The intended use determines which rope is best. It therefore makes sense to have a number of different ropes that can be used according to the type of climb. So, for high friction use, such as working routes or, top roping, a rope with a higher sheath proportion is useful. For alpine use, especially with ice, a drytreated rope is recommended. With possible sharp edge loading, or for longer rappels, twin, or half ropes are the first choice. The following gives examples of typical usage, each with the specific performance characteristic required by the rope.
Alpine Rock Climbing
i.e. High Sierra, Bugaboos, Wind River Range.
As soon as more difficult rock with a uniform level of difficulty comes in to play – meaning that a fall is possible at any time, classic belaying from anchor to anchor is necessary. Whether single or double – respectively twin ropes are used, depends mainly upon whether rappelling, or down climbing will be undertaken. In broken terrain, shorter rope lengths can be sensible.
Long Ice and Mixed Routes
i.e. Moonflower Buttress, Walker Spur, Droites North face, difficult waterfalls.
Only half or twin ropes offer the highest safety margins and enable long rappels in difficult terrain. Dry-treatment, easy handling and low weight all help with quick, efficient rope management. Long rope lengths are particularly useful on ice routes where pitches can often be run together.
Ice Climbing / Dry tooling
i.e. Vail, Ouray.
The requirements are similar to those of sport climbing, though dry-treatment is essential. With bolted mixed routes a single rope can offer simpler handling, though in sharp edged rock terrain the safety margin given by twin ropes is welcome. On poorly protected mixed routes, as typically found in Scotland, the half rope technique reduces the load on the «safety chain».
i.e. Mt. Rainier, Denali, South America.
With classic tours in mixed terrain and single climbing pitches up to grade 4 or 5 it is usual to down climb rather than rappel. Here it is advantageous to use a single rope. Or, a doubled half rope length can be used, though then only half the ropes length can be used. A dry-treated rope is also recommended here.
Multi Pitch Sport Climbing
i.e. Mt. Charleston, Red Rocks, El Portrero Chico, Wenden, Verdon.
Twin rope and half rope techniques offer the best safety margins and full rappelling distances. Dry treatment is useful in changeable conditions. Sharp edge resistance is guaranteed by the appropriate ropes. (Half or twin ropes).
i.e. Rifle, Smith, Rumney, Thailand.
With frequent falls, a burly rope is important. The impact force can be reduced by a dynamic belay. Handling and weight should be optimized for performing at the edge. Longer ropes (70/80 m) are needed at many modern sport climbing areas to allow safe lower-offs.
Climbing Gym surfaces wear a rope more quickly; sturdier ropes and thicker sheaths are an advantage.
Working routes with Frequent Falls
i.e. Training on a local crag.
Frequent falls cause extensive wear. Therefore, a «work horse» of a rope is required. Weight is less important than longevity.
Top Roping / institutional Use
To combat lots of abrasion and hard wear, a tougher sheath construction is an advantage. As long as falls by the second only are possible, then, circumstances allowing, a half rope can also be used.
Big Wall Climbing
i.e. El Capitan, Baffin.
A single rope is most often used for big wall climbing, while a static rope is used to haul. It’s desirable to have a large safety margin and tough sheath.
i.e. Mountain rescue.
High safety reserves and low elasticity are the most important properties of a mountain rescue rope.