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Climbing Techniques - Single, Double, and Twin Rope Systems

Climbing Techniques include knowledge in the main Rope Systems commonly used
in Rock Climbing, Mountaineering, and Ice Climbing. This section is written for anybody who wants to know more about Single, Double, and Twin Rope Systems. The information provided here is also necessary for anybody who wants to buy the right Climbing Rope.

There are three main Rope Systems that will be outlined here below.

>Single Rope System

One believes that the Single Rope System is the most commonly used rope system in the world, not because this is the best system, but because it is suited for straight climbing routes.
  • The Single Rope System is adequate on single and multipitch routes whereby the protection is in one straight line. Therefore, this rope system is very often used on sport routes, where the bolts are placed in a straight line or any other routes whereby the protection can be placed in a straight line.

    Maximum Rope Drag Minimum Rope Drag

    If the protection is not in a straight line, but for example has more of a zigzag pattern, then there will be more "rope drag". Rope drag is the amount of friction the rope causes when running through the Quickdraws/runners/extenders. This friction can be so large, e.g. in a fall, that the protection is being pulled out, causing the system not to be secure anymore!

    Rope Drag on a Single Rope System can be minimized by using longer extenders

    as these will make the line "straighter". However, if you are climbing routes that are not straightforward like on traditional climbing routes where one has to place the protection where it occurs, a Double Rope System could be more practical.

  • When using a Single Rope System, note that one can only achieve a maximum abseil of half a rope length. So if you are using a 60-metre rope with a single rope system, then you can only abseil 30 metres.

  • All rope manufacturers are obliged by the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme) to indicate if the rope is suitable for a Single Rope System, Double Rope System, or a Twin Rope System. As a rule of thumb, most Ropes with a thickness of 10-11 mm are Single Ropes.

  • Using a Single Rope System is cheaper than the Double or Twin Rope System, but less durable as the rope drag is considerable.

Double Rope System

Double Rope System The Double Rope System is also often used, probably because it is a more flexible system than the Single Rope System.
  • With the Double Rope System, one can reduce or entirely cut out any rope drag. This is a major advantage as it contributes to the safety of the system.
  • The Double Rope System is often used in Traditional Rock Climbing, Mountaineering, and Ice Climbing.
  • The two Double Ropes are more practical to carry. The load of the two ropes can be divided equally between two people.
  • When the two double ropes are tied together, then one can abseil the full rope length as opposed to a half rope length in a Single Rope System.
  • Compared to the Single Rope System, the Double Rope System is safer and more durable.
  • Double Ropes are normally between 8-9 mm.
  • The Double Rope System is more costly than a Single Rope System.

Twin Rope System

Twin Rope System This system is not used very often, but for longer multi-pitch routes, it could come in handy.
  • With the Twin Rope System, one uses two Twin Ropes in a Single Rope System. This means that the two twin ropes will both go through each point of protection.
  • With the Twin Rope System, one might have rope drag as in a Single Rope System.
  • As in the Double Rope System, a full rope length abseil can be made possible by tying the two twin ropes together.
  • Twin Ropes are typically between 7-8 mm.
  • Compared to the Single Rope System, the Double Rope System is safer and more durable.
  • Twin Rope System is more costly than a Single Rope System.

As all the ropes are designed and manufactured for different Rope Systems, it is of crucial importance that Climbing Ropes are only used for the purpose they are designed for. So for example, never use a twin rope in a Single Rope System.

These are the main Rope Systems used in Rock Climbing. To find out which Rope System suits your needs, go to an indoor gym and try out the different rope systems. Advice from an experienced climber is very useful as well.


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