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Two workhorse singles vs Triple rated + Twin vs Single + Tagline


Original Post
Shepido · · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 50

Recently I have been getting out on longer and more remote routes where being able to do full length rappels would be advantageous to getting down faster. Lacking a half/twin rope setup I have instead lugged out 2 workhorse singles up the route; leading with one, and the second lugging the other in the pack. It sucks lugging almost 20 lbs of rope up a several mile approach with a few thousand in elevation gain (and back down as well). In a perfect world I would get a lightweight twin/half rope setup and be done with it. However, I recently went out on a really simple route with a set of half/twins and found that the hassle of rope management likely mitigated any time savings we gained by making fewer rappels. Finding partners for ice is hard enough already and in my current mix of partners it's pretty unrealistic to assume that they will put in the time necessary to get a lot better at rope management to fully realize the potential of having two ropes on a route. 

In reading through the forum archives one recommendation I have seen a lot is to lead a route with a lightweight single (or triple rated), and then have a half/twin to rappel with. It also allows you the option of utilizing a twin/half rope setup if the specific route demands it. The other option is a tagline. With respect to the tagline, smaller taglines tend to require some sort of setup with a rap ring or carabiner  (and essentially you rap on the larger rope), whereas with a larger tagline you treat it more like a regular rope, just overhand knot it with 12" to 18" of tail and rappel. Looking at the cost of a 7mm or 8mm tagline - it's fairly comparable to the cost of a 7mm-8mm half/twin rope. So I am not sure what is the best option. Perhaps it's simply to just deal with the hassle of two workhorse ropes until I find a partner willing to put the time and effort in to really utilize the advantages twins will have. 

Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 71

My two cents: 

  • single + tag if it is a walk off but you want the option to bail or a single rap longer than 35m
  • twins/halfs if multiple raps are required


Curt Veldhuisen · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 642

Curious what your half rope trial looked like?  If you alternate clips or stack the ropes separately while belaying, yes it's lots more hassle.  But if you treat your doubles like a single rope, not so much. What I'm talking about is clipping them together on lead and stacking them together. Really worth it for the reduced weight and unsurpassed flexibility. 

Highlander · · Ouray, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 255

When ice climbing I prefer 70m half ropes, allows long pitches, able to manage any potential rope drag easily, usually rappelling routes so they make for a quick egress.

Rock climbing I usually prefer a skinny single and a 5mm tagline that can stay in a pack or be used as a tagline/haul line when needed. 

Never been a fan of twins.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 242
Curt Veldhuisen wrote:

But if you treat your doubles like a single rope, not so much. What I'm talking about is clipping them together on lead and stacking them together. 

If you use this technique, you must be using "twin" ropes, not "double" (or "half") ropes.  Many, but not all, are certified as both, so it's important to verify that you are using the correct rope for the job.

OP, I use half ropes for the purpose you have outlined.  When used in a party of 2, I have nearly zero issues with rope management.  Just belay and stack/coil the ropes together like you would with twins.  If you're leading in blocks, flipping the stack can be risky, so I prefer to re-flake before leading off again.  Parties of 3 require separating the stacks because the two followers move at different times/speeds.

If you're going to use a tagline system, buying an 8 mm tag doesn't make much sense to me, as you might as well use a real twin/half rope at that point.  Go skinny and understand the associated risks (namely, how to manage a stuck rope when pulling down the skinny static cord), and consider the fact that a stuck rope is probably a lot less likely on ice than it is on rock.

In some ways, I think ice climbing is the least sensitive type of climbing with regard to rope systems.  You don't fall, routes don't tend to wander as much (and pro is spaced further out), and ropes tend to snag less when being pulled.  As such, all the key differences, advantages, and disadvantages of the various systems become less pronounced.  Any of them will probably work fine.

JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,006

It does take a few outings to get used to doubles.  It's worth the investment.

Shepido · · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 50
Curt Veldhuisen wrote:

Curious what your half rope trial looked like?  If you alternate clips or stack the ropes separately while belaying, yes it's lots more hassle.  But if you treat your doubles like a single rope, not so much. What I'm talking about is clipping them together on lead and stacking them together. Really worth it for the reduced weight and unsurpassed flexibility. 

