Rope Choices for Climbing at Indian Creek

Kitty Calhoun, Chicks Climbing Co-Owner Jul 12th 2017
  • Typical Indian Creek Splitter

Indian Creek, known for its splitter cracks, has over 1,000 routes of all sizes and lengths. Problem solving for the leader includes what length of rope to carry or whether to carry a lead line and a tag line. Years ago, most routes were put up with 50m ropes, but new routes continue to be developed, and the standard rope length has increased to 70m. Many climbers brought along a tag line if they were climbing longer pitches. More recently, the tag line has been ditched in favor of an 80m rope, and even a 90m rope has made an appearance. This prompted a reconsideration of the pros and cons of bringing a longer rope vs bringing a tag line.

Option 1. The benefits of using a single 80m rope:
  • It is lighter than a 70m rope plus a 70m tag line. For example, an 80m, 9.4 Sterling Fusion Ion R weighs 10.05 lbs. If you are using a 70m, 9.4 Sterling Fusion Ion, it would weigh 8.79 lbs. Then add a 70m, 7mm Sterling tag line, which weighs 5.09 lbs and the total you are carrying is 13.88 lbs. (though you could carry one rope and have your partner carry the other).
  • Using systems with one rope instead of two is simpler and therefore there is less chance of an inexperienced climber to make a mistake.
  • The major precaution would be to tie a knot in the end of the rope when lowering or possibly rappelling.
Option 2. The benefits of using a single 70m rope plus 7mm tag line:
  • Obviously if the pitch is longer than 40m or is a multi-pitch route, then a tag line might be a better option. Even if the descent is a walk-off, a tag line provides more options in case it becomes necessary to rappel the route.
  • If the leader is on route and finds that they needs more gear, but is using a single 80m rope and is past the mid-mark of the rope, then they could lower and back-clean but would not have access to any gear on the ground or at the last belay. With a tag line, you can more easily pull up extra gear.
  • The major pre-cautions are to be aware of the nuances when tying two ropes together of different diameters, and with one being dynamic and the other static. This would be the case if you are rappelling or extending the belay rope.

As with any advanced technique, proper training is required. The more training and experience you acquire, the more opportunities are open to you.

  • Learning to lead under the tutelage of a guide.

On our last trip to Indian Creek, we chose the 9.4mm Sterling Fusion Ion R for several reasons:

  1. Its durable sheath, especially with the dry treatment, makes it a workhorse on the abrasive sandstone at IC.

  2. The 9.4mm diameter is a good size for long or harder routes where weight matters, especially when you get to 70-80m.

  3. All these ropes have middle marks.

  4. The Ion R is a great “crossover” rope that is versatile for a wide variety of types of climbing.

Chicks Climbing and Skiing is dedicated to educating and empowering women through mountain sports, developing community, and fostering environmental stewardship. Their all-women’s ice climbing programs were the first in the country and they’ve now expanded to offering rock, alpine and skiing events. Sterling Rope is their Official Rope Sponsor. To learn more about Chicks visit their website at