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multi pitch rope and rap/tag line

Original Post
wcayler · · Chico CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 214

I'm getting a new rope and wonder what peoples thoughts as to what lengths and diameters for multipitch ropes and tag line should be. I'm considering getting a tag line because I'm kind of tired taking too single ropes up a long climb just i case we need to bail or if we need to do lot of raps. I have always thought 70m was ideal for a little extra length and if you need to cut the ends for what ever reason. But is 60 ideal for multipitch because there is less rope to handle and pull up? Ideal diameter being between 9.5 and 9.8mm? 70m is also good for cragging though.

75 meter tag line is obvious for a 70m for many reasons (rope stretch and slippage if double rope rappelling), and 65m for 60m rope. How do people prefer to use their tag lines, biner block or double rope rappel? I have a separate tag line for hauling its 9mm, felt like 8mm was to skinny but maybe 8mm is better. Do people use 7mm ropes for double rope rappelling or do you go to a biner block for that diameter? Is a biner block really only needed when you damage one of your ropes? 

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

Unless you’re pushing the limits of what you can carry get a 70.  If you want a dedicated tag and don’t plan on hauling look up the Edelrid “rap line”. 

wcayler · · Chico CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 214

Thats what a felt about a 60 vs 70m, cool thanks. Looks like its 6 or 6.5mm, and pretty expensive. Would us use it as a double rope rap or biner block?

Edit: its expensive because it can hold a leader fall, makes sense.

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,631

I climbed multi-pitch many places without a 70 for a decade .... used a 60, sometimes with a tag line if the climb and/or rap descent warranted.

Now, when I use a 70, it bugs me to be pulling up an additional 30 feet of rope every pitch. And then at the top having to butterfly coil that extra 30 feet and put it on my back again.

So better just get a 70 or why not an 80 so as to get used to it right away. ;-)

wcayler · · Chico CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 214

Really interested in what diameter people use for rap line, diameter wise and how they use them (biner block vs double rope rappels)

Joe Prescott · · Berlin Germany · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 6

I have a 6mm tag line that I've used for several years and many descents, pretty much always as a double rope rap with my 60m or 70m lead ropes. Just cut it off a spool at the gear shop. Has worked very well.

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

I have used a 5.5mm technora as a tagline for the last 8 years. It's durable, has a high melting point, so you can rappel on it without it melting. I occasionally  use a biner block if it's a super clean, steep rope pull, but still put both ropes through the rappel device. I feel that using a 60m 9.2 or smaller lead line with the 5mm tagline  makes for a light combo, if your going bigger on the tagline, and you know you are going to be rappelling the route, you might as well use a pair of half ropes, if your not going to be doing any hauling or the second will not be doing any jugging on the lead line. 

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,631

Have used 5, 6, and 7mm tagline. I prefer 6mm as is my current one. Static canyoneering cord - less work to pull.

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,631

As for how to join, I have done the biner block as well as an EDK dressed so the skinny cord must roll over the fat when capsizing. I use the former when there is concern the knot might pull through the hardware - not good if it does.

Edit to add:  A significant problem unique to the biner block is when there is anything that can get in the way of the skinny and fat cords coming together during the pull.  A major offender is vegetation.  If that fat goes one way around - say - a small shrub and the skinny goes another, the biner is stopped when it comes down against the bush. 

J W · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,545

60m 8mm half rope for me. Regular overhand knot to join, still fits in a small pack, and I can  lead on it in a pinch. I never got into the idea of a skinny static tag line- maybe if I didn't climb in red rock... 

Hans Bauck · · Squamish, BC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 2,102

Climb on two half ropes using double rope technique. I like 60s.

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,631

I also now own a pair of doubles.  They come out once in a while but no where near as often as my single 60m.  And given the doubles, the tag line comes out even less.

What I bring depends on the climb.  Fortunately, these years, I have options.  But it wasn't always that way. 

Jay Morse · · Hooksett, New Hampshire · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 30

60m vs 70m totally depends on where you climb.

For the diameter of your tag line, there are two schools of thought.  One is that you want a tag line you will be able to lead on in case the rope gets stuck when you are pulling.  The other is to use a tag line that is as light, thin, and packable as possible (such as cordelette or even paracord).  Proponents will say that using a static tag line makes for an easier pull due to less stretch. The obvious drawback to a super thin and/or static tag line is that if you pull the rope and the rope gets stuck, you are stranded.  You will also probably find that managing rope that thin and that long is a major pain in the ass.

