Forums: Climbing Information: Beginners:
new to double ropes
RSS FeedRSS Feeds for Beginners

Premier Sponsor:



May 4, 2005, 2:33 PM
Post #1 of 5 (3071 views)

Registered: Jan 24, 2005
Posts: 18

new to double ropes
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

I have just got my first set of half ropes. I was wondering if anyone had some advice on how to handle the brake hand and what you have found that works well when one rope needs slack and the other need to be taken in, also I was wondering if you ever start with both ropes off to one side or if you start with one on each side of you.


May 4, 2005, 4:58 PM
Post #2 of 5 (3071 views)

Registered: Aug 12, 2003
Posts: 7250

Re: new to double ropes [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Lets presume you have a yellow and a green rope.

Keep the ropes flaked seperately, but they will both be fed through your brake hand. I will usually flake them in front of me if possilbe, one to the right, one to the left. If this is not possible, they should have a free run from the flake to your brake hand without catching on anything or running over part of your anchor system. Most times both ropes will move at the same rate, one exception being when the leader is clipping.

When clipping, the leader may call out "clipping yellow" at which point you should pull more yellow through your belay device, while still holding both ropes in the brake position. This can be achieved by varying the tension on the ropes within your brake hand.

Since the leader will not be pulling slack to clip on "green", the leader is not exposed to increased fall distances (this is assuming he clipped green last). If the leader is out of visual/vocal range, a tug on the rope he is clipping will tell you to provide the necessary slack.

Some things the leader must keep in mind is the increased stretch inherent in half-ropes. If the rope stretch allows you to hit a ledge or other feature, are they really safer?

So too, the leader must properly anticipate which direction the route will move before placing gear and clipping the rope. The leader must also exercise care to not get their ropes crossed between placements, and the belayer must be experienced at rope handling. If you thought a single rope can CF on ya, how fast do you think TWO ropes will CF if given the chance?

As always, work out new systems on routes well within your abilities, so there is no serious risk of falling.




May 4, 2005, 5:57 PM
Post #3 of 5 (3071 views)

Registered: Aug 28, 2002
Posts: 5919

Re: new to double ropes [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

In reply to:
When clipping, the leader may call out "clipping yellow" at which point you should pull more yellow through your belay device, while still holding both ropes in the brake position. This can be achieved by varying the tension on the ropes within your brake hand.

a better way to do this is to pull and guide the ropes with your non-brake hand along with varying the tension on the lines with your brake hand.

to take in slack on a line (say yellow)- you pan out green line with your non-brake hand until both lines are even, then suck them both up with both hands. (obviously be careful when doing this- some situations may call for you to leave slack out due to a possible fall right at that moment).

once off the deck, treat them as one line at belay- they should behave if you flaked them out properly.

also, make sure your leader ties in so that your belay doesnt twist the lines.

the second ties in AFTER the first pitch has been led and the ropes have been pulled up. this keeps the ropes twist free- but also calls for more caution on the seconds part.

i believe theres a really neat article on doubles somewhere out there. i want to say its at, but i cant remember right now.


May 4, 2005, 6:36 PM
Post #4 of 5 (3071 views)

Registered: Oct 30, 2001
Posts: 18283

Re: new to double ropes [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Learn to pay out rope with one hand.

It is possible to keep the brake hand on the rope and still use it to pay out slack.

Hold the brake hand low on the rope, as far from the belay device as possible. Keeping a grip on the rope, bring your hand to the belay device. With one finger and the thumb, grasp the rope just as it exits the belay device and move the hand vertically, bringing the slack (loop you created when you grabbed the rope at the belay device) out and up, giving your leader about two feet of rope for clipping.

Repeat if needed.

It's kinda hard to describe, but what you end up with is feeding slack and keeping a hold of the rope at the same time, with the same hand. In the event the leader peels, all you do is drop your brake hand to the brake position.

Partner rgold

May 8, 2005, 6:28 PM
Post #5 of 5 (3071 views)

Registered: Dec 3, 2002
Posts: 1804

Re: new to double ropes [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (1 rating)  
Can't Post

Some of this repeats what others have said, but perhaps it is still useful to see it all in one place. Sorry about the length; hope it is useful for those new to the technique.

1. First pitch: Flake the ropes separately. The party should have a convention about a "right side" line and a "left side" line, and whatever it is, flake the ropes into a right pile and a left pile. The second shouldn't tie in. This avoids any crossing problems and allows the strands to lose some of their kinks.

2. After the first pitch: pile the two ropes together. When in doubt at changeovers, re-pile the ropes. It really doesn't take long, and the time lost and aggravation added if the ropes don't run well is much worse. At belays without adequate ledge space, lap coils over the tie-in are the way to go. The secret to making these work, in my opinion, is to keep the individual lap coils relatively small---say two feet on each side of the tie-in. If one of these coils sneaks under some others and tries to start a CF, it is relatively easy to release the whole mess. With longer lap coils, you can have a major tangle. (You frequently hear that such messes can be avoided by making each lap coil shorter than the previous one. This may be true in theory, but isn't always possible to do in the heat of belaying, and it only takes one incorrectly sized long coil to completely knot up the pile.)

3. Belaying:
(A) First of all, make sure you are using a device that will provide enough friction for stopping a hard fall on a single strand. If you have any trouble at all rappelling with your device, its friction is inadequate for safe belaying. Although I am rather alone in this, I happen to like the TRE Sirius device best. It is the only device that allows you to catch falls with the brake hand in the palm-up position in front of your face, and this makes it easier to handle the double stands. Rappelling with the TRE is ok but not ideal in some respects.

