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Michael Morningstar

Beginner Rope System

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Hello!

Hoping some more experienced climbers can help me out here. It's time for me to buy my first couple of ropes and I'm wondering what system to go for. My primary use will be alpine climbing but I certainly want to have something for rock as well. Originally I thought a single 9.8 dry rope might be the perfect jack-of-all-trades rope...but after some consideration, I'm weighing whether this approach is going to weight me down on straightforward alpine route and also having me wishing I had something thicker to take longer (or more) falls on the rock side of things.

This is causing me to consider pairing the 9.8 with a 8.5-8.8ish 60 meter rope that I could use for glacier travel but also on simple routes where I could double it up and use it like a twin if there was a need for climbing something fairly low grade that I felt pretty confident on. Could I also use this as a tagline for the 9.8 single if I wanted the benefit of a longer rappel or is that too thick of a tagline to be practical? 

Keep in mind, I'm a fairly new climber and I'm considering simplicity in all of this. Try not to completely roast me if what I've said here is idiotic. 

So I guess my question is: What kind of quiver should I be looking at for the North Cascades? Am I going to regret this jack-of-all-trades + 8.5-8.8ish rope approach? Is the 9.8 too much of a middle ground to really be a good choice on either side?

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This is a good question and one without an easy answer because, well, it depends. 

Personally, I have two main ropes for the alpine- an 8.7mm 60m dry that is rated as a single, double and twin.  It is great to have the lightest single rope for those long alpine approaches, and you really aren't going to fall anyways, right?  I bring this rope for anything harder than mid-fifth where there will be lat least several full, harder pitches.  Think full NR of Stuart.

My other rope is a 7.8mm 60m dry rope rated as a double or twin.  This is my main rope for rambly routes that have a lot of 4th and low 5th with a glacier approach.  I often climb with it doubled, but sometimes stretch it out full length.

I guess I do have a third rope for the alpine.  A ratty 40m 7.7mm that I cut down to be a glacier/ski mountaineering rope.

Then I have some fat cragging ropes....

So, I think you are on to the right track!

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I think you are on the right track.  I have two rope systems, one for rock climbing/cragging and one for alpine climbing/ice climbing.

Rock/cragging: 9.8mm x 60m.  I use this (for sport climbing, trad climbing, even alpine cragging (e.g. Wasington Pass). Not dry treated, whatever is on sale.

Double 8.5mm x 50m Everdry, Sharp double ropes.  On easy-moderate climbs, I feel good and wholesome using one strand, for more difficult routes, or waterfall climbs or teams of three I use both.  I know the 50 meter length is unfashionable, as is the larger diameter.  Double ropes require a lot of rope management, shorter ropes make it easier and the nature of the climbs in the Cascades lend themselves to shorter ropes.   Following on a single strand of half rope makes me feel better with a burlier Sharp rated (Edleweiss) rope.

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I pretty  much have the same set up as DPS and Jason.  For alpine or glacier routes, I bring along one of my Beal double ropes (I forget the diameter, but it is low 8.)  The rope is 60m long.  It is light and I do double it over to use when the climbing gets technical or want to simuclimb.  Basically, you then have a 30M double rope to use, which for alpine routes is usually enough to get you through the crux moves.   

If you are doing something long and sustained, then bring both the double ropes and pitch it out as usual.  But for something where you know most of the climb is scrambling and you want a rope for the couple of harder sections, then one rope will usually suffice.   I don't plan on falling and only need it to catch one fall.   I wouldn't go this route if pushing grades where you expect to take multiple falls.

As for a tagline, i have found that with the newer, lighter ropes, there isn't much use for a tag line anymore.   You can bring two 7.9mm ropes, climb on them both and use them both as a rappel, or bring one and a 6mm tag line that just sits in your pack most of the time.  If doing long, meandering routes, you probably want the two ropes to reduce rope drag and increase redundancy if one of them does get hit by a rock.

Darrington:  I bring both ropes for the meandering routes and rappels.  Approach is short enough the weight doesn't really matter.

North Ridge of Stuart, Mt. Torment, various glacier climbs, etc I brought one rope, doubled it over so there was 30m between us.  For any crux moves, 30m was plenty of rope to pitch it out traditional style.

Cragging:  9, or 9.5 70 meter rope.  I rarely take my 60m rope out cragging anymore.  More and more routes have been put up with 70, so it's nice to have knowing that you can climb most of anything with it.   Fun, shorter multi-pitch routes (think Leavenworth stuff), pitches can be combined with a 70.

So i suggest you purchase a thicker 70m rope for cragging purposes, and a set of thin double ropes for alpine purposes, knowing you can take one or both of your double ropes

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You're on the right track. Comments above are all sound.

You'll probably want something beefy for rock cragging -  go w a 70 meter rope in the 9.7  to 10.2 range for better durability. Skinnier if you're trying to redpoint longer routes at your limit. For the alpine, a long, skinny cord, either 60m or 70m is a good way to go for reasons mentioned above. 7.8 to 8.9 that can be doubled if needed. That'll cover a lot of scenarios, and through experience you'll learn what you prefer in each situation. I also have a 30m skinny cord that is handy for times when you'll be on class 4 and a partner might want a short belay, or you need to make a short rappel when downclimbing seems to scary. I also have twin 7.8s for alpine rock where I want both length and light weight and am in terrain where rockfall or something might cut one rope. Managing twin skinny cords is a pain, though. 

Look for deals. Rope prices vary from $100 to $300+. Aim for something with good ratings that's on sale. Dry is helpful in many situations, but super dry (or some other wording) is often overkill. In fact, I have a cragging rope that is so dry-treated it slips through belay devices even when they are locked off. Rather disconcerting.

Be safe, have fun!

 

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What kind of routes are you trying to climb (at the crag and in the mountains)? Keep in mind you'll replace a rope after a couple years of hard use, so forget those dream goals and only consider what you'll do in the immediate future.

Second, is age/fitness or budget more of a constraint? When I started doing alpine routes I was working a shit job part time, but I was 24 and an ex-collegiate distance runner. I got one fat rope and took it on everything and it worked fine.

Simplicity will force you to adapt and think creatively. My advice, spend the extra money on gas, go climb more with a cheap rope and the mountains will let you know when the extra skinny line is worth it.

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15 hours ago, JasonG said:

@bedellympian you raise some good points!  Youth and motivation can overcome nearly anything. 

You may not want to listen to us old dudes @Michael Morningstar

Yep. If you're young, ambitious and broke just get a single fat 70 and take it everywhere. At worst, it'll be training weight. 

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