2 Ropes Required to Single-Pitch?


Original Post
Beau Griffith · · Fresno, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 20

I am JUST starting outdoors so please bear with what I believe is probably a criminally stupid question...

Assuming that your total climb is more than 30 meters, do you ALWAYS need a second rope (to tie to your climbing rope) to rapp from when sport climbing? I am trying to visualize how that would go...climb to the top on your lead rope, safety yourself in to the anchor at the top, top-belay your partner up, then both rapp down...but you would need a second rope to do so, right?

Is there any situation in which you could just use ONE rope to sport-climb?

Obviously if the total ascent is less than 30M you can just double your main rope back and lower or rapp off it. I think.

Jon Powell · · LAWRENCEVILLE GEORGIA · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 110

On a single pitch sport route why would you need to top belay your partner up?

Patrick Shyvers · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 15

If the climb is longer than 30m (or maybe 35m, for 70m ropes) it may be broken into 30m pitches, or if you suppose it is a rope-stretcher 60m, it may have two rappel anchors, one at the top and one halfway down. Or, there may be a walk-off finish, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Sometimes you do need 2 ropes to rappel what you just climbed, but it's not common.

Jon Powell wrote:On a single pitch sport route why would you need to top belay your partner up?
He's asking about pitches longer than 30m. In which case unless you have two ropes, you can't lower & TR your partner.
wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 472

Well, consider this: What would people do when rappelling down a long multi-pitch route? There would be intermediate rappel stations (anchors).

First person rappels to rappel station anchor. She ties to anchor and calls off rappel. Second person rappels to anchor and ties in. Both pull down the rope and thread it through the rappel anchor. Rappel down to next anchor. Rinse and repeat.

Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5

You are correct that if you are using just one rope to lower or rap you can only go a maximum of half that rope length.* If the climb is longer than half your rope length, you will need either a longer rope, additional rope, or intermediate anchor. You may also be able to walk off.

Carefully check the length of your rope and the length of the climb you are doing. When lowering your partner, stay tied in to your end. When rapping, confirm your ends are on the ground, knot the ends, rap slowly while watching carefully, or all of the above.

*Assuming you want your rope back. In an emergency situation, if you are less than one full rope length to the ground, leaving your rope behind is usually preferable to spending the night.

Taketaketaketaketake ....take · · Colorado Springs · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 89

Yep, pretty much, you'll need two ropes if there aren't rap anchors at a halfway point -- if there are, you can do two raps. Also, always tie a knot in the ends of your ropes when lowering / rappelling to keep yourself from going right off the end of your rope. It's a really good habit to pick up.

Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 938
beau Griffith wrote: Is there any situation in which you could just use ONE rope to sport-climb? Obviously if the total ascent is less than 30M you can just double your main rope back and lower or rapp off it. I think.
This. Almost all sport pitches are 30 meters or less, and require only one 60 meter rope.

Some modern sport climbs are 35 meters, and are climbed with a single 70 meter rope. A very small number of contemporary climbs were put in with an 80 meter rope, putting the anchors at 40 meters. These latter two classes are fairly rare, fairly modern, usually hard climbs, and always indicated in any guide you read.

Then there's sport multi-pitch, which you need to treat just like trad, and expect to carry two ropes.
Beau Griffith · · Fresno, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 20
Dylan B. wrote: This. Almost all sport pitches are 30 meters or less, and require only one 60 meter rope. Some modern sport climbs are 35 meters, and are climbed with a single 70 meter rope. A very small number of contemporary climbs were put in with an 80 meter rope, putting the anchors at 40 meters. These latter two classes are fairly rare, fairly modern, usually hard climbs, and always indicated in any guide you read. Then there's sport multi-pitch, which you need to treat just like trad, and expect to carry two ropes.
If there were a single-pitch sport climb that was (let's say) 40 meters high, and there were no intermediate double-bolts to set up an intermediate rapp station, what is the general consensus on rapping off of a single bolt?
wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 472

Are you asking because of your question on Dirty Dishes?

"I am confused...this is listed as a single pitch but the beta describes 12 bolts...then says sixth bolt is doubled to rapp down? How many bolts, how many pitches, etc. I am sure I am missing something here but please assist."

The answer was in the description: "2 bolt anchor on top.... a bolted anchor over 170 feet high. The sixth bolt is doubled for the rappel back down."

