Forums: Climbing Disciplines: Trad Climbing: Re: [knuckles] Double Rope Belay: Edit Log


May 23, 2010, 4:15 AM

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Re: [knuckles] Double Rope Belay
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Ok, lots of confusion, speculation, and different ideas going on here.

Twins: two small diameter ropes used and clipped like a single rope

Doubles ('half'): two medium diameter ropes used and clipped individually

You climb on twins primarily when you don't want to carry or drag a second rope just for rappelling on longer multipitch routes.

You climb on doubles when the line of a route wanders so much that the path of a single rope weaving through your placements would generate too much drag. You know you're into that territory when you realize you couldn't sling your way to an adequately clean and smooth rope path unless you had a boatload or 48" slings. At that point you switch to doubles and (in the abstract) run a rope up each side of a line running up through the route clipping the ropes independently as you encouter good placements on each's respective side of the line.

You use any regular, diameter-appropriate, double-slotted ATC to belay with either twins or doubles.

Twins don't really require any different belaying skills than a single other than keeping in mind the importance cleanly stacking the ropes prior to leading off. This helps keep things from getting ugly quick for both the leader and belayer.

Doubles are a different story altogether. Belaying on doubles requires different communication between leader and belayer and some decidedly different thinking and [ambidextrous] belaying skills. Communication changes from a single rope in that the leader needs to let the belayer know when they switch from being 'on' one rope to the other - which is why doubles are different colors so the leader can yell "on blue!" and then "on red" as they place gear on one side of the line or the other. Thinking changes because you have to pay attention to and manage differing slack and tension requirements of the two ropes - often at the same time. Belay/rope handling skills change because the brake hand has to somehow respond to the often differing requirements of each rope.

All those differences are the reason why 'knukles' friend responded like this:

knuckles wrote:
I learned to climb from a double rope guy who always set up his single sticht plate with his ropes opposed, as in one goes right to left and the other left to right, each line getting it's own brake hand.

He was attempting to eliminate some of the confusion and ambidextrousness associated with doubles by setting up the belay device such that he could essentially treat doubles like two singles that you basically switch between - he attempts to turn gray complexity of doubles into the black and white simplicity of a single (albeit two of them).

This might seem like a good idea at first, and it could be made to more or less work with enough practice. BUT, I personally consider this attempt to bifurcate and 'eliminate' the complexity inherent in doubles to be misguided. First, and least of an issues is the obious need for a double stitch plate or symmetric ATC which are fairly uncommon these days. Second, and more of an issue, is in switching braking from one hand to two you simplify the tasks of each individual hand, but add a ton of overhead in to the management & coordination of the hands/ropes in your mind - to say nothing of most folks' tendency in such a set up to constantly be removing their hands from the ropes at varying times.

And while the 'theory' behind doubles ('halfs') is that you are basically only 'on' one rope at a time and are only caught on one rope, the reality is the two ropes often act synergistically at varying points during a fall. And having fallen on doubles a bunch (a 40-50' one most recently) I can say I wouldn't want to be held purely on just one rope or the other. So the intent behind knuckles' friend's idea is good, but the dual brakehanding imposes too much of an artifical divide between the braking implementation across the ropes, the coordination of hands, and in mental coordination.

The idea of using an ATC in 'guide mode' is a similar response to dealing with the complexity involved with belaying doubles; but again frought with issues and I wouldn't recommend it either.

That all said, belaying doubles with one hand is no picnic as sometimes you need to be paying out one line and taking in slack on the other at the same time. How to do that if not by splitting a rope to each hand / side? Well, with some difficulty to be honest. It's for the most part by deft finger / thumb work of the brake hand. I tend [at times, when necessary] to split my hand up two fingers to a rope taking in rope with two of the fingers on one rope while letting the feeding rope slide through my other two fingers with my thumb tending assisting each of the two sets of fingers as needed and using the guide hand to pull slack on the outgoing line.

Two fingers? You can't stop a fall with two fingers! Well, fingers don't stop falls, belay devices do - two fingers is more than enough to initiate lock-off of the ATC and as I'm initiating that lock-off I'm also switching from the split-fingers arrangement to one where all my fingers are around both ropes (and sliding down the rope in order to add my hip to the braking arrangement).

The decision to switch to twins shouldn't be that big of deal is again usually based on the need to have two ropes with you to do long, multipitch raps. Twins are popular in places like Red Rock on lines where rapping is the standard descent.

The decision to switch to doubles should ideally take place on a route-by-route basis unless you live/climb in an area where the lines tend to wander as a general rule. Belaying doubles is a big deal, requires your total engagement and rapt attention as a belayer - and it is far more demanding a set of brake hand interactions with the ropes. Belaying with a single rope doesn't require much of your brake hand; belaying doubles requires your brake hand to start 'thinking' and acting intelligently compared to belaying a single.

The bottom line? Belaying doubles is something you have to spend some time practicing to just begin to get comfortable with. Do that a couple of times in some safe setting / manner and make your first routes on doubles easy, familiar ones so your belayer can get the hang of things before getting on anything serious.

P.S. The Kong Ghost is my favorite belay device for doubles; I've tried it, the DMM Bugette, and the Petzl Reversino for my Metolius 7.8m twins and am fairly agnostic about them other than the Bugette is such a breathtaking wisp of a thing to get my head around at times.

(This post was edited by healyje on May 23, 2010, 5:09 AM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by healyje () on May 23, 2010, 4:20 AM
Post edited by healyje () on May 23, 2010, 4:22 AM
Post edited by healyje () on May 23, 2010, 4:26 AM
Post edited by healyje () on May 23, 2010, 4:27 AM
Post edited by healyje () on May 23, 2010, 5:04 AM
Post edited by healyje () on May 23, 2010, 5:05 AM
Post edited by healyje () on May 23, 2010, 5:07 AM
Post edited by healyje () on May 23, 2010, 5:09 AM

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