Climbing ropes present a plethora of tangled specs that will twist your mind in as many kinks as a new rope that has been improperly uncoiled from its package. Yes - there is a method to that, and to all the other madness and magic that goes into sheaths, cores, dry treatments and when and why to choose a single rope over double/half ropes, or twin ropes. Our current review covers double/half 60 meter ropes for ice and alpine climbing. We will discuss when and how to use them, what their main differences are, and what to look for in a new pair for your quiver.
While we all have our preferences on whether to use a single lead line as opposed to double/half or twin ropes, there are some technically sound reasons to risk the ‘clusterfunkle’ that often happens when using double/half ropes - especially on ice and mixed climbs.
If you learned to ice climb prior to roughly 2010, you most likely thought that you had to use double or twin ropes to be safe; in case one of them got cut by the accidental crampon or tool strike. Today, many experienced climbers will choose a single lead line and take a tag/rap line if at all possible to avoid the hassle of leading with two ropes. But, ice and mixed lines have a way of meandering, and being able to clip one rope separate from the other often allows for safer, straighter lines, less rope drag, and the bonus of always having enough rope to rappel.
For the record, a twin rope must always be clipped together, whereas a double/half rope is rated to be clipped independently only. (Note: A rope should only be used as it is designed and tested for.) If the double is also rated as a twin, it can be clipped together as well but it should always follow one method or the other from the start. For example: if you clip it together through your first piece of pro, then you should continue to do so.
This review focuses on double ropes, as they are quite useful on routes that wander, and for routes that require two ropes to rappel anyway. Clipping a “half” or double rope separately through different pieces of gear provides less drag, and in the case of a fall, will prevent a huge swing. There is also some security in having two ropes, in case one gets nicked by crampons, ice tools, or rock. Since twin ropes are rated to be clipped together always, they do not offer as much versatility.
The trick to climbing with double/half ropes is keeping the two ropes sorted at the belay, and not crossing them while leading. Communication with your belayer is also crucial, so that they know with which rope to give you slack when clipping. They can also help advise you which color rope to clip on a steep climb when you might not be able to see below you. Double/half ropes are also useful when climbing in a party of three. That way, each follower can tie into one line and move independently from the other.
We tested four different double/half ropes for this month’s gear review. Our testing focused mainly on the weight, durability, value, and overall feel of these ropes.