summary of Half Ropes vs. One Rope + Tag Line/Pull Cord

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Kimballistic

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 10, 2014 - 06:15pm PT
Anyone care to add to this or argue with it?

I'm trying to decide which system to use and I've had a tough time finding quality information on the net.

The bottom line is I want a safe way to have a full-length rappel without carrying two full-size ropes. I've done that before, and it sucks.

Half Rope Pros:
-Redundant ropes while climbing
-Less rope drag while leading routes that meander/traverse
-Have the option of better protecting your follower after traverses
-Falls potentially generate more stretch, leading to a softer catch and less forces on gear (when used as halves, not twins)
-If alternating clips, less fall potential while clipping (pulling up one rope to clip does not increase slack on the other rope that is in your last piece)
-Very standard rappel setup
-Safe EDK with same diameter ropes
-Can more confidently re-lead or ascend stuck rappel ropes (yikes)
-A faster emergency bale is possible: tying both ropes together and fixing one end in order to rap to ground that would otherwise be two raps away (requires self-rescue skills to rap past the knot)
-Enables parties of 3

Half Rope Cons:
-Heavier
-Individual half ropes stretch more than a single rope, so it’s more possible to deck depending on the route and what pro is clipped so far
-smaller diameter = faster wear
-potentially much more complicated leading
-potentially much more complicated belaying
-The ropes interfere more with your footwork on splitter cracks
-Difficult rope management (not even sure how: can they be flaked together, or do you need two separate piles? Hanging belays would be a bitch)

Single Rope + Tag Line Pros:
-Simpler leading
-Simpler belaying as the leader
-Simpler belaying as the follower
-Simpler rope management in general
-Lighter weight

Single Rope + Tag Line Cons:
-More rope drag while leading meandering routes
-Small diameter tag/pull cord tangles easily (many describe as “rats nest”), wears quickly, and can be painful to pull on with bare hands
-EDK not as trustworthy with a large difference in rope diameters, so you must tie a backup on the pull line to prevent slippage through EDK, therefore giving you more knots to potentially get stuck while pulling ropes.
-While rappelling, danger of EDK pulling through rap station, causing the knot to creep downward due to uneven friction at ATC on tag & lead lines. This results in very uneven rope end locations (must ALWAYS knot both ends) and/or worse case scenario, the tag line zipping through the ATC causing a total failure of the system. One death reported in forums due to this happening.
-More potential for stuck rope if using a carabiner as backup at rappel station. But then again, the partner not on rappel can tie off pull cord, either at the rap station or at the base of the rappel, possibly eliminating the need for a backup carabiner.
-Must always pull tag line first, so multiple rappels are slower as you have to pull ALL the rope down before you thread the next rap rings
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Jul 10, 2014 - 06:18pm PT
LMBTFTSYGD*

But if you accept that and still wish to proceed, my preference is for double ropes in the 8-9mm range. Several times having a second real rope has saved me from a nasty predicament.


















* Let Me Be The First To Say Yer Gunna Die
Rock!...oopsie.

Trad climber
the pitch above you
Jul 10, 2014 - 06:27pm PT
-Difficult rope management (not even sure how: can they be flaked together, or do you need two separate piles? Hanging belays would be a bitch)

This one is easy. While flaking, keep a finger between the ropes to eliminate twists. Otherwise flake as if it's a single rope. Been doin this for years and it's definitely the least clusterfrigging way to deal with doubles.

Do the same at hanging belays but lay the ropes in coils over a sling or your leg or whatever just like you would a single.

Only time I separate them and treat them like separate ropes is for setting up my initial rap... throwing the whole cluster is a bad idea.
Kimballistic

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 10, 2014 - 06:27pm PT
Thanks NutAgain, that's what I'm leaning towards myself.

Got any pointers to resources on using half ropes? Clipping strategy, pitfalls, how to belay, etc. Sure seems non-existent out there.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 10, 2014 - 06:52pm PT
Not to complicate matters but if full-length rappels is the only issue, then why not twin ropes?

Half ropes have more advantages than you mentioned when used by skilled practitioners. And that brings up a disadvantage: there is a learning curve not only for leaders, but also for belayers.

You could navigate over to ukclimbing.com for information on half ropes. The environment is generally more knowledgeable and also less hostile to the concept. Murcans like their single lines and say if it ain't broke don't fix it. The Brits have been using double ropes regularly for at least half a century.

You could start with http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=2737, but it is pretty basic.

ruppell

climber
Jul 10, 2014 - 07:21pm PT
rgold,

Are you saying I'm un-merican because I use doubles? Well actually I just use both of them for trad. On sport I'm happy to whip on just one of them. lol
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jul 10, 2014 - 07:48pm PT
Several of the disadvantages you listed for Single Rope + Tag Line can be avoided,
by threading the Tag Line through the anchors, which is what I do.
If your concern is losing control of the Tag Line while rappelling,
improve your friction setup.

