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Impact of rope on belay device braking


Original Post
Paul Deger · · Colorado · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 35

In another thread about belay devices, the impact of rope on device's capacity to break was introduced, specifically the impact of dry treatment, especially on skinnier ropes. I could not find any other thread dedicated to this topic. As I consider my next rope purchase - for just sport and trad, no ice, I am wondering about the benefits and disadvantages of dry treatment as it relates to rope wear/life and braking ability. Is it worth the added expense and does it lessen safety?
Thanks in advance.

Don Ferris · · Eldorado Springs · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 175

I don't know about all that but I'd recommend getting a Bluewater. Highly recommend the 9.3 wave. I've had 3 of their ropes and all have been my favorite in their day. Good characteristics across the board. I've owned half a dozen other ropes from various brands (mammut, edelweiss, edelrid) and none of them are as awesome.

duggk · · arlington · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 110

dry treated sheaths have better abrasion resistance and are a little slicker through a belay device but not enough to really be an issue. i think the sheath durability is worth it

climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215

Many factors affect how the rope handles in a belay device. Rope diameter, dry treatment and hand (how stiff or flexible the rope is) come to mind.

I prefer thinner ropes because they weigh less and I carry them a long distance to the climbs. I prefer dry treated ropes because they flow more easily over the rock and less rope drag, are easier to pull through a belay device, and probably last a bit longer. I like middle flexible ropes just because. It almost never rains on me, so my ropes don't actually get wet very often. Modern dry treatments seem to last much longer than dry treatments 10+ years ago.

One of my partners had a set of non-dry treated double ropes and they were very difficult to pull through the belay device in guide mode. I hated those ropes and would throw them away if they were mine. I have a similar set of double ropes that are dry treated and they are pleasant to pull through the belay device in guide mode.

You can easily tell the difference rappelling with dry vs non-dry, thin vs. thick ropes.

I have had many bluewater ropes that I liked and one I did not. The one I did not like got a several foot long core shot when pulling it down from a rapel. The rope was basically new and had only been used a few times (<5). There could have been something unusually sharp that damaged the rope; in any case I decided to change brands for a while.

Currently I am using mammut ropes and they seem really good and durable. I am 1.5 years into a 8.9 mm serenity trad climbing almost every weekend. It is still in pretty good shape(as good as the 9.5 mm edelrid with the same use) but starting to get worn. I suspect it will need to be replaced within few months.

I had a edelweiss(9.7?) and it was not durable at all. I did not like this rope at all.

I have a edelrid 9.5(?) and it has been durable and a good rope but stiffer than the others.

Mostly I use an alpine up with edelrid steel bruce carabiner for my belay device (90%). I also have and sporadically use a grigri, wild country ATC guide clone, mega-jul, micro-jul, and alpine smart, ATC, reverso.

For many of the newer generation of belay devices the carabiner matched to belay device is critical to have good performance. I recommend going with the carabiner the manufacturer of the belay device makes if possible. The one that came with the Alpine Up wore out and I tried many replacement and like the edelrid bruce because it has a similar shape and the steel because it does not seem to wear at all and it is not too heavy. The bruce also works well with the jul devices.

sherb · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 60

I personally find a more secure belay when using an ATC once the dry treatment wears off, and it will eventually wear off. On skinny ropes extra friction may be nice, on thick ropes not so nice.

Guide mode is often a pain in the ass to pull through. But skinny ropes easier to pull thru anyway.

Also be careful joining 2 dry treated ropes making sure there are enough tails, when new they might be slicker causing the knot to slip more.

I buy both since I never climb ice. I don't mind it but no longer seek it. Some people say it offers abrasion resistance but only while it hasn't washed off.

Mike Slavens · · Houston, TX · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 35

See section on dry treatments:
Outdoor Gear Lab Recommendation

The benefits are:
-Reduced friction/rope drag
-Increased rope life
-Benefits of keeping rope drier in rain or humid weather

Downsides are:
-Increased cost
-Reduced friction through belay device

Most of the climbing community agrees that dry treatments add life to the rope because of the reduced friction (both internal and external) and thus the reduced wear and tear. It also has benefit in rain storms or climbing in humid weather regardless if you never go ice climbing. Personally I feel dry treated ropes stay a bit cleaner (also adding to the longevity of the rope) but I don't have any hard proof of that.

Dry treatments do make the rope a bit slicker through the belay device which can cause issue on long free hanging rappels or catching big leader falls with the leader being much heavier than the belayer but this really only comes into play on skinny ropes (8.8 or smaller) and can be mitigated other ways.

All in all I think consensus is the dry treatment is worth it.

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,745

The big variable affecting "braking ability" is how slick the rope is. And there's no doubt that new, dry coated ropes are slick. To the extent that this causes them to run through the belay device while catching a fall, then yes, the braking event will be affected. Using belay gloves is a very good idea when the device-rope combo provides relatively little friction. And you should read up on the risk of rope inversion when using skinny cords in guide mode.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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