Metric vs Imperial Units


Original Post
Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 460

I was looking through the Red Rocks Open Space (Colorado Springs) climbing guide to plan out what routes I want to climb in the nice fall weather. All of the rappel/lower distances are in feet. This is true of every guidebook I've seen in the US.

However, I find it ironic that all the ropes are sold in meters - 50, 60, or 70 meters, with a few 80 meter ropes creeping in. So to know if you need two ropes to descend, you have to convert either the rope length to feet or convert the route length to meters.

Wouldn't it be nice if everything was metric? If the route was 28 meters long, you would know instantly your 60m would get you back to the ground or you could toprope your second. All of the comments you see in Mountain Project are "60m gets you to the ground" or "need a 70m to get to the ground," not "a 196.85 ft rope gets you to the ground" or "need a 229.67 foot to get to the ground."

Seems there are many lowering accidents where the rope wasn't long enough. If everything was metric would there be less (or more?) accidents?

I lived in Australia for 5 years and it didn't take long to get used to metric...

Climb Germany · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 2,525

What makes more sense here is that MP allow you to enter both units and either see both, or choose which is displayed. The site can then automatically convert between the two in the background.

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25

This is a puzzling question that goes well beyond climbing guidebooks. The fact that a fair bit of engineering is still done in imperial units boggles the the mind. The rest of the world has moved to metric.... The US is stuck in the dark ages when it comes to measurement systems....

It has been over 40 years since the decision to covert was made...

The Metric Conversion Act is an Act of Congress that U.S. President Gerald Ford signed into law on December 23, 1975.[1] It declared the Metric system "the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce", but permitted the use of United States customary units in non-business activities.

(Oh and the increased difficulties imperial units give to climbers in inconsequential compared to engineering/science.)

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 115

You can't multiply by 3? Ropes are generally made in Europe, where they are on the metric system. We are not. Getting the US to change to the metric system is a debate that has been going on for 40+ years. When I was in elementary school (yes, 40+ years ago) the change was right around the corner.

Folks lower off the end of their ropes because they don't do what they should be doing to stay safe, not because they don't know then need a 70m rope for a 100' route rap.

Jason Halladay · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Oct 2005 · Points: 10,472
Arlo F Niederer wrote:Wouldn't it be nice if everything was metric?
Yes :)

It seems to me the more frequent "rope too short" belay accidents are related to persons using a "gym rope" and taking it outside. That happened a few years ago at a nearby crag and I feel like I saw recent report of a similar issue. That said, Alex Honnold's rope-too-short accident this year was a case of a 60m rope on a route that required a 70m to TR. I don't think having the guidebook show the length in meters would have help there either. So, I don't know...
Tradgic Yogurt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 55

God I hope not, switching from acre-ft to acre-m of water would be a paperwork nightmare.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

Yes, it would be nice.

However, you really only need to remember two numbers for lowering purposes.

If the route is 100 feet or less, you can lower with a 60m

If the route is 115 feet or less, you can lower with a 70m.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,599

Very good -- that gets to the heart of it for most non-alpine climbing contexts.

Now on to ...
cross-cultural differences which are tricky because we tend to automatically think we do know what they mean.

  • numerical date formats: the date 03-11-2016 in Europe does not mean the 11th day of March.
  • the word "RAPPEL" appears on road signs all over France, but despite the obvious guess made by visiting climbers driving rental cars, it does not mean "slow down".
Clint White aka Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 158
patto wrote:This is a puzzling question that goes well beyond climbing guidebooks. The fact that a fair bit of engineering is still done in imperial units boggles the the mind. The rest of the world has moved to metric.... The US is stuck in the dark ages when it comes to measurement systems.... It has been over 40 years since the decision to covert was made... The Metric Conversion Act is an Act of Congress that U.S. President Gerald Ford signed into law on December 23, 1975.[1] It declared the Metric system "the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce", but permitted the use of United States customary units in non-business activities. (Oh and the increased difficulties imperial units give to climbers in inconsequential compared to engineering/science.)
Allow me to add to the stoopid 'Muricans debate. We treat water by the gallon, sell by cubic yards I think, yet all chemical doses are done in mg/L. The conversions are nuts! Most water production employees can't add a column of three numbers together. That is who produces your water too, I guarantee it.

