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Tips for rope management of double ropes


Original Post
Sam Root · · Pocatello, ID · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 30

Hey all! Fairly often I find myself climbing in a party of three (unfortunately) and have been getting pretty frustrated with the rope mess that happens on multi pitches. Does anybody have any tips for keeping the mess to a minimum? Does leading in blocks or swinging leads every pitch work better for you guys?

Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585

Blocks. Changing leads generally requires someone to untie a rope end.

ollieon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 40

Lead in blocks.

I use an ATC to belay both up at the same time. I'm tied into both of them. When I anchor, I do a clove hitch on one of the ropes.

Coil each followers rope separately (I butterfly them over my attachment), being careful to stack one right in front of me, and the other maybe an extra 8" away. If you keep them separate, it's usually a matter of flipping one to each follower when they get there.

Sam Root · · Pocatello, ID · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 30
ollieon wrote: Lead in blocks.

I use an ATC to belay both up at the same time. I'm tied into both of them. When I anchor, I do a clove hitch on one of the ropes.

Coil each followers rope separately (I butterfly them over my attachment), being careful to stack one right in front of me, and the other maybe an extra 8" away. If you keep them separate, it's usually a matter of flipping one to each follower when they get there.

So do you stack each followers rope on the same attachment point? Or could you clove hitch in with both ropes and stack each rope on its own attachment?

David · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 66

There is a chapter on this in Chauvin and Coppolillo's Mountain Guide Manual which I highly recommend (haven't seen this information covered in any other books).

Otherwise the biggest things I learned from doing this a lot last summer were
Lead in blocks
Treat the two ropes as one (stack them on the same attachment point) BUT
If the followers climb at unequal speeds (they always do) *wait until you have enough rope to stack both ropes together*
If you try to stack each rope individually as soon as you take up any slack in that rope, they will turn into a mess due to being stacked unevenly

Marc H · · Longmont, CO · Joined May 2007 · Points: 250

Lead in blocks and buy (or make) a rope hook.

ollieon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 40

I do stack each follower's rope on the same attachment point, I keep the piles separate by coiling one rope right in front of me, and the other rope right behind that one.

John Vanek · · Gardnerville, NV · Joined May 2013 · Points: 0

Also from The Mountain Guide's Manual, if you are climbing on single-rated ropes, tie into one rope and have your belayer use that rope. Clip the second rope into your harness tie-in (not belay loop) with a locker. If you get the ropes twisted, unclip the locker to remove the twists. When belaying your followers tie both ropes into the anchor with a clove hitch and then attach your ATC.

As mentioned, lead in blocks.

Also, if climbing ice or rock where there is low risk of your ropes getting caught on something, let them hang down the route.

Rob D. · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined May 2011 · Points: 30

I find stacking as if it's one rope to be the easiest way and everyone else has said, don't swap leads unless you're untying ropes.  

Peter Brown-Whale · · Randallstown, MD · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 20

Don't have your followers tie in until you are finished leading the first pitch and have pulled up most of the extra rope. Should help remove twist in the rope before it becomes a problem

kat · · SLC · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 45

Thank you to the people who recommended The Mountain Guide's Manual. I'd never heard of it before, but it seems to have a wealth of information and techniques that aren't covered in many other books

Alex S · · Ridgecrest CA · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 487

Ill echo what other have said:
-Lead in blocks, fewer leader switches the better.
-Keep the ropes isolated. build anchors with cord/webbing, anchor in with personal anchors
-When your followers are climbing, find a way to coil each rope separately.  on hanging belays ill typically coil the ropes over my personal anchor and place a draw or sling in-between the two ropes to keep them in separate coils.
-Inevitably squeezing 3 people onto cramped belays will result in ropes thread thru each other and other weird tangles and loops. Sometimes the quickest way to fix these is to have those affected by the weirdness untie/fix the issue/retie. Hence why everyone having a personal anchor is useful.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 507

I've done a my fair share of parties of 3 and I wouldn't automatically limit yourself to only leading in blocks or only constructing anchors without the rope. Yes, it can be a little bit more tricky to handle things and requires a little bit more forethought but it can be done and should be considered as an option if there are compelling reasons to do so.

It will take time and practice to get very streamlined, however, so it can be useful to start out on smaller routes, preferably with big comfy belay ledges while you are practicing and refining your skills. While you're still learning and figuring it out, you're going to encounter little clusterfucks and tangles, so as mentioned before, it's very useful to have both a clear masterpoint and a tether to temporarily clip in to untie as needed. This can be a dedicated tether or it can even just be a quickdraw (with lockers if you prefer) you can clip from your belay loop to the masterpoint real quick. 

Here's an example of some of the forethought that can really help a lot from climbing some routes in RR in a group of 3 just last week:

You're leading a pitch, tied into both ropes with red rope for follower 1 and yellow rope for follower 2 and we are swinging leads. I arrive at a 2 bolt anchor and I think to myself, "who is leading the next pitch and which color rope are they following on?".

Follower one (red) is leading the next pitch so I want to build my anchor with the red rope because follower 2 wants to stay tied in with yellow and therefore I want to stay tied in with red. I want follower 1 (red) to start climbing first (it's nice to space out your two followers by ~50' or so if you're belaying them simultaneously) so that they are likely to arrive at the belay first, then they can start racking up for the next pitch while follower 2 is finishing the pitch.

Fran M · · Cottbus, DE · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0

I also find that stacking or lap coiling both ropes as if they were one works the best. To avoid twists I keep a loop as big as the terrain allows to feed the leader. I built my anchors with the rope most times unless switching leads. I try to use both strands equally an dbelay from the master point if there is a solid upwards placement available.

if i need to have the ropes separated when bringing up followers I stack them if there is a ledge or make a coil on each foot

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 507

You may have also figured this out because it's kind of simple but here's another quality of life tip for belaying 2 followers simultaneously:

When pulling up ropes to feed them in the guide plate, I will pull them up individually and then when it comes tight on my follower, I clove it off to a biner or quickdraw where I have one handy. Repeat for the other rope. Then I take the backsides of both the cloves and feed them into the guideplate while they are slack.

That way I'm not fighting the weight of the rope while trying to feed it into my device, nor do I have to clip them in one at a time, which can be kind of difficult with some belay devices. I'm embarrassed to admit how long I struggled with the rope weight before figuring this out.

Rprops · · North Las Vegas · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 1,063

I've got this problem licked.  Buy a snake charmer rope bag from fish, or use an Ikea bag to try first.  You flake each rope into its own compartment, goes super smooth.  Then untying/retying is super clean and straight forward, no mess, no tangles for the belaying (big issue when you're bringing your Gumby buddies out), you can move the rope around the belay.   Scrunch it up and clip it to your waist, size of one those 40' cordalette y'all are so fond of.
Every guide should own 2 snake charmers.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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