This Month's Gear Guru Question:by Backcountry Bob
Q. My partner and I are planning some longer (10-20 pitches) rock routes in the Sierra this summer. Rock fall isn't usually a problem, nor rope drag. What's got me thinking is the weather. It's usually pretty reliable, but I'm concerned about being able to get off the crag in a hurry when we're 1,000 feet or more off the ground and the weather moves in. What would you suggest, a single cord with an 8mm static line, double rope, half rope, pack some Gore-tex and pray (already part of the plan...), or something else?
Great question and one that's going to have as many opinions as there are options, but here are my arguments for and against each. On any longer route, say over 3 pitches, you definitely want to have 2 ropes - this increases your safety margin and can get you down twice as fast in an emergency or in bad weather. Weather is a big factor when doing long routes - the Sierras are famous for those afternoon thundershowers. Getting wet is one thing, struck by lightning quite another. The key to doing long routes successfully is moving quickly; to do this requires good rope management skills and keeping things simple. I recommend the single cord and haul line because it really is a no brainer. You are already used to using a single cord on shorter crags, why complicate things on longer routes when you have other factors already complicating the issue e.g., route finding, belay change-overs, critters, loose rock, and weather concerns. Keep the lightweight haul line in the pack till you really need it and keep moving. Double ropes can add a measure of safety to the system but you need to have it wired to move quickly. Not a good system to figure out on a 15 pitch climb. Twin rope systems, I believe, are better suited for ice and lower to mid-angled alpine routes where rock fall is less prevalent. Remember, your two strands are running together as one and they tend to be of much thinner diameters. You still have two cords to deal with too. I would use a no less than 10 mm single cord and and 8mm static haul line. Save the thinner ropes for local sport climbs, you want some beef when you're in the mountains. The extra weight will be easily offset by the lightweight 8mm in your pack. Why static? Generally speaking, static ropes are much less expensive than dynamics, pure and simple; and, if you are going to do some actual hauling, a static is much more efficient at this task than a dynamic - no energy loss through stretch. I would pack a lightweight rain shell for sure - storms can be short lived but hypothermia can set in quick. Divine intervention is less trustworthy.
Good luck and happy climbing,
This month's Gear Guru question was submitted by Steve from California. He will receive a Nalgene bottle for his question. Enjoy Steve!
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