweight twin for example. The "half rope" terms seems redundant. Just a suggestion.
Nope lots of people do.
What is the difference between 'single', 'half', 'double' and 'twin' ropes?
The title of this article is misleading but there is good info there..
As for clipping both ropes into a bolt if using doubles.... ask Dan Middleton about that!!!!!!!
Bruce, is "double" rope an offical term though?
I thought it was: Single, Half, Twin.
Is "double" not a slang term for a "Half"?
I could well be wrong, but both BMC and IUAA seems to agree:
BMC Classifications: http://www.thebmc.co.uk/rope-markings-explained
UIAA Standards: http://theuiaa.org/safety_standards.php
This article refers to Half ropes as both "Half" and "Double" in the same sentence which could actually compound the confusion rather than bringing clarity.
The term "half" doesn't make much sense though, does it? I know the term is used, that's why I suggested something a bit more intuitive. When I started climbing, in 1968 we only used two terms, single and double, to refer to the only two systems you ever saw in Britain. I don't know when the "half" rope term came in, I saw it about 10 years ago when I stumbled on ukc while looking for a supplier of moleskin breeches... Never found any BTW.
But he's a bolt maniac so I'm not going to ask him :-) In France whenever you see people using double ropes on bolted routes, ie. nearly all low level crags and many mountain ones, they always clip both ropes in with the same quickdraw unless there is some special reason not to.
And I agree about the confusion of manufacturers designating thicker ropes as twins as well as for their primary intended use. As you say, no-one is really going to use them that way and "real" twin ropes are something quite different altogether. I think it more or less started out as a gimmick with Beal certifying the Joker for all three categories (it's arguably a very good rope in two of the three) and everyone else has just copied them.
No way I'd try this. One of the main attractions of sport climbing is it's simplicity. Double ropes complicates things, won't suit a gri gri and just sounds like a recipe for unnecessary trouble.
Interesting idea but not for me.......
Well, I'm not Jim. But I've used just about every belay device known to the human race, starting with the Pleistocenic Waist Belay. Although the Smart may be ok for single and twin ropes, I think it sucks for half ropes, which periodically require the belayer to be taking in one strand while paying out the other. The Smart just isn't set up for that and the result is a lot of grabbing while the belayer is trying to manage things.
On the other hand, the Alpine Up is perfect; almost a Gri-Gri for half ropes, except better than a Gri-Gri in a host of ways. Unlike the Smart, the Alpine Up feeds beautifully, better than any other device, and still locks up solidly during a fall. (The belayer does need to keep their hand on the rope, but doesn't have to exert any braking force.) It is much safer to lower with than a Gri-Gri, and can be used for rappelling and for guide-style upper belays, so is ideal for multipitch use. It looks funky and has a weight and cost similar to a Gri-Gri, but is simply the best mousetrap out there when it comes to half-rope technique. Every time I let someone use mine, they heap scorn on it based on its appearance and then don't want to give it back after they've used it.
These comments are based on use with 8.5mm Mammut Genesis ropes. Your mileage may vary, as we say in the States.
> The term "half" doesn't make much sense though, does it? I know the term is used, that's why I suggested something a bit more intuitive. When I started climbing, in 1968 we only used two terms, single and double, to refer to the only two systems you ever saw in Britain. I don't know when the "half" rope term came in, I saw it about 10 years ago when I stumbled on ukc while looking for a supplier of moleskin breeches... Never found any BTW.
You´re confusing the name of the technique with the name of the ropes used.
Back then (before you started climbing) one climbed using single or double rope technique and used No.4 or No.3 rope as appropriate. For Alpine one used No.2´s as twin ropes.
Calling ropes "half" ropes makes considerable sense as that is what the label on the rope says. They were in the earliest BSI standard effectively half as strong as a single rope.
I think most who use double ropes do it because that's all they've got and they don't climb on that sort of route enough to buy a single rope. On the other hand I don't see the simplicity problem, and if you use double ropes you already have a way of belaying with them so that isn't a problem.
Just one question, when you get to the lower off at the end of a full pitch, ie. you have run out of rope, how do you lower off with a single rope? Using a double it's easy, you can just abseil back down and recover the ropes by pulling them through, but how do you manage with just one rope?
When is "back then"? No one used the term half rope in the 60s or 70s, not in climbing circles anyway. Judging by your age you weren't around when I started climbing, alas for me!
In France whenever you see people using double ropes on bolted routes, ie. nearly all low level crags and many mountain ones, they always clip both ropes in with the same quickdraw unless there is some special reason not to.
In this case Bruce, it doesn't matter too much. The higher force created by clipping in both ropes isn't an issue because bolts are so strong (well, they should be, at least!) It's only when you start doing this with what the French charmingly refer to as "uncertain anchors" that things have a propensity to get messy. Isn't this sort of thing one of the reasons trad climbing is so great - there is so much more to think about?
A route will usually be bolted such that if it's too long for a doubled rope to reach the ground (being lowered, or abseiling) there is an intermediate lower off which the climber can either be lowered to or abseil to, where they pull the rope from the top anchor and use it to continue their journey downwards.
The problem of course arises where the climber has a short rope length like a 50 and tries a route where routes are bolted for a 60 or 70 which is probably the standard for lots of continental crags now! Trickery can then be required :)
So to climb a full 60m pitch the climber would either use a 60-70m rope and rebelay on the way down, or lower in one go on a 120. With doubles you get the same effectively - if you climb on 60m of rope (2 30m ropes) you would have to rebelay on the way down, if you did it with 120m of rope (2 60s) you could get down in one.