Boissal · · Small Lake, UT · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 1,290
beau Griffith wrote: If there were a single-pitch sport climb that was (let's say) 40 meters high, and there were no intermediate double-bolts to set up an intermediate rapp station, what is the general consensus on rapping off of a single bolt?
You can do it but the shenanigans involved are dangerous and not worth the effort: you'd have to go direct in a single bolt, pull the rope, re-thread it (and leave a bail biner or quicklink), then finish the rappel.
I'd be happy to claim the bail biner later but quicklinks on bolts make for harder clips...
TBlom · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2004 · Points: 360
beau Griffith wrote: If there were a single-pitch sport climb that was (let's say) 40 meters high, and there were no intermediate double-bolts to set up an intermediate rapp station, what is the general consensus on rapping off of a single bolt?
General consensus is that putting all of your faith in one bolt (of questionable age, installation, and in questionable rock type) is not good. ie, putting all your eggs in one basket. Not that it has never been done in an emergency or when bailing from a route... Trail a second rope tied on the back loop of your harness (don't tie it off to your gear loops).

PS. Yer definitely gonna die! (sorry, couldn't resist)
Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20
beau Griffith wrote: If there were a single-pitch sport climb that was (let's say) 40 meters high, and there were no intermediate double-bolts to set up an intermediate rapp station, what is the general consensus on rapping off of a single bolt?
What you are describing is something I've never seen. Like the person above said, there are a very small number of routes put up that require an 80 meter rope. It's just not something you need to worry about. Pay attention to descriptions in guide books and MP about rope length needed to descend or walk off option, which is pretty common.
Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 938
beau Griffith wrote: If there were a single-pitch sport climb that was (let's say) 40 meters high, and there were no intermediate double-bolts to set up an intermediate rapp station, what is the general consensus on rapping off of a single bolt?
Well, the bolts on sport climbs in North America just have hangars, no rap rings. You would have to leave a bail 'biner behind. Generally, this would be regarded as a last resort for a failed ascent. The safety of rappelling or lowering off of one bolt is debatable, and depends a lot on the circumstances and history of the crag and bolts.

But really you should never be in this position. Know in advance what length rope is necessary to ascend the pitch, and bring that rope with you.

FWIW, I have never brought two ropes up a single pitch sport climb.
Doug S · · W Pa · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 55

Check a guidebook.

Almost all sport climbs are put up with the intent that they can be led, lowered/rapped off and cleaned with one rope. This is just more or less how the game is played. So if there are occasions when the climb doesn't conform to that standard, they make mention of it in route descriptions. Sometimes for example, it's just a rope-stretcher and you need to rap to a block and down climb a few feet. Something like that.

Beau Griffith · · Fresno, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 20

Many thanks all. I guess I was thrown off as I was looking at some single pitch sport routes in my area (Southern Sierra) and I saw a few that were >100 feet (170, 200, etc.) and they didn't have walk-off instructions. Must be a strange anomaly but glad to know it is not the norm.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,440
beau Griffith wrote:I am JUST starting outdoors so please bear with what I believe is probably a criminally stupid question... Assuming that your total climb is more than 30 meters, do you ALWAYS need a second rope (to tie to your climbing rope) to rapp from when sport climbing?
First things first: 50M = 164ft, 60M = 196ft, 70M = 229ft.

If you are sport climbing (by sport climbing, I mean strictly bolt-protected routes that are established and developed so as to require nothing but quickdraws to be protected by all "reasonable" standards), odds are (unless you're in Europe or Potrero Chico in Mexico) that you're climbing single pitch. If that is the case, and it most likely is, then these routes have been established to be used with a 60 or 70M rope. It is rare that a single pitch sport route is taller than 70M. Almost unheard of. There are, of course, exceptions to everything, however. If the route is particularly long, say 33 meters, then you will need a 70M rope. Typically what happens is that the lead climber climbs up to the anchor then at the anchor, the climber puts a quickdraw on each anchor bolt, and then gets lowered off, back to the ground. Since you are very inexperienced, based on the type of question you asked, this bears repeating: ***TIE A KNOT IN THE END OF YOUR ROPE ON THE BELAYER'S END*** Afterwards, the other person can either climb the route on top rope with the rope still in the draws on the anchor, or the rope can be pulled through and the second climber can lead the route. If you don't know how to clean a route (get all your gear back safely when you're done climbing) please seek qualified instruction (which you should do at this point anyway). Most accidents, especially sport climbing occur when A) the climber is being lowered, and B) when the climber and belayer misjudge how long the route is, the rope is too short, and the climber lowers the belayer off the end of the rope because there is NO KNOT TIED IN THE END.

beau Griffith wrote: I am trying to visualize how that would go...climb to the top on your lead rope, safety yourself in to the anchor at the top, top-belay your partner up, then both rapp down...but you would need a second rope to do so, right?


