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Long ropes can be a real pain

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Long ropes can be a real pain

Postby mvs » Mon May 23, 2011 5:39 pm

Just a Monday rant here. So I was in a nice little climbing area yesterday called the Kampenwand. It has lots of short climbs, up to 5 pitches in length, where a pitch over 30 meters is an exception. Many of the routes are very old, with plenty of history and polish to them. The routes all seem to have bolted belays, but refreshingly, require nuts and cams in between, except where a bolt or piton was the only opportunity to protect. Anyway, I don't mean to get off subject describing the climbing area too much but it's some background context.

To me, this area screams for a shorter rope. We brought our (semi-obligatory) double ropes, somewhat outdated for being 50 meters, but then left one rope at a pack to run the classic traverse route of the massif with a doubled 50 meter rope, limiting us to 25 meter pitches when we needed to belay. We screamed through the ridge, despite my several attempts to get us off route (long story), having a blast on the polished but beautiful holds. Pitched out it's something like 15 pitches. We belayed 6 ~20 meter pitches and simul-climbed the rest. We were constantly passing parties where a belayer was standing in a tangled mess of twin 60 meter ropes. I was confirmed in my feeling that small-scale routes like this benefit from an old-school approach to ropes: just bring what is adequate and no more! We didn't really climb any faster than these other parties, but by avoiding the constant coiling and paying out of vast unused acreage of rope, we went much faster.

Despite this nugget of wisdom, we got some funny looks and questions. Now not being a total rube, I know all kinds of great reasons for longer ropes. I just think it's worth thinking about where you are going and what the plan is when you leave the house. I'd love to hear some stories from others who felt this way sometimes, or on the opposite side, tell me about the knuckleheads who ended up stranded on a godforsaken perch because of a smug adoption of a short-rope strategy. :D
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Re: Long ropes can be a real pain

Postby Diego Sahagún » Mon May 23, 2011 6:00 pm

I thought you talked about pain because of their weight on your back when carrying it wihout using ;)
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Re: Long ropes can be a real pain

Postby asmrz » Mon May 23, 2011 6:09 pm

Interesting subject. I always felt that for cragging and alpine climbing 50 meter ropes (twins or doubles) are the best in terms of weight, ability to rap and utility. Personally, I never had much use for 60 or 70 meter ropes. They are very heavy and unless one climbs in multiple leads, i.e. one climber leads several pitches then the other climber leads several pitches, they are pretty cumbersome. But this is most likely generational too, I still remember when 120 ft ropes were supplanted by 150 and people said the same thing I'm saying now. But weight is a serious issue with the 60/70 m ropes, I find coiling 70 m rope a rather tiring affair that seems to go on forever. For general climbing, 50m works for me. Big walls, now that is another story.
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Re: Long ropes can be a real pain

Postby Alpynisto » Mon May 23, 2011 9:45 pm

The long rope fad emerged with sport climbing, where it makes sense. It was foolishly adopted by trad climbers who didn't know better so now 60 meters are considered standard--big mistake. Indeed, 50 meter ropes are superior if you want to travel faster, carry a lighter rack, have better communication, and get fewer stuck ropes. 45 meter ropes are even better at most old school areas but good luck finding one these days.
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Re: Long ropes can be a real pain

Postby mvs » Mon May 23, 2011 9:54 pm

Alpynisto wrote:The long rope fad emerged with sport climbing, where it makes sense. It was foolishly adopted by trad climbers who didn't know better so now 60 meters are considered standard--big mistake. Indeed, 50 meter ropes are superior if you want to travel faster, carry a lighter rack, have better communication, and get fewer stuck ropes. 45 meter ropes are even better at most old school areas but good luck finding one these days.


This is how I see it too, but some good climbers on this board swear by long ropes and the chance to combine pitches as a matter of course. Their experience backs that up. However in the areas I climb (Dolomite limestone) I get nervous with pitches too long because routes tend to zig zag a bit. When I do combine pitches I sometimes spend the last 10 meters of climbing pulling up big loops of rope to protect against crushing drag. I guess really, you gotta use the whole arsenal of ideas, it's not one size fits all.
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Re: Long ropes can be a real pain

Postby brenta » Tue May 24, 2011 4:30 am

It's really a matter of what is best for a route or an area. Linking pitches may save a lot of time. Being able to reach the ground in fewer rappels may save a lot of time. Pulling up lots of unused rope wastes time and is not fun. Coiling 70 meters of rope is a pain. Simulclimbing with 60 or 70 m between you and your partner makes communications difficult, but the rack lasts longer for the same number of pieces always between you and your partner. Longer ropes call for larger racks, and rope drag is more difficult to control. In the end sometimes I wish I had a shorter rope, and sometimes it's just the opposite. The route I climbed this morning goes very well with a 70 m, because one can reach a nice big shelf in three pitches instead of four with a 60 m. Take a 50 m rope, and the first belay has to be set at a rather inconvenient place. On a route where the pitches are short, on the other hand...

On the historical side, the trend towards longer ropes started well before sport climbing existed. Lighter gear, thinner ropes keep shifting the balance in favor of longer ropes.
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Re: Long ropes can be a real pain

Postby CClaude » Thu May 26, 2011 3:20 am

They each have teir place. On routes that aren't direct, or involve multiple 40-60m rappels, shorter double definately have their place. On harder trad routes they do have their place. Linking up multiple pitches is fun. Efficiently working harder long multi-pitch routes is often only possible with a 70m rope ( and I have friends going with even longer ones now). Its also convienient when you fall off the routes and are left dangling in space 15-20ft out from the belay on multipitch to have your partner coil a small section, toss it out to you to pull you back in, instead of prussiking back up the rope... (ok doesn't happen often but it did happen last week)
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