Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On the Rack: PMI Verglas 8.1 (Twin/Half Ropes)

How many people do you usually climb with? How many are usually with you on your multi-pitch team?  These are important questions because the size of your climbing party can determine not only the complexity of your process but also the distribution of your gear. Disproportionate weight distribution on a long approach can waste valuable team energy and change the tone from a fun day of climbing to a ruthless slog up a scree pile.

On my last trip to Red Rocks, I found myself as the leader in a party of two. Not bad for single pitch sport but considering the magnitude of the routes we were planning, it quickly became clear that we were going to need two ropes to safely descend. Through an unfortunate mishap, my primary rope was melted in half so... I was in the market for a new line.  I almost pulled the trigger on an exact replacement when I realized I had an opportunity to redefine rather than replace. I dove in and purchased a set of PMI Verglas 8.1mm twin/half ropes. This was my first outing with half/twin ropes and I have to say they were game changing. 

Basics of Twin Roping and Half Roping:
Half roping has been around for a long time and if you don't know about it by now, you should.  The idea is to run two thinner independent lines. This leads to a bit more rope management at the belay stations but there are some major benefits. First off, you can greatly reduce rope drag by alternating ropes instead of zig-zagging a single rope on wandering routes. Secondly, you have a backup rope just incase something happens... (Half roping is commonly used in leading ice; think sharp edges or crampons and ice tools.) Thirdly, you have enough rope to do a double rope rappel without having to trail a line which can get heavy and messy as well.  Last but not least is the weight savings (discussed below), and the ability to distribute the weight of a rope across two packs.

My new best friends...
Sorry, Beer.
Twin roping means using two smaller ropes as if they were one rope. This should only be done with ropes specifically designated "twin".  Many half ropes are not up to the task of rubbing agains the other rope in the same carabiner. I should mention that we also had some straight up sport lines on the tic list and were able to use the twin rated Verglas for those lines as well without having to pack another single line in the gear suitcase.  

Weight Savings:
A an average 10.2 rope weighs in at around 69 grams per meter. At 60 meters that comes out to be 9.1 pounds of rope in your pack. On big routes you are going to need two of them, so count on 18.2 pounds of rope. (Yes, Yes, I know you can use a tagline...)  The PMI Verglas are each only 8.1 mm with a weight of 42 grams per meter. That means at 60 meters each of these ropes is only 5.4 pounds; double it up for twin/half roping and you are looking at a total of 10.8 pounds of rope compared to 18.2 pounds. Plus you can split that 10.8 pounds between two packs and share the load on the approach. With my new rack of lightweight cams and biners, the hike in was a breeze for both of us.  

Fall Performance:
Each of the PMI Verglas are individually rated to 8 falls and could withstand a climbing fall scenario on its own. However, the decreased diameter means they are less hearty than a beefy single rope and sharp edges etc could cause failure in a catastrophic situation.  That's why you double them up. They are rated as such because in a half roping situation, one rope with take the majority of the fall force and the other will serve as a backup. Used together as twin ropes, they are rated to a whopping 18 falls which is generally higher than most single ropes because they share the force of the fall. For tiny ropes, they are surprisingly durable.

Overall Impressions:
From the first unravelling to the packing up at the end of the trip, the Verglas ropes felt solid yet supple. They had a very nice feel and glide, yet were able to lock into my ATC Guide with ease. I even enjoy the available color options(Make sure you get two different colors!) You can just tell that these ropes are high quality when you work with them. I am immensely pleased with my purchase even though.. wait for it...  I payed full price! They are worth every penny.

Do you need a set? 


It really all depends on what your objectives are. It would be silly to get a set for Red Wing or Taylor's or even the N
orth Shore. Only pick up a set if you are planning on a large number of long routes with double rope raps and are looking for flexibility in packing and gear placement. Otherwise it is just a whole lot of rope and, as with all half ropes, they can be a pain to manage at times. Twice the rope means twice the tangles.  Sometimes one sturdy cord is all you need, but then there are those times when we need to redefine instead of replace.

Climb Smart MN is a grassroots approach to climbing education based on community and charitable giving. For information on donation based climbing lessons visit ClimbSmartMN and follow us on Facebook. With over ten years of climbing instruction, coaching, and guiding experience,  Chris Hesselbein strives to better the climbing community through personalized technique and safety education.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Is Your Anchor Screaming for Help?: 4 Subtle Signs

Part of the fun of a day at the top-roping crag is getting to see the menagerie of anchor styles at the top of the cliff line; some better than others. We have all seen climbers using a sketchy anchor all day without incident. In fact, the number of accidents from blown anchors is surprisingly less than expected.  That is because modern climbing gear is so effective that, in most cases, one well slung boulder could be enough to hold the force of a typical top rope fall.  Even so, this is no excuse for setting non-redundant and poorly equalized anchors. If crappy anchors are not failing, how do people know the difference between a well set anchor and poorly set one?  My point here is that our anchors don't give us feedback until they completely fail...or do they?  Actually, there are several small signs that may indicate your anchors are poorly equalized.

1. Pieces Popping or Walking
Repeated use unpredicted movement lead to expansion and contraction of your anchor system. Hence,  force vectors have shifted leaving your poor piece to adjust to changing conditions.  When this happens, pieces can pop out or walk back into an ineffective position. Whatever the case, if your pieces have shacked up at a new address, your anchor was not well set and equalized.

2. Fused Nuts and Hexes
Poor equalization means that one strand of your anchor takes on a disproportionately high force relative to the other pieces.  In the case of nuts and hexes(and tri-cams, for that matter), when most of your anchor force relies on one of them, it has a tendency to fuse into the crack and can be a real pain to get out. If I have a tree and a nut in the same system, I give the tree strand a little extra tension to give the nut a fighting chance.  Well set nuts and hexes should come out as intuitively and smoothly as they were put in.

3. Webbing Wear Marks
Webbing is stretchy by nature. When weighted it will move, and if placed over a rough edge it may start to wear. Padding the edge can help in this situation but those wear marks could tell you something about the forces demanded of each piece. If one of the pieces has a wear mark from the edge and the others do not, that piece took more force and was the primary contributor to your anchor. Try for equal wear or no wear at all.

4. Stubborn Knots
Clearly the master knot in your system is typically a bear to untie. But what about the other knots in your system?  Have you noticed that one of your knots is more difficult to untie than the others? That might inform you of an uneven distribution of force throughout your anchor. The greater the force on that strand, the more difficult that knot wil be to untie. This is a clear sign of poor equalization.

Shouldn't we all take time for reflection on how well our anchors performed? Shouldn't we seek advice and critique from a trained professional? Are your anchors quietly screaming for help? Are you listening?

Climb Smart MN is a grassroots approach to climbing education based on community and charitable giving. For information on donation based climbing lessons visit ClimbSmartMN and follow us on Facebook. With over ten years of climbing instruction, coaching, and guiding experience,  Chris Hesselbein strives to better the climbing community through personalized technique and safety education.