Most climbing ropes will work OK if they are dynamic, but it does not imply they should be your first pick. There are two key factors to consider when ice climbing:
- Dry treatment
- Your type of rope system -single or double
Let’s dive into rope types in detail:
The term “dry treatment” refers to a method of preventing your rope from becoming wet. You need a rudimentary understanding of how climbing ropes are constructed to understand why this is crucial. The two main components of dynamic ropes are:
- The core, which is constructed of elastic nylon and is in charge of catching your weight in the event that you fall.
- The sheath, which is meant to keep the core safe.
The core, in essence, conducts all of the critical jobs of catching you if you fall, while the sheath protects the core from sharp rocks and anything else that can compromise its structural integrity.
When a rope’s core becomes wet, it loses a lot of its catching strength, putting your safety at risk. To avoid this, certain ropes are “drily treated,” which means the sheath is engineered to keep water out.
Now, the effectiveness of this dry treatment is limited. The rope’s waterproofing abilities can deteriorate over time and exposure to the environment, especially with frequent use and exposure to the elements.
Even so, you should bring a dry-treated rope for ice climbing. You’ll be dragging it over snow and ice throughout the day. Although it won’t be as severe as dumping the rope in the water, there will undoubtedly be a lot of moisture exposure, and the dry treatment can provide peace of mind.
Single, Half, and Twin Ropes
Single Rope Systems
This is your standard climbing setup. You tie it into a single rope and clip it through every piece of protection you come across. It’s simple to put up and operate, and you only need to bring one rope.
You’ll need a rope that’s between 9mm and 10.7mm thick for this style of climbing. Anything thinner won’t be able to catch a fall on its own, and anything thicker won’t fit through your belay devices.
Half Rope Systems
A half rope system is one of the most difficult to master, but it can also be one of the most adaptable and useful.
You tie into two sections of rope, each about 8-9 millimeters thick, in a half rope system. Both ropes are threaded through the belay mechanism, and you climb normally.
Twin Rope Systems
In alpine and multi-pitch situations, twin ropes are frequent. They’re a little thinner than half ropes, usually approximately 7-8mm each, and the belay procedure for setting them up is the same as for a half rope.
A half rope configuration differs from a twin rope setup in that twin ropes are too thin to catch your fall on their own. This means that both sections of the rope must be clipped through each piece of protection. Using a twin rope setup has its own advantages:
- Longer rappels: Twin ropes, like half ropes, allow you to conduct a full-length rappel, which is why they’re useful in alpine and multi-pitch climbing.
- Better weight distribution: Instead of one person carrying a full-length single rope, a team of two can each carry a half-length rope.
Best Setup for Ice Climbing
So, now that we know what each rope system is for ice climbing, which one is the best? For ice climbing, single or half rope systems are most typically utilized.
- It induces less drag. As you slice your way over a cascade, attempting to find the best ice and the most secure screw placements, ice climbing can involve a lot of zig-zagging. The rope drag can be reduced by using a half rope configuration.
- It’s better for rappelling too. The twin rappels will come in handy, especially if you’re climbing a multi-pitch or long single-pitch route.
- Provides double the security. One thing to keep in mind when ice climbing is that you will always have many sharp objects stuck to your body. When you use half ropes, you always have a backup in case one of your lines breaks.
When ice climbing, you should always bring a dry-treated rope with you. A half rope system is recommended for multi-pitch, single pitches longer than thirty meters, and alpine situations. A single rope should suffice for shorter single-pitch climbs.
How to Choose Your Suitable Ice Climbing Rope
When it comes to outdoor equipment, the cost is nearly always a consideration. Depending on the brand you choose, a good dry-treated rope will cost you between $225 and $300.
The size of the rope you’re buying is the next factor to consider. The following are the standard climbing sizes:
- Single ropes should be between 9mm and 10.7mm in diameter.
- Half ropes should be 8mm-9mm thick.
- Twin ropes can be as little as 7mm in diameter and still be effective.
Finally, the length of your ropes must be considered. Personally, I would not advocate utilizing a rope less than 60 meters. 70 is even better because that extra ten meters can mean the difference between being able to complete a route and not being able to do so.