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Double Ropes... 1 Triple rated rope + 1 half? Brilliant or dumb?


Original Post
Svvenson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

I've been lugging two 9.8mm ropes up alpine routes for years and figured it makes sense to finally go in on a pair of doubles. However, it would also be nice to have a lightweight triple-rated rope when it doesn't make sense to bring up two.

I'll mostly be climbing in the Tetons / Winds. Often as a party of 3, but sometimes as a duo. Obviously a lot of these routes can be rappelled with a single 70m, but I like knowing that I can bail quickly on two ropes if the weather turns.

A few questions:

Does it make sense to buy a 70M Beal Opera, and then get a cheaper 8.4mm or 8.5mm 60m half rope for when doubles are warranted?

Is mixing of double-ropes advisable, or are you supposed to use identical pairs?

Are double ropes tougher or more fragile than I'm giving them credit for? In reality, would I be fine taking a single half rope up on an alpine climb? Or should I be concerned about belayed a 3rd up on a half rope?

Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 290

The Beal Opera is 8.5 triple rated and is also Unicore.  I have been switching over to Unicore lines the last few  years after riding the sheath on a fixed line on El Cap.  It makes sense for the added protection.

greggrylls · · Salt Lake City · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 217

Totally normal,  my ice rope setup is a 9mm triple rated petzl and a 8mm mammut half.

Half’s are definitely strong enough and there has been some debate about them being tougher for the real danger (sheath cutting) than triple rated ropes.

0 concern bringing up a second.  As far as leading on one.   It’s a personal call, I’ve done it on glaciated stuff and would on a short easy rock route.  On a longer route 8mm starts looking thin.

If you know the limitations and the choice you’re making then go for it.  Based on the fact you're asking i'd say stick to the real rope when leading.   
EDIT: You're.. sigh no more typing fast on mobile.

cassondra l · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2008 · Points: 310

Sorry, I don’t understand why this is in question. If two half ropes are ok, why is one half rope and a burlier rope not ok?

Jared Casper · · St. George, UT · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 10
cassondra l wrote: Sorry, I don’t understand why this is in question. If two half ropes are ok, why is one half rope and a burlier rope not ok?

For example, I've read that using two different types of rope as twins (i.e. clipping both to each piece) is bad because if one stretches significantly more than the other they could rub together under tension at each biner causing problems. Doesn't seem unreasonable to check that there aren't similar or other issues when using half ropes.

Linnaeus · · ID · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0
Jared Casper wrote:

For example, I've read that using two different types of rope as twins (i.e. clipping both to each piece) is bad because if one stretches significantly more than the other they could rub together under tension at each biner causing problems. Doesn't seem unreasonable to check that there aren't similar or other issues when using half ropes.

If you are clipping them as twins the whole time they will each stretch the same amount at the same time, and there isn’t any appreciable rubbing. However, even if you switch back and forth between twin and half technique the rubbing idea is really a myth in practice, since even if rope A rubs on rope B at the biner, rope B is moving through the biner also so any rubbing is at a continually different spot, and so abrasion doesn’t accumulate on one spot. 

Jared Casper · · St. George, UT · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 10
Linnaeus wrote:

If you are clipping them as twins the whole time they will each stretch the same amount at the same time, and there isn’t any appreciable rubbing. However, even if you switch back and forth between twin and half technique the rubbing idea is really a myth in practice, since even if rope A rubs on rope B at the biner, rope B is moving through the biner also so any rubbing is at a continually different spot, and so abrasion doesn’t accumulate on one spot. 

Makes sense, thanks.  I was mostly providing an example of why it's at least not a dumb question.

Ky Dame · · The West · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 145

One thing to note is that in practice it's better to have your ropes the same length. A 70m and a 60m together can add little annoying rope management issues that really add up in time and frustration when you start having a lot of belays. 

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

One advantage to this system is you can always lead on just the single and tag the half if you want for any reason. Like if a crux pitch is straight, sometimes I find just clipping a single when I'm pumped easier. Or if you want to haul a pack or tag gear. 

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 503

I do a 9mm triple rated and 8mm half if I want a half rope setup or tag line for raps.

Things I've noticed to keep in mind for belay and party of three use.

For leading in a half rope configuration (alternating clips) the "brake assist" devices (jul, smart, alpine up) will not be able to provide as much brake assist for a fall on the small strand. The bigger the difference in rope diameter the greater this affect is. Remember you're relying on the caribner to be pinched in a channel for the brake assist, so if you have a big fat rope on one side the skinny rope can't bring the biner down as far and the pinch affect is less. With a standard tube device this is a non issue and catching lead falls on either strand is straight forward.