It was a bit of a disaster. First they were my partners ropes and he had the ropes coiled oddly so just flaking them at the base turned into twice the work. Then I used them for pitch 1 and 2 as twins (clipping both strands to each screw) which seemed like a bit of a hassle, probably somewhat due to it being really cold and wearing bigger gloves than normal. I wasn't sure if it was faster to clip one strand at a time, or both at the same time.  When I got to the belay I was not sure if I should clove just one or both ropes, initially I cloved one and then began to pull up slack, then I decided that looked odd and so I had two separate cloves at the belay. When I was belaying I couldn't figure out if I should be piling the rope over the stands attached to the master point or piling them up on the ground. I ended up piling them on the ground. They became tangled. On pitch 3 I used them as a half rope (which made clipping easier) but I couldn't remember which line to clip so I had to look down or over my shoulder a lot to remember. The rappelling went ok on the whole, and we were able to get down in just two rappels. Certainly a lot of snafus from both me and my partner.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 242

This Petzl video has some great footage of how to manage 2 ropes (towards the end of the video): https://www.petzl.com/INT/en/Sport/video/Ice-climbing-basics--Ice-screw-placement--anchors-and-V-threads

Note that there is more than one way of doing this, and not everybody will build (and connect to) anchors the same way they show.  In any case, they belay and coil the ropes together, like it was a single rope.

Andrew G · · San Diego, CA · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 348
Shepido wrote:

It was a bit of a disaster. First they were my partners ropes and he had the ropes coiled oddly so just flaking them at the base turned into twice the work. Then I used them for pitch 1 and 2 as twins (clipping both strands to each screw) which seemed like a bit of a hassle, probably somewhat due to it being really cold and wearing bigger gloves than normal. I wasn't sure if it was faster to clip one strand at a time, or both at the same time.  When I got to the belay I was not sure if I should clove just one or both ropes, initially I cloved one and then began to pull up slack, then I decided that looked odd and so I had two separate cloves at the belay. When I was belaying I couldn't figure out if I should be piling the rope over the stands attached to the master point or piling them up on the ground. I ended up piling them on the ground. They became tangled. On pitch 3 I used them as a half rope (which made clipping easier) but I couldn't remember which line to clip so I had to look down or over my shoulder a lot to remember. The rappelling went ok on the whole, and we were able to get down in just two rappels. Certainly a lot of snafus from both me and my partner.

All of these issues seem like they'll be easily resolved with the foresight that comes from experience, and I think you might be drastically over-estimating the amount of experience you'll need to get comfortable with the system. You should give it another try or two. I bet your next experience would be pretty smooth, and by your third outing, you'd wonder why you even considered other options.

Ira O · · Hardwick, VT · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 61

Half ropes are the best.  Less drag, longer rappels,  easier to link pitches, less zippering danger, don't have to pull out a ton of slack when you clip a piece, easier to climb in a party of 3..... I almost always use them on multi pitch trad. Cons are: some people aren't used to belaying with them, you need to pay more attention to rope management, and you can't belay with grigri. Also, I do not recommend blue water 8.4 mm ropes, they are prone to tangling. I personally really like the edelweiss oxygen half ropes, 8.2mm . They are awesome. 

Alex James · · Ballard, WA · Joined May 2016 · Points: 186

I'd second all the points on here about getting half ropes. I switched to half ropes, and never want to go back. The only piece of advice I can offer for the tangling is the following: my partner and I found that flaking the ropes through an atc (not necessarily in a bight, just run it through the two holes) when on the ground helps a lot. It separates the two ropes to be one side of each even though they are stacked together. It stops the strands from being super garbled when your second gets up to the belay. It takes a little bit longer on the ground, but the effect lasts for the whole climb unless you untie at some point. 

I highly recommend the new BD 7.8mm half/twin ropes. They're certified as both so you can treat them as twins like one rope if you have a partner not used to belaying on halves. They also are really durable, I didn't expect 7.8mm ropes to hold up so well. 

Gold Plated Rocket Pony · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 91

I've always gone with a ~9.5mm main single and a tag line mainly b/c I like being belayed with a grigri which tosses the twins out the door but really feels like personal preference. I wanted to pick up one of these but haven't seem to find one state-side: https://www.edelrid.com/us/sports/accessory-cords/rap-line-ii-6-mm.html (haven't looked horribly hard for one). Use it like a normal tag line but if your main gets blown up somehow mid-route and your only option is up you could lead with it in a pinch. Cool concept if nothing else.


Gold Plated Rocket Pony · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 91
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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