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Managing a two-rope system

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Managing a two-rope system

Postby SKI » Wed Mar 03, 2010 11:51 pm

Okay guys,

I'm looking at switching to a half-rope system because of the obvious benefits it exhibits on both alpine and ice climbing.

There's just one thing that I am worried about before committing to buy the ropes and that is the belay technique involved in managing two ropes- both for belaying a leader as well as (and maybe more importantly still) bringing up the follower at the end of a pitch.

I was curious to hear what works and what doesn't in managing the rope mess. When you're bringing up the follower, what is the best way to keep the two ropes separate without taking the hand off the belay too much? Should I utilize a belay via auto-block more than directly from the hip?

All advice is greatly appreciated. Half-ropes are an investment and I don't want to see 'em sit in the closet because of the ease in using a single rope.

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Postby Alpinisto » Thu Mar 04, 2010 12:37 am

Unless you're using an autoblock directly on the anchor, you really don't wanna be taking your hand off the belay rope...EVAR. :shock:

Regarding the "double rope cluster" -- which, when managed well is double the single rope cluster and, when managed poorly is the single rope cluster squared -- I don't bother trying to keep the ropes separate.

Rather, I'll usually stack both ropes across my tie-in, which keeps things pretty neat and works really well when swinging leads (which my partner and I usually do). If leading in blocks, it's possible to flip the stack onto the follower's tie-in, but I've only been able to successfully do this once or twice out of about a dozen times trying it. Maybe I'm just a spaz...

You can see a little bit of the tie-in stack at the bottom of this pic:



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Re: Managing a two-rope system

Postby Autoxfil » Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:54 am

AlpineAffinity wrote:Okay guys,

I'm looking at switching to a half-rope system because of the obvious benefits it exhibits on both alpine and ice climbing.


What benefits? Full-length raps? Two seconds? Redundancy?

I was curious to hear what works and what doesn't in managing the rope mess. When you're bringing up the follower, what is the best way to keep the two ropes separate without taking the hand off the belay too much?


As mentioned, just stack them together.

Should I utilize a belay via auto-block more than directly from the hip?


Absolutely. Belay off the anchor with an auto-lock and you'll never go back.

I don't like doubles much at all - the alternate clipping is excess complication. I suggest twins if you want long raps and redundancy, and half ropes only if you bring up two seconds.

I use a single + tagline most of the time, 'cuz it's what I have right now. A partner has doubles and they are the only way to roll with three climbers. He leads clipping both ropes - Mammut says it's OK, but I won't do it on ice screws. I would probably do it on easy alpine rock, but I haven't had to make that decision yet.

I may end up with twins - specifically thick twins rated as half and twins, so I have some confidence to bring up two seconds, but I can clip them both to the same pro. I think they are one of the most versatile options.
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Postby builttospill » Thu Mar 04, 2010 6:07 am

I have mixed feelings about climbing with two ropes. It really is a matter of trade-offs. I've done alpine rock routes with twin ropes and a single rope/tag line set up, and just a single rope.

I've never really used half/double ropes, and I don't see the point. My twins are lighter, and just as easy to use. They don't offer the same ability to protect wandering pitches, but properly slinging placements alleviates that problem much of the time. I have climbed in a group of 3 and had both seconds follow, each on a strand of the twin system. I see no problem in doing this--since it's essentially a top-rope fall if the second comes off.

For twins, I use an autoblock off the anchor 98% of the time. With a single I rarely do, prefering to belay from my harness.

It's really a matter of trade-offs. I would rarely use twins or doubles on routes that did not involve multiple rappels on the descent, since I would prefer to save weight with a single and just hope we didn't have to bail. I would rarely use the single + tag line on a route with multiple raps (since I own twins), because I find the tag lines are harder to deal with than the twins in terms of tangles and pulling the rope.

Two ropes do multiply the hassle at belays, but much of this is overblown. The one place it is a big pain in the ass is hanging or semi-hanging belays. If a route has decent ledges, it's no big deal. With hanging belays it is far more important to stack it nicely, to avoid dealing with lots of potential snags/messes.
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Postby Dow Williams » Thu Mar 04, 2010 4:43 pm

AlpineAffinity wrote:I was curious to hear what works and what doesn't in managing the rope mess. When you're bringing up the follower, what is the best way to keep the two ropes separate without taking the hand off the belay too much? Should I utilize a belay via auto-block more than directly from the hip?


Yes, you should get to where you are using the auto block directly from the station the majority of the time (in my case and diverse situations, 99%). Keeping the ropes separate is not an issue. You don’t want to keep them separate.

builttospill wrote: The one place it is a big pain in the ass is hanging or semi-hanging
belays. If a route has decent ledges, it's no big deal. With hanging belays it is far more important to stack it nicely, to avoid dealing with lots of potential snags/messes.


That is attributed to nothing more than lack of experience and is therefore not much of a real issue. Kind of like riding a bike. Once you have it down, you should never have a problem with it.
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