What rope are you?
I try my best to live a simple life. This means that every time I buy a new shirt, I sell one to Second Ascent. And although I’ve worked in the outdoor industry for many years I do my best to not accumulate too many unnecessary things. But climbing ropes are a different story.
The terrain and climbing in Northwest is incredibly diverse. And unfortunately, there’s no such thing as one rope that is good for all types of situations. When looking for a new rope, the first question to ask yourself is, “What are my ambitions and goals?” If climbing Mt. Rainier and the greater Cascade Volcanoes is your ultimate goal your needs will be much different than if you want to climb the sustained cracks at Index’s Town Walls.
I break down climbing ropes into three categories…glacier ropes, cragging ropes, and alpine climbing ropes.
–Glacier Climbing ropes tend to operate within the 8mm-8.3mm range and typically come in 30 meter to 40 meter lengths. My favorite go to is the Mammut 8mm Phoenix. All glacier ropes will also come dry treated which is critical to not having your rope freeze up into a steel cable.
Work Horse (cragging rope) – For any rock climber, owning a good, solid workhorse is essential. 20 years ago 50 meter 11mm-11.5mm ropes used to be common. But as technology progresses ropes become thinner and longer. I personally use the Sterling 9.8mm 70 meter Velocity. This is obviously something I would not want to drag up the Dissapointment Cleaver on Rainier but is something I can use to work on my projects at Index, take many falls on, run over edges and abuse while aid climbing.
Alpine Ropes- There is no problem with bringing your 70 meter 9.8mm rope back into the mountains. But picture this: a lot of the pitches you may climb are not longer than 50 meters in length which means that at each belay, the leader is having to pull up an extra 20 meters at each pitch. That’s also 20 extra meters you’re hiking in too, adding to your overall pack weight. Rope drag is inevitable and communication is difficult when climbing pitches longer than 60 meters anyways.
While speed and efficiency is a key components to mountain safety one is typically not pushing their technical climbing ability when in the backcountry. A 5.11 climber at the crag will usually not be breaking into the 5.12s while seven miles from the car. This means you can get away with a thinner diameter rope.
For mountain use I like having 3 different rope systems to choose from…
The first question I ask myself before reaching for my set of double ropes or twin ropes is, “Am I going to have to rappel off this route?” The Twin rope is ideal for ice and alpine winter scenarios where you’re swinging and kicking with sharp tools. example: Sterling Fusion Photon 7.8mm
The double rope system gives you the ability to cut down on rope drag and better while staying safe on difficult to protect routes. It requires skilled rope management but once you get your systems dialed, double ropes can be invaluable. example: Petzl Salsa 8.2mm
The rope system I use more than anything else is just a single rope. It is the easiest and least complicated and great when rappelling is not necessary. There are now single ropes such as the Petzl 9.2mm Volta and the Sterling 9mm Fusion Nano. . When pushing the limits of my technical ability there’s a chance I could take some falls, so I like climbing on something a little thicker such as the Mammut 9.5mm Infinity. This rope handles beautifully, climbs like its skinnier counterparts and is very durable.
The world of ropes is a confusing one, but with one of the largest climbing rope selections in Seattle, the staff at Second Ascent are here to help you find your right match.