America needs to remove its head from the nether regions, but by the look of this election we are trying to go deeper in to the nether.

I measure in metrics, Celsius, etc. life is good here. Just go through your guidebooks and make the conversions, or know that threshold where X ft is too many for a 60. Canada is looking nice these days. I will know in 6 weeks if I am moving there (election day)!
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Our current system of measurement works just fine, thank you. I've never found myself saying, "If only this were in the metric system, it would be so much easier."

Clint White aka Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 158
Tradgic Yogurt wrote:God I hope not, switching from acre-ft to acre-m of water would be a paperwork nightmare.
It wouldn't be acre anything! That is the beauty of it. Try km2-m or something like that. Once done it is done, no looking back. Same with recipes. Cups, pints, table and tea spoons. We are the stoopedist on the planet here.

All my dates are dd Month yyyy. I can't tell you how many arguments people find it necessary to have in order to back up their senseless ways. Smallest to biggest. Days to years. Do we write time in hours:seconds:minutes:days?!? Nope!
Clint White aka Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 158
FrankPS wrote:Our current system of measurement works just fine, thank you. I've never found myself saying, "If only this were in the metric system, it would be so much easier."
Maybe you don't measure anything in your life. Maybe you avoid math. You will not know until you do extensive page long calculations on things in metric, then ponder how stupid it would be in 'Murican standard.
Clint White aka Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 158
Matt Himmelstein wrote:You can't multiply by 3? Ropes are generally made in Europe, where they are on the metric system. We are not. Getting the US to change to the metric system is a debate that has been going on for 40+ years. When I was in elementary school (yes, 40+ years ago) the change was right around the corner. Folks lower off the end of their ropes because they don't do what they should be doing to stay safe, not because they don't know then need a 70m rope for a 100' route rap.

3.3ft/m, a 10% difference to the 3'/yd. it might just make things safer. I can do the mental math back and forth at the crag. Most people I meet can't.
20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,352
Faulted Geologist wrote: 3.3ft/m, a 10% difference to the 3'/yd. it might just make things safer. I can do the mental math back and forth at the crag. Most people I meet can't.
Or just remember 60m is 197' and 70m is 230'. It's only two numbers to memorize. No math required.
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Faulted Geologist wrote: Maybe you don't measure anything in your life. Maybe you avoid math. You will not know until you do extensive page long calculations on things in metric, then ponder how stupid it would be in 'Murican standard.
I was a machinist for many years, so I've measured a couple of things before. Tolerances in "thousandths of an inch," not metric units.
Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 958
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

This song just wouldn't be the same in metric units. It wouldn't sound right to say "My big 25.4 centimeters."

https://youtu.be/gweUVWUYYQ8

Clint White aka Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 158
Jason Todd wrote:There are two types of countries: Those who use the metric system, and those who have been to the moon. Go USA!
We never landed on the moon! Don't you listen to the conspiracy theorists?!? I think our measurements were off by a considerable amount so they cut to the stage props in Nasawood.

Funniest thing I have seen today! Props!
Clint White aka Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 158
FrankPS wrote: I was a machinist for many years, so I've measured a couple of things before. Tolerances in "thousandths of an inch," not metric units.
Don't you mean tolerances in hundredths of a millimeter? You may have measured something, but that has little to do with performing complex calculations. One cannot do chemistry in 'Murican standard. I would assume the engineers and metallurgists are working in different units than the machinist.

There is not a single reason for using 'Murican Standard, just people excusing themselves. Guidebooks are no different. The problem is all the kids are raised not knowing how to function scientifically in this country.
Clint White aka Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 158
FrankPS wrote:This song just wouldn't be the same in metric units. It wouldn't sound right to say "My big 25.4 centimeters." youtu.be/gweUVWUYYQ8
Sounds pretty big. I mix 30cm records, though I do have some 25.4cm and 17.8cm records. Time to re-record that song.
kevin neville · · Somerville, MA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 15
Faulted Geologist wrote: All my dates are dd Month yyyy. I can't tell you how many arguments people find it necessary to have in order to back up their senseless ways. Smallest to biggest. Days to years. Do we write time in hours:seconds:minutes:days?!? Nope!
Personally I prefer yyyy_mm_dd, including leading zeros on month and day. Today is 2016_09_29. That way files and folders can be sorted alphabetically, presto change-o they're chronologic too.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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