Here is what I like to use:
 Single lead line (9.2 to 9.5mm x 60m)
 Tag line (8.1mm x 60m Twin)

Rap sequence:
 Tag line threaded through anchors
 Knot is either:
- rewoven Figure Eight, tight, with minimal rope ends (my favorite)
- EDK with no backup knots (my partner Bob's favorite)
 no knots in rope ends (except maybe if it's dark, very steep,
and I'm not sure where the next station is. However, I often have
ascenders with me these days since we usually work on new routes,
and they are the ultimate Plan B).
 ATC
 wrap rope around thigh if it's very steep or if I have a heavy weight
 one partner pulls down lead rope (it is easier to grasp, the tag line is lighter
to lift up through the upper anchor, and the tag line is narrower so
slightly less likely to get stuck in cracks and possibly easier to
control/direct on final pull)
 other partner inspects the rising tag line for knots
 when tag line is just about to start pulling itself through upper
anchor due to rope weight, give a hard outward pull. The goal is ideally
that the rope goes through the air, and does not touch the rock on the way down.
 when the knot reaches the lower station, tie off each side separately
to the lower station. At this point, one partner unties the knot,
threads the tag line in the new station, and reties the knot, while
the other partner finishes pulling down the rope.

P.S. I have led on a single Twin - did entire Snowpatch Spire on it,
when our lead line got stuck rapping off of South Howser on previous climb.
I have also soloed in the past... :-)
Kimballistic

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 10, 2014 - 07:51pm PT
Not to complicate matters but if full-length rappels is the only issue, then why not twin ropes?

True twins that aren't rated as halves (if such a thing exists) would not be confidence inspiring enough for me. If I'm going to carry two real ropes then I want to be able to lead on only one in an emergency situation.

And: thank you for the link! I'll start looking at UK stuff.
JonA

Trad climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Jul 10, 2014 - 08:00pm PT
+1 what Clint says

I've never actually met anyone who uses half ropes outside of the Gunks although I know they are highly recommended by the internet crowd. Most of the multipitch I climb is in Yosemite, Squamish, and the desert.
Kimballistic

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 10, 2014 - 08:48pm PT
Here is what I like to use:
Single lead line (9.2 to 9.5mm x 60m)
Tag line (8.1mm x 60m Twin)

Clint, do you lead with the tag line attached to your harness's haul loop, or is it stuffed in your follower's pack?

And interestingly enough, that is potentially as heavy or heavier than two half ropes. Not saying you're using this system for the weight savings, but it's something to consider.

Mammut's 8.5 Genesis half ropes are spec'd at 48 grams/meter. Do the math and two of them at 60m add up to 12.7 lbs.

Mammut's 9.5 Infinity comes in at 58 g/m and their 8.0 phoenix twin at 42 g/m, resulting in a total system weight of 13.23 lbs.

Interesting, eh?

Anyone use 60 meters of static cord, like Sterling's tag lines? If so, what do you do differently?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jul 10, 2014 - 09:27pm PT
do you lead with the tag line attached to your harness's haul loop, or is it stuffed in your follower's pack?
It varies. The leader trails it if:
 the pitch is easy
 they might want to haul up some gear (i.e. bolt kit or more bolts)
or
 there is no ledge to stack it on
Otherwise, the follower usually trails it. Usually it's not in the pack.

If the leader is not trailing the tag line, then the rope weight is less
than 2 half ropes, even for the 9.5mm lead line.
What about for 9.2mm - are half ropes still lighter?
If the leader is trailing the tag line, then the slightly higher rope weight probably doesn't matter much.
Jugging is nicer on a single rope than on a half rope.

The type of climbing I'm doing is probably not typical.

Note: when I do Royal Arches (or East Buttress of Middle), I take one rope.
For Serenity/Sons I take 2. The follower trails it on some of the pitches.

I think the modularity decides it for most people.
Since short climbs are usually best done with a single,
people will have a single. They can then add a tag line if they
need to do full length rappels.
Whereas doubles/twins are usually only good for multipitch with full length raps.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 10, 2014 - 10:45pm PT
Are you saying I'm un-merican because I use doubles?

Sort of...you're certainly in a minority...of which I'm also a member, having climbed almost exclusively with half ropes for the past twenty-five years or so.

Since short climbs are usually best done with a single, people will have a single. They can then add a tag line if they
need to do full length rappels. Whereas doubles/twins are usually only good for multipitch with full length raps.

This is going to be big news in the UK, where they regularly use double ropes for 20m routes that they easily walk off.

phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Jul 10, 2014 - 10:47pm PT
I like the single rope plus 1/2 rope combo. Really makes rope management so much easier. Just one opinion.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 10, 2014 - 11:18pm PT
Mammut's 9.5 Infinity comes in at 58 g/m and their 8.0 phoenix twin at 42 g/m, resulting in a total system weight of 13.23 lbs.

