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What’s the Difference Between a Double and a Single Rope?

What is the difference between a double rope and a twin rope? What was I using, and what is the appropriate use of each? Speak to me!

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I am an old curmudgeon, one that used to climb with two ropes—not just for alpine mountain hopping, but for long multi-pitch routes. Now I am shopping for a rope, as my son and daughter want to start climbing. What is the difference between a double rope and a twin rope? What was I using, and what is the appropriate use of each? Speak to me!

—Eric, Salt Lake City, Utah

Mayan-Smith Gobat (and single rope) tackles the crux of <em>Who Breaks A Butterfly Upon the Wheel?</em> (5.12c), Redstein, Colorado.” title=”Mayan-Smith Gobat (and single rope) tackles the crux of <em>Who Breaks A Butterfly Upon the Wheel?</em> (5.12c), Redstein, Colorado.”>    <b>I have claimed to possess the power of prescience,</b> but I can’t imagine what rope you used to climb on. I do smell hemp,<br />
    so perhaps that’s a hint, but I’m in Colorado, so who knows?</p>
<p>There are three types of ropes: single, double and twin. </p>
<p>Your son and daughter will want a single rope. Leading and belaying on a single rope simplifies ropework, and is the standard cord for rock climbing.
    </p>
<p>Double ropes are two ropes that you clip to pro alternately. Double ropes are less likely to get chopped by rockfall or cut across an edge. On meandering<br />
    routes, double ropes also reduce rope drag, although the smart application of runners can often achieve the same result. </p>
<p>In the mountains, having two ropes lets you do long rappels, and this is the real reason most people would ever use them. Leading with double ropes is<br />
    confounding and you have to be mindful to keep them separated. Belaying with them is also problematic since the belayer has to keep the different colors<br />
    sorted out, and it’s practically impossible to reel in slack on one cord without taking the brake hand off the other. Actually, let me upgrade that<br />
    to impossible.</p>
<p>Twin ropes are also used in pairs, but both ropes get clipped to every piece of pro—a single strand of a twin may not hold<br />
    <br /> a fall. For leading, twin ropes are lighter than double ropes and heavier than a single rope. Their advantages are they offer more cut-protection<br />
    than a single, are as easy to lead with as a single (although still pesky for the belayer), and at the end of the day you have two ropes for the rappels.
    </p>
<p>Confusingly, due to advances in technology and marketing, some double and twin ropes are interchangeable, some single ropes are also rated as double<br />
    ropes or twins, some doubles are certified as singles, and some ropes are rated for all three applications. If all this is too much, you don’t have<br />
    to make up your mind, just get a rope that can do everything and be happy. Next!</p>
</p>
<p><em>This article was published in </em>Rock and Ice <em>issue 219 (July 2013).</em> </p>


        

        

        
        
                          
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