(B) I think the most important thing, and not a particularly natural one, is to watch the ropes right in front of you. If you do this, you can immediately spot differences in the amount of slack in each and can continually make small corrections that keep everything smooth and prevent the build-up of excess slack. Furthermore, if the leader pulls up slack to clip and doesn't announce which rope he is clipping, or circumstances prevent you from hearing the leader, then only by watching the ropes in front of you will you be able to properly anticipate which strand to pump slack out on. If the pressure hits you without this knowledge, you have no choice but to pump out both strands, thereby neutralizing an important safety aspects of double rope technique.

(C) I do not agree with those who suggest adding slack to one line in order to manage the other line. As mentioned above, doing this can neutralize important advantages of double rope technique, and a leader who thought they were protected on one line while clipping another or using it on manky overhead protection will be very unpleasantly surprised to find equal amounts of slack in both lines if they fall at the "wrong" moment.

(D) Paying out slack in one strand: This is done almost exclusively with the non-brake hand. The ropes must be piled or flaked on a tie-in so that the belayer does not have to pull the weight of a lot of hanging slack through the belay device and the braking hand.

(E) Paying out one strand while taking in the other: This happens after the leader has made an overhead clip with one strand. Let's say the leader has clipped red overhead and the other strand is blue. Then red will have to be taken in and blue fed out. The belayer knows this because they've been watching the ropes in front of them and just pumped a bunch of red slack to the leader. There are two methods for handling this situation; I use both at different times.

(i) Method 1: All rope motions controlled with non-braking hand. This is probably the most secure method. The belayer must pay close attention to the ropes in front of him. It is critical not to short-rope the leader, so the non-brake hand is poised to give slack on the blue. As soon as this is done, the non-brake hand immediately shifts to the red emerging from the brake hand and pulls in enough slack to even out the ropes in front of the belayer. The non-brake hand quickly shifts back to the blue to pay it out again. Keep careful watch on the ropes in front of you so that you are ready to pay out both strands equally when the leader's waist reaches the level of the higher piece.

(ii) Method 2. Simultaneous paying-out and taking-in. To do this well, I find it necessary to keep the index finger on the brake hand between the ropes. The belayer gives slack on the blue as described in (i), but shifts the thumb to either the index or second finger in order to pinch the red, which can then be taken in with the brake hand while the blue is being fed out with the non-brake hand.

4. Twists: The ropes will get twisted. This happens because either the leader or the second or both has made a complete rotation. The most common effect occurs at belays, e.g. the leader ties in, turns left to face out, then later turns left again to face the anchor and unclip. Twists are easily undone by doing the proper rotation. If there is just a single twist when the leader sets off, it is perhaps quickest, especially on a cramped or hanging belay, for the belayer to just reclip the ropes so they run parallel to the leader and let the twist work its way down to the other end. The belayer can then do the appropriate rotation before starting off seconding the pitch.

It is a bad idea to eliminate twists by dropping a loop of one strand over the head and then stepping over it. This undoes the two-rope twist at the expense of putting a full twist into the single strand the operation was performed on, and the punishment for this, especially if it is done several times, will be the apprearence (always at the worst possible moment) of some nasty kinks in the strand.

5. Clipping: Although alternate clipping may be ideal, the arrangement of pro does not always make it advisable. In general, the leader should try to arrange for two parallel lines of rope running up the pitch, and this often involves clipping one of the strands several times before the other one is used. A general rule of thumb for clipping strategy is not to expose the leader to more than a factor 1 fall on a single strand. The reason for this is that the forces involved in an 80 kg leader in a factor 1 fall are roughly identical to the forces for a 55 kg leader in a UIAA factor 1.77 test fall, so that the rope is being exposed to no more than the impacts corresponding to its ratings. That being said, various tests have shown that a single strand will hold a factor 2 fall---just don't expect it to work more than once.

For traverses that have vertical ascents at the end, clip one rope half way out the traverse and the other rope for the second half.

6. Rappelling: Beware of the reduced friction of smaller diameter ropes! This is especially true as you near the end of the rappel and there is less rope weight bearing down on the braking device. You can find yourself in a very unpleasant struggle to hang on. As mentioned above, if this happens it is also a sign that your belay device has inadequate friction for stopping a hard fall, and you should probably switch to a more effective device or at the very least modify the set-up you use. The standard modification for rapelling is to use two biners to connect the belay device to the harness rather than one and run the rappel lines around both biners. If you need this for rapelling, then you need it for belaying too.

If you are new to double ropes and/or haven't rappelled on a new set yet, it makes sense to use an autoblock, even if it isn't part of your normal practice. The autoblock will introduce a little more friction, and will enable you to stop and rest your hand if there isn't enough friction and you are tiring. Once having stopped, you should have enough gear and knowledge to unweight the belay device and and add a second (or third!) biner to as to increase the friction. (Of course, you should know how to do this without having an autoblock present too.) Friction can also be increased by bringing the rappel lines around the back, thereby adding a waist belay to the friction system. This works best if you clip a biner to the belay loop, clip the rappell lines through the biner, and then pass them around behind you. This way the lines don't ride up over sensitive skin areas if you are lightly dressed.

Forums : Climbing Information : Beginners


Search for (options)

Log In:

Password: Remember me:

Go Register
Go Lost Password?
$53.96 (10% off)
$40.46 (10% off)
$125.96 (10% off)

Follow us on Twiter Become a Fan on Facebook