Let’s face it. Every climber hates having to heave around heavy, bulky gear.
You can tell yourself all you want that it’s a bit of extra strength training, but, in the end, aren’t you going to be training your strength by climbing anyway?
It seems like a waste of strength to do that.
You want to be as fresh as possible when it comes to your climbs.
So, I’m going to explain why switching from a standard, boring, single rope to a tactical and versatile pair of twin ropes is going to make a huge difference to your climbing experience.
Now, some of you are, first of all, going to be like, “Ughh; I hate double ropes, because you have to belay differently.”
Those “double ropes” you might be thinking about are actually called “half ropes.” I’m suggesting something completely different to those.
So, what are twin ropes anyway?
They’re paranoia-inducingly thin.
That’s the first thing that strikes you when you see them.
They look like a bit of dainty string that’s apparently going to save your life somehow.
An attitude of sarcasm flares up in you. “Oh, don’t worry – you use two of them,” you mutter under your breath. “At least you get to die while looking like a derranged puppet.”
The ironic thing is, that these twin ropes are actually safer than a single rope.
Let’s say you’re dealing with some jutting out, sandy rock that’s in contact with your ropes. Every canyoneer knows to be wary of this kind of thing.
With one rope, there’s the danger of the sandy rock sawing through the one single rope, that all the force is concentrated on.
However, you’re using twin ropes.
Since there’s two of them, there’s twice as much rope that’s flat against the rock.
That means that the abrasive force on the ropes is going to be split between the two ropes, so that each one has far less to deal with.
Think about how knives work. They’re sharp because the edge of the blade is narrow.
If the edge was wider, you’d have a blunt butter knife. It’s blunt because it spreads the force over a wider area, when you try to cut things.
There you go. That’s a bit of science for you.
Oh, and of course, let’s not forget that there’s two ropes here. If one somehow did break, you’ve got the other one to keep you safe while you make your way back down, shaking with fear and deep regret.
Okay, so now that that’s all out of the way, let’s take a look at the weight and bulk side of things, and how you can use twin ropes for a minimalist climbing setup.
How to Use Twin Ropes to Reduce Gear Weight
The trick with using twin ropes to reduce gear weight, is…
You only need half as much rope to climb the same distance.
Let me explain.
First of all, twin ropes are meant to be treated just like a single rope when it comes to clipping in.
You can pretty much treat them as being fused together. Clip both strands of rope through each piece of protection.
Don’t split them apart, because they’re not rated to take a fall by themselves. Besides, you wouldn’t try to split your single rope apart. Treat them the same, remember?
Okay, so, with a single rope, you’re going to need a rope that’s as long as the climb in order to get to the top.
However, this is where you’ll encounter a huge problem if your rope wasn’t any longer than that.
You see, you need another full rope length in order to reach the bottom again. You’re stuck up there now. Well done.
“I could just rappel down though,” you say. Nope. Think about it: when you double up the rope strands, you’ll be able to get half way down before you rappel right off the ends of your rope and come crashing down in a pain train of misery.
Yes, you could single-strand rappel and leave your rope there, but it’s hideously expensive to ditch your rope on every climb. It’ll also get in the way of other climbers too, when they have an abandoned rope in their face until they get to the top and clean up your own mess for you.
Twin ropes are different. Let’s say you made the same “mistake,” and climbed to the top without enough rope to be lowered back down.
Guess what? You can tie the ends of the two ropes together with a double fisherman’s knot, and double-strand rappel back down.
Once you’ve reached the bottom, all you have to do is give one of the ropes a hearty tug, and your rope will pull through your rappel setup at the top. Keep pulling it through, and eventually it’ll drop down free, and hopefully not land on your head.
So, there you go. You only need half the length of rope if you’re using twin ropes.
This setup is around 30% lighter and about 20% less bulky than a standard, single rope setup. The only thing you’re losing out on is the ability to be lowered down from the bottom.
Of course, you can still top rope just the same with this setup, but when you’re top roping like this, you can’t be belayed from the bottom. It has to be from the top.
However, you can be belayed and lowered from the top just fine. Make sure your belaying is doing this directly off the anchor, because it’s really useful to have your belayer remain alive for the duration of your climb.