This is incorrect. There is almost no reason to ever belay from the top on a single pitch sport route. Of course exceptions exist like I said earlier, but they are few and far between. If you're climbing a typical sport route, belaying and lowering will occur from the ground. Again this bears repeating, tie a knot in the end of your rope so in case you misjudge or mistake the length of the climb, you won't lower your climber off the end of the rope. The vast majority of the time, the only time one would need two ropes to rappel is if the climb is traditional and/or multi pitch and the pitch is longer than twice a rope length. Sport routes rarely if ever fall into this category.

beau Griffith wrote: Is there any situation in which you could just use ONE rope to sport-climb? Obviously if the total ascent is less than 30M you can just double your main rope back and lower or rapp off it. I think.
Yes, almost all situations. First, the total ascent will rarely be over 30M when sport climbing. Pay attention to guidebooks and research areas and routes before you climb them. Established, bolted sport climbs will likely be documented somewhere if they require more than a 60M rope. Definitely if they require over a 70M rope. Ethics vary by area, but at most areas it's preferable to be lowered off rather than rappel, because if done properly, there's less chance of something going horribly wrong.

  • **DISCLAIMER*** What I've written is not comprehensive, nor should it be construed as instruction. It is the sole responsibility of you and the people you climb with to be properly trained before you venture out and engage in a potentially lethal activity. Climbing is inherently dangerous. Do some research, and seek qualified instruction. And have fun.
Beau Griffith · · Fresno, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 20
wivanoff wrote:Are you asking because of your question on Dirty Dishes? "I am confused...this is listed as a single pitch but the beta describes 12 bolts...then says sixth bolt is doubled to rapp down? How many bolts, how many pitches, etc. I am sure I am missing something here but please assist." The answer was in the description: "2 bolt anchor on top.... a bolted anchor over 170 feet high. The sixth bolt is doubled for the rappel back down."
Oh. Yes. It makes so much sense now that you explain it to me. Thank you!
Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,440
beau Griffith wrote: Oh. Yes. It makes so much sense now that you explain it to me. Thank you!
You would have received a much more concise and understandable pool of responses had you mentioned the route in question.
Beau Griffith · · Fresno, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 20

Also thank you Jake for the exceptional clarification. Huge disclaimer is that I do not plan on gearing up and attacking sport climbs on my own without significantly more in-person mentor ship. Just trying to clarify concepts and ensure I don't need to add $100-150 to my gear budget to rap a single pitch! I see now that lowering is a safer, easier and more sensible choice.

Question regarding lowering at the completion of the final ascent on a given route: I will need to clean my draws/anchor from the top bolts. At this juncture should I rap down off the chains or is it acceptable to be lowered through the chains (as I understand rapping is better for preserving the fixed gear)?

Jake Jones wrote: You would have received a much more concise and understandable pool of responses had you mentioned the route in question.
Good point, thank you.
Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,440
beau Griffith wrote:Also thank you Jake for the exceptional clarification. Huge disclaimer is that I do not plan on gearing up and attacking sport climbs on my own without significantly more in-person mentor ship. Just trying to clarify concepts and ensure I don't need to add $100-150 to my gear budget to rap a single pitch! I see now that lowering is a safer, easier and more sensible choice. Question regarding lowering after completion of the day: I will have cleaned my draws/anchor from the bolts at this point. At this juncture should I rap down off the chains or is it acceptable to be lowered through the chains (as I understand rapping is better for preserving the fixed gear)?
Like I said, it varies by area. I'm sure there are a few areas that the "standing norm" is to rappel off. I know of a few places, however, that if you're sport climbing it's perfectly acceptable to lower off the steel rings and even encouraged in the introductory pages of the guidebooks for these areas. Do some research before you go. Learn the local ethics, look up the classic routes, find the local gear shop and support it. Learn who the local route developers are and who the local legends are. It's all part of the fun of becoming more experienced.
Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 310
beau Griffith wrote:Many thanks all. I guess I was thrown off as I was looking at some single pitch sport routes in my area (Southern Sierra) and I saw a few that were >100 feet (170, 200, etc.) and they didn't have walk-off instructions. Must be a strange anomaly but glad to know it is not the norm.
OK, what climbs in the Southern Sierra are sport climbs and are longer than 30m?

Tons of climbs, in those parts, that have only bolts for pro but are NOT sportclimbs.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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