> When is "back then"? No one used the term half rope in the 60s or 70s, not in climbing circles anyway. Judging by your age you weren't around when I started climbing, alas for me!
I´m older than I look and my profile is as well. I started climbing in 1966 with the trusty Viking No.4 as was usual, and of course the ubiquitious hemp waistline!
No idea when the term half ropes became common usage, we always took two ropes instead as mostly we we climbed on one 11mm and one 9mm.
I was going by the age on your profile - 54 - which means you were 2 years old when you started climbing! You blow off Jim on the other thread by a way :-)
When I started, in 68, we still had some hawser laid ropes in the club cupboard but everyone preferred the perlon ones as they didn't tangle so much. There were only one or two thick single ropes and they stopped being used in the three years I was in the uni club, everyone preferred doubles. Single ropes came back into fashion, in the press anyway, from the USA as they used them especially on artificial climbs. I don't recall seeing many singles at all, maybe because we were more in Wales and places like that, perhaps singles were more popular on gritstone single pitch crags?
Something awry with your maths there! As it happens I was born in 1952 and started climbing when I was 14.
I went over to an 11mm Edelrid in about 1970, for short stuff used as a single and longer paired first with the stiff old sea-water soaked No,4 andlater with a 9mm kernmantel. No real idea about what went on on the grit, I´m a south coast boy and up north wasn´t my scene at all.
Double rope technique naturally didn´t come into vogue really until nuts became readily available and people carried enough to need them which was around that time, up till then a single and a hammer and a few pegs was enough. Not much point in two ropes when you´ve only got one piece of gear!
When I reach the lower off, I clip in, untie then rethread the rope through the bolts then get lowered down. If I do a route which is more than 30 metres long with my 60 metre rope I still untie and rethread lower down the route.
You're right, my maths are wrong, but so are yours as born in 1952 makes you 60, not 54 which is what I was basing it on and which would have put you at 8 years old in 66. I still have to add a year to my age on the profile as I was born in 49... for some reason I'm reticent.
I used double ropes straight away as we had slings and made up nuts from engineering nuts by drilling them out. Peck and Moacs were already available too.
This photo dates from 69 and they are already using double Viking ropes and several runners.
That's what I thought, with a single rope you are limited to half the rope length or doing the descent in two goes... another advantage for double ropes then :-)
Well, I don´t update my profile too often, after all in this computer age you´d think UKC would do this automatically (and send a birthday message as well).
Using Peck Crackers there wasn´t much point in clipping in, must have been the worst thing ever made. The cliffs of Cornwall used to be full of the things jammed irrevocable in and corroding away.Still got my first Moac though!
That's what I thought, with a single rope you are limited to half the rope length or doing the descent in two goes... another advantage for double ropes :-)
Really interesting point which will be thoroughly discussed on Saturday when one of our lot has a birthday !
Well, as I pointed out above somewhere, the amount of rope involved is still the same - there's no magic way that double ropes allow you to defy basic mathematics!
120m of either single or double rope allows you to get down in one go off a 60m pitch, 60m of rope allows you to get down off a 60m pitch in 2 stages.
Nonsense first sentence + wall of boring text = didn't read, sorry.
To contribute more positively to your question, though: I use usually double ropes for trad climbing, and a single for sport climbing. Where occasion has required it, I've used a single rope for trad climbing, and doubles for sport climbing, and I'm not dead yet.
No, but if you climb on a single 60 m rope, the standard on bolted climbs I realise, then you can easily lower off a 30m pitch. If you are using your double ropes, which will obviously be two 60m lengths you can easily abb off a 60m pitch. I'm not really suggesting that using a single rope for climbs that tend to be fairly straight - bolts can be drilled anywhere - is better, just pointing out the advantages of double ropes.
Given the price of ropes not everybody is going to buy two sets, especially if they only occasionally climb on sports routes. On long bolted routes, in the pre-Alps for example, I'd say that a double rope is better though but then this is not really sports climbing.
A single rope plus harness plus quickdraws plus boots just comes under the 15kG Ryan Air baggage limit. Double ropes would take it over and cost more.
I don't deny that double ropes allow you to do full length abseils, but only by virtue of carrying twice the length of rope in the first place.
If you had 2 60m doubles they would weigh less than a 120m single in the sack on the way up to the crag, but when you got to the top of your 60m pitch you'd have a lot more rope weight to contend with on the doubles because 60m of the single would still be in the rope bag.
In reality though not that many (comparatively) single pitch routes are above 35m so the easiest workhorse solution is probably a 70m rope and just accept that every once in a while you might have to rebelay.
For long bolted multipitch I've enjoyed using very thin halves (8.1 icelines if i remember right) as twins before as a system which works quite well, by keeping the ropes together you minimise the amount they try and get in the way of your feet when stepping through and whatever, they are relatively light and you can do the descents easily with them.
I think these days actually it would be pretty rare for most regular climbers not to own a single as well as their doubles, if only because I've never yet seen anyone using double ropes at a climbing wall to my memory and I've only seen it happen a handful of times when I have been out sport climbing. Selective samples obviously given the locations, but I'd have thought most people go to a wall at least occasionally over the winter, but yet I can't remember even once seeing someone trying to lead on doubles indoors. Places like the alps where people will have flown to I can easily see people single pitch sport climbing on doubles since that's all they will have had space for in their luggage, but that's a weight induced limitation...
> A single rope plus harness plus quickdraws plus boots just comes under the 15kG Ryan Air baggage limit. Double ropes would take it over and cost more.
Just take one each, even lighter per person.
One bage between two with one rope shared between two - cheapest option. Clothes are hand baggage, obviously.
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