The Phoenix is a half rope---a bunch of folks I know use it that way. The pair weighs 11 lbs.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jul 10, 2014 - 11:35pm PT
Whereas doubles/twins are usually only good for multipitch with full length raps.
"usually" = US except Gunks
"unusually" = UK and Gunks
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 11, 2014 - 12:10am PT
Yes, US granite is often not a place where double ropes have much of an advantage, although all it takes is a pair of widely separated parallel cracks that the route switches back and forth between or even close together parallel cracks with a rib between them or cracks behind a pair of parallel flakes lying on the main face causing lifting problems for a single rope running up between them or...

I'd much rather have doubles for this...



Well, bolted routes. No use for half ropes on them anyway.

Credit: RG

Nor on sandstone generally

Credit: RG

Double ropes would have been better here, no?



and here?

Jay Wood

Trad climber
Land of God-less fools
Jul 11, 2014 - 12:31am PT
I use the single/ twin like Clint.

 You only need the rap line part of the time
 Dynamic twin has similar stretch the the single, so knot creep is not a big issue
 (in my case) 7.8mm line is only used for rapping, so wear is minimal
 EDK w/ different diameters not a problem
 Dynamic twin can be doubled to lead in emergency- can be packed or trailed
 Less expensive to replace single than 1/2 ropes
 Skinny rope doesn't tangle excessively- on multiple raps you alternate anyway. Easier on the hands to pull the fatter cord, but better to pull the twin if there's risk of hang ups
 I pull smoothly and slowly- jerking can put twists or knots in the rope that can hang up
 Not great for two followers- use two singles in that case
 somewhat less friction through the rap device- alert partners
 People who use doubles are odd- some of them even wear 'Da Brim'
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Jul 11, 2014 - 03:20am PT
To simplify things.
Half Rope pros.
Cut rope protection.
Full length raps.
Possible jugging and good leading potentual with both ropes in an epic.
lots of rope to use in a self rescue.
Good easy equalizeing sketchy pro.
less drag on wandering routes.
good protection of 2nd on traverses.

Half rope Cons.
Lots of rope to carry arround.
rope management can be a total PAINTA at worst and at best is simply more work.
belayer needs serious rope management skills to be anything other than a hinderence.
Even a highly experience belayer can give a better belay with a single than doubbles in most situations.
Completly gets in the way of footwork climbng splitters.
dificult to hoist injured or struggeling 2nd.
Longer falls due to rope stretch.

Single rope pros.
fast, easy, light,fun, minimalistic.
easy to hoist injured or incompetent 2nd w/ hauling system.

Single rope cons.
if it cuts you die.
if you epic your screwed.

Single + Tag pros
fast easy climbing and belaying .
Easy to haul up gear/drill,etc when FAing.

Single + tag cons.
leader has no cut protection.
must carry extra rope that is not being used untill the decent.
if trailing tag it is much more likly to snag than if it is running through the protection.
Tag is often not thick enough for efective jugging or leading in an epic.
hard to pull skinny tag.
relying on the knott not slipping through the anchor is absolutly effin crazy! people have died this way!


I much prefer doubbles/halfs for most big multi pitch. If I have to carry an extra rope I might as well be useing it rather than just carrying it.

I much prefer single for almost all climbs that can be rapped easily with a single.

anyone who actually believes they need 400ft of rope to climb a 20ft climb is Not the person you should listen to for ANY how to rock climb advice.
willworkforfoodjnr

Trad climber
Huddersfield, England
Jul 11, 2014 - 04:05am PT
I'm British and over here beginners will learn to belay with doubles right about the same moment they start to belay trad outdoors, so early! After 15 years of belaying on them I can't say I find it any more difficult than on a single, so its worth busting through the learning curve.

For rope stacking, go 2 piles on the floor, and then flake them as one at each further belay. If you're leading through there is no need for cordlettes etc, just stick 2 solid pieces in, clove each rope to a piece, done.

Unless you are climbing a splitter crack then you will always finish a pitch with less ropedrag on doubles.

Two seconds is easier on doubles, and can be done with a guide plate simultaneously. Theres a sneaky technique for switching leaders in this situation too if anyone is interested.

Abing (sorry, rapping ;) ) is loads easier too - EDK, through anchor, ab, repeat.

I'll generally use doubles by default on trad or multipitch sport (often clipping twin style) EXCEPT in these circumstances:
 We expect to need to jug, its infinitely easier with a jumar on a single rather than prussik on the double.
 We plan on simul-climbing, there ends up a good bulk of rope wrapped round you. Not an issue on easy scrambly ground though.
 We're going to be working a pitch on multipitch sport and we want to use a grigri/eddy
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
Jul 11, 2014 - 05:37am PT
http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=3765

There are plenty of skinny triple rated ropes around. I don't understand this magic, but then nor do I understand my car engine anymore.

Of all the options the skinny single and even skinnier tag line was for me the most cumbersome and prone to clusterf**ck.

My Edelrid twin/half is what I use for trad.

Steve
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