For the seconds in a party of three if the follower on the skinny rope falls using guide mode the pull on the carabiner will lock off the fatter strand of rope, meaning the other follower has to wait to be belayed. If you use a kong gigi with the carabiner on the ribbed spine for a guide device this will only leave the other strand of rope free to be belayed (and still lock the other if they fall). This is really nice if you're instructing. 

Svvenson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0
Ky Dame wrote: One thing to note is that in practice it's better to have your ropes the same length. A 70m and a 60m together can add little annoying rope management issues that really add up in time and frustration when you start having a lot of belays. 

Yeah I'm nervous about using different lengths... on one hand, I do find myself consistently using the extra 10m of a 70M on multipitches (plus it's only $7 more), but I feel like having 70m doubles doesn't make sense... the extra 60ft of rope seems to negate the entire purpose of going skinny (i.e. weight savings).


I know that in the non-alpine world 70M is standard, but for alpine outings is 60m still the go-to?

david · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 91
Svvenson wrote:

Yeah I'm nervous about using different lengths... on one hand, I do find myself consistently using the extra 10m of a 70M on multipitches (plus it's only $7 more), but I feel like having 70m doubles doesn't make sense... the extra 60ft of rope seems to negate the entire purpose of going skinny (i.e. weight savings).


I know that in the non-alpine world 70M is standard, but for alpine outings is 60m still the go-to?

I used a 70 and 60 on a sport crag multipitch once with a party of 3 and swore to never to do it again.... rope management became 2x more annoying with ropes of mismatched lengths. I'd also agree that 60m makes more sense for alpine if you are concerned about weight (60m is also plenty for a team of 3 or 4 on a glacier and 70 is not an advantage for glacier travel).

I use a setup of 60m x 9.1mm triple rated + 60m x 8.5mm twin/half pretty regularly these days and it's pretty sweet. Of course I also have the second matching 60m x 8.5mm twin/half. If you stay in the game long enough you will start to think about adding a 70m alpine single or half set for those climbs that you know for certain will benefit from bringing a 70. You can never have too many ropes!
Ky Dame · · The West · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 145
Svvenson wrote:

 but I feel like having 70m doubles doesn't make sense... the extra 60ft of rope seems to negate the entire purpose of going skinny (i.e. weight savings).

I agree with that. I haven't had issues with needing a 70 when I'm in situations where I want to climb on doubles. Either way, get both 70 or both 60 to save the frustration. 

Jason4Too · · Bellingham, Washington · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

I just bought a Beal Joker with the intent to do almost this except I'm going to pair it with an Opera for a pair of triple rated ropes to get maximum flexibility out of the system.  From the one day that I've done any rope work with the Joker I can tell you that it's a very soft catch on it's own.  There's a lot of rope stretch.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 503
Jason4Too wrote: I just bought a Beal Joker with the intent to do almost this except I'm going to pair it with an Opera for a pair of triple rated ropes to get maximum flexibility out of the system.  From the one day that I've done any rope work with the Joker I can tell you that it's a very soft catch on it's own.  There's a lot of rope stretch.

That's a beal quality, not really a skinny triple quality. As far as their ropes go that's on the higher end for impact force at 8.2kn, my Beal Zenith 9.5 workhorse is only 7.5kn with 38% dynamic elongation and makes for some LARGE and soft falls, nothing I'd ever want in the alpine above ledges.

My sterling Fusion 9.0 60m at 8.5kn with 33% dynamic elongation somehow feels like it has far less stretch in real world use than my 70M joker at 8.2kn and 34% dynamic elongation. I would expect them to perform the same given the ratings. 
Ryan Williams · · London (sort of) · Joined May 2009 · Points: 1,245

Your actual questions have been answered already. Now for some opinion:

If you didn’t need a 70m then it’s easy. Just buy doubles, one or both triple rated. But throwing the 70m in there complicates things.

In the end, you’ll be happier with three ropes. It’s an investment but the right ropes can make or break your climbing day for a ton of reasons that you probably already know. To me, the right rope was always something I was willing to make sacrifices for. In the grand scheme of things, another $200 isn’t that much for something so essential to my fun and safety. 

Svvenson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

Thanks for the advice everyone. I opted for two 60m ropes and ended up snagging an 8.9mm Edelrid Swift (triple) for $114 + Tendon Lowe 8.4mm (double) for $90 via EpicTV.

No tax (yet), free shipping... highly recommend to anyone else in a similar situation!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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