Home > Ice

Will Gadd’s Advice on Rope Choice for Ice Climbing

Will Gadd always has good tips and advice for ice climbers and he just published on social media his latest thoughts.

This time, Gadd talks about rope choice for ice climbing. Summary: Gadd says that you shouldn’t belay two people seconding with half or twin ropes. Read Gadd’s thoughts below.

Visit Gadd’s post below for comments and conversations Gadd is having with climbers.

We have a long and solid ice climbing season here in Canada, a lot of great ice routes, and a lot of people wanting to climb them. We also welcome visitors from all over the world, some of whom may bring unique perspectives that are very different than how we approach ice climbing here. The occasional conflicts that result are mostly avoidable with communication and respect (and don’t always involve visitors, we’ve got some unique people here too). A bunch of local climbers and guides wrote the following down as a summary of how we generally approach ice climbing here in Canada, but I think it generally applies to ice climbing in most areas of the world. It seems to apply to apply to a lot of communication and interaction in all forms of climbing and life as well. I’m happy to answer any questions if they’re asked here. Safe and smooth climbs to all!

A post shared by Will Gadd (@realwillgadd) on

Here’s a, “Don’t do this you can die” pic of my own from the first winter ascent of the North face of Howse Peak. Lessons: Don’t belay two people up with each on a single strand of half or twin ropes, and don’t cross ropes with two seconds, as I’ve done in this picture. I’m seeing a lot of belaying two people up on half or twin ropes out in the wild lately, and bluntly it freaks me out. Here’s why:

-Stretch. Single ropes in the 10mm range stretch about 5 to 8 percent under an 80kg load. This means if you have 50M of rope out and the second falls he’s likely to go about 2.5M or so before stopping. A single strand of half rope stretches much closer to 12 percent, or a six meter/ 20 foot fall, a two-story house! So if the second falls off low on the route he or she is likely to hit the ground, a ledge during that 20 foot fall etc. Bad.

-Rope damage. Very thin ropes are inherently more prone to damage or failure. In this picture the lower climber’s (Kevin) strand is running over the upper (Scott) climber’s strand. If Kevin falls off his rope is going to run for several meters over Scott’s rope, with a really high load ‘cause Kevin is a big guy climbing with a multi-day pack. I’ve got Scott’s rope pulled tight, and a loaded rope running over another rope may severely damage or even cut it. Bad. If the ropes run over a rock edge or around a sharp corner a really thin rope whipping across it with a full body weight, well, my stomach hurts thinking about it.

For these reasons I no longer use single strands of half or twin ropes to belay two seconds in technical terrain. And even with single-rated ropes for each climber still take care with how the ropes run on the pitch with respect to each other, and keep ‘em snug to pull out some rope stretch, especially low on the climb.

A post shared by Will Gadd (@realwillgadd) on

Check out the latest buyer's guide:

The Best Cragging Clothes for Summer

Outdoor climbing that's as fashionable as it is functional