My opinion is that you should use the thinnest diameter dynamic rope that you are comfortable leading on in a pinch.  The idea of a stuck rope possibly stranding me on a wall frightens me.  

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,631

Managing a skinny tag line definitely takes extra care. An empirical study with decreasing cord diameters mechanically shook in a box showed a correlation with increasing tangles. Not surprising but there it is.

wcayler · · Chico CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 214

Bill, your commentary on the subject is quite funny.

Been doing more research, guess I should have looked up more before I asked the question... Like anything in climbing there seems to be little consensus on what is best and is all situational...

If you are just using it for bailing 7-8mm is fine for double rope rappels. If you are using it for bailing static is fine, but if you are using for planed raps a twin or half rope is better but might as well use half or twin ropes at that point, just in case your rope gets stuck pulling. If you use a 5-6mm tag line use it as a pull cord with a biner block but there are more chances it will get stuck and sounds like it can be a pain. Obviously this is very situational.

I think I'll either get a 7mm static or a half rope, leaning towards the static because it is so cheap and will do what I want it to do for now.

People think of some stupid stuff on this topic, like the static line will melt when rappelling , always pass the lead line through the rap rings with double rope rappelling cause the static isn't strong enough, and a back up on the lead line isn't necessary for a biner block. YUR GONNA DIE!!!

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,631

Yep, YGD.  :-)

Joe Prescott · · Berlin Germany · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 6

People are obviously going to be biased for what they have used, and there is no right answer. I have doubles (7.8mm) that I use for ice and rarely rock. Unless a route really wanders and requires it, I'd usually rather lead and belay on a single. 70m is the most versatile IMO if you are looking to buy only 1 lead rope. I pair mine with a 62m 6mm static (35-40 cents/foot). When rapping, you pretty rarely need more than 60m, so there is not much or a reason to have a 70m tag line. I rap both as doubles (tie knots in ends). I don't see much knot creep. If it is windy or snaggy, I'll set it up so I pull the static. If clean raps, pull dynamic or alternate. 6-7mm static is a lot cheaper, and I think lighter and more compact than a 7mm dynamic.

Z Winters · · Mazama, WA · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 220

I'm a convert. About 7 pitches up, I go to pull my 7mm static tag, and when the end of my 9.4 single is about 40ft out of reach, the EDK gets hopelessly suck in the patina. I've got 40ft of static 7mm in my hand at a hanging belay. Now what? I'd recommend having a plan for this if you decide to go with a static tag.

I now use a single 9.4 with and 8.1 half rope tag or two 8.1 half ropes, depending on the route.

Kedron Silsbee · · Munich · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 0

I personally use ropes that are rated both as twins and halves.  Normally I find using double ropes to be annoying, but when clipped together as twins, it seems only mildly more cluster-prone than a single rope, and it's nice to be able to use them as halves occasionally to mitigate rope drag.  I haven't tried to figure it out, but I doubt they weigh a lot more than a single + tag line configuration; plus nobody has to carry the tagline on the climb.  Finally, I am comfortable leading on one of them if the knot gets stuck while I'm pulling.  This last point, as others have emphasized, is not something I would be willing to compromise on.  I've never had a situation where I've had to lead back up to get a stuck rope on a multi-pitch rappel, but I have more than once had the knot get stuck after I started pulling.  Just by chance, it got stuck before the end of the rope was out of reach, but it definitely doesn't seem implausible that one day it will wait until the end of the rope is gone.  Given how completely fucked you would be then (depending on the terrain), even a small chance of it happening once in my life seems like too much.

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,631

Compelling stories. Using a tag line does add some risk, in more ways than one.  

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456

I climb on 60 9.8 and 9.9s as that's what works with the Eddy device I use for rope soloing, but I do like those diameters in a single when climbing with partners. As was mentioned by others I also tend to find 70's more annoying than not and taglines to be more trouble than they're worth bothering with. That changes in places like Red Rock where you can end up rapping a lot and I tend to take the hint from the locals and just climb with twins so you're climbing and rapping on the same ropes and not hauling anything else along just for rapping.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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