When it comes to climbing, not all ropes are created equal.
There are many types of ropes, static, dynamic; single rope, twin or half ropes; dry treated ropes; the list goes on.
(Not to mention)
Literally thousands of colour options and patterns.
Rope patterns are what brings us here today.
Today you’ll learn, what is a bi-color or bi-pattern climbing rope, what is its purpose, and most importantly…
Is it worth the extra money?
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Is It Worth The Extra Money?
Well… it depends.
It takes more time and resources to produce a bi-color or bi-pattern rope, which is why they are more expensive, so as you might imagine, many do not want to bear the added expense.
The most important factor when deciding what type of rope you’re going to be buying is what type of climbing will the rope normally be used for.
If you’re doing a lot of alpine climbing or if your regular areas with a lot of multi-pitches, it could very well be worth the added expense.
For reference, a bi-pattern rope is usually 25%-35% more expensive than a similar model with a basic middle marker.
If you’re using the rope pretty much exclusively for gym or single pitch cragging, you can probably go without it.
Generally speaking, we’re all in favor of engineering as much risk out of the equation whenever possible but its up to you to make the decision based off of your own circumstances.
Why Use a Bi-Pattern Rope
Using a bi-pattern rope means it is very easy to tell where the middle marker of your rope is.
This is crucial for safety when climbing and rappelling, for example on a multi pitch. Because of that, solid-colored ropes also have a middle marker.
Added Safety For Inexperienced Climbers
With bi-patterns, the whole second length of the rope has a different appearance, you can easily tell when you have used more than half of the climbing rope.
Even if you didn’t notice the marker going through your belay device.
This is an extra element of safety while climbing or rappelling as it is a strong visual clue.
Rappelling is considered one of the most dangerous parts of climbing, and many beginners and pros alike fall prey to usually avoidable accidents every year.
Downsides of Bi-Pattern Rope
When your climbing rope has seen some action, there might be a moment when you need to cut a bit off one of the ends.
An issue with using a bi-pattern climbing rope is that when you cut off one end of the rope, the midway-point of the rope will change and the change of pattern or color won’t correspond to the actual middle of the climbing rope any more.
You have to cut the same length of both ends of the bi-pattern rope, so the middle is in the middle again.
If you use a climbing rope with a middle marker, this is also the case, but you do have the ability to simply “remark” the new middle point.
Not necessary the “ideal” situation.
As you might imagine, this could lead to a catastrophe.
If this is done, make sure to always clearly communicate which mark is the correct one when you are climbing with a new person.
A new climbing rope can be quite an investment, and bi-pattern ropes tend to be even more expensive (generally 25%-35% more) than their solid-colored counterparts.
However, a high-quality rope is also an indispensable piece of climbing equipment that can potentially last you a long time.
Bi-Pattern Ropes vs Middle Marker Lines
We have mentioned it above, but the main advantage of bi-pattern climbing ropes over a rope with a single middle mark is that you can always tell which “side” of the climbing rope you’re on.
So, even if you miss the change of pattern or color passing through the belay device, you can easily tell a bit later on that the color or pattern of the rope has changed, indicating that you have passed the middle.
Easy to see and impossible to wear off
Middle marks, even when brand new, only take up a few inches of the rope, so they can easily be missed.
Especially when you are a less experienced climber.
(Not to mention…)
They can also easily fade away with time, whereas the change in pattern or color is permanent as it’s the material of the rope itself that changes, making it impossible for an external marker to wear off.
Make Your Own Mark
Keep in mind…
It is possible to mark the climbing rope again yourself, but some studies suggest that using any old sharpie can permanently damage your climbing rope because of the chemicals that might be in the paint or color.
If your rope’s middle marker has faded the best options are to either buy a specific climbing rope market like this one from Beal, or thread some different colored thread through the upper strands of the sheath fibres of the rope.
What is Bi-Pattern Climbing Rope?
Bi-pattern climbing ropes change their color or pattern halfway through, clearly marking the halfway-point of the rope.
This only concerns the outer layer of the climbing rope, and does not impact whether dry treatment can be applied or not, and does not affect the core of the rope.
There are actually two “types” of bi-pattern ropes out there:
Bi-pattern ropes have the same colors throughout the whole length of the climbing rope, but the pattern has a distinctive change halfway through.
Bi-colored ropes change in colour, indicating where the second half of the rope begins. This can be accompanied by a change in the pattern, too.
Go here for more info on the different types of ropes.
How Are Bi-Pattern Ropes Made
Today’s climbing ropes consist of two parts: the core and the sheath.
The core of the climbing rope is the part that provides the dynamic stretch when catching a fall and consists of a system of thick, twisted nylon strands.
To protect the core, it is covered in the sheath of the rope.
This protects it from abrasion, sunlight etc. The sheath is also made from nylon fibres that are woven around the core in a specific pattern.
The Manufacturing Process
To make a bi-color or bi-pattern rope, the manufacturers will either change the configuration of the bobbins that weave the sheath halfway through the climbing rope, or some strands of the nylon get spliced together with a strand of a different color.
Splicing is a technique that is also used in sailing, that connects two pieces of rope with the same diameter without using a knot and without losing any strength of the rope.
To make a bi-color rope, Sterling changes the color of some strands of the climbing rope to change the entire appearance of the second half of the rope.
This is done using a so-called air splicer, a device that joins together two strands of different colored nylon, without them losing any strength.
Edelrid, like Sterling, also produces bi-pattern ropes and explains the manufacturing process as follows.
The pattern in the sheath is altered without splicing, but by moving around bobbins in the braiding machine of the climbing rope.
This changes the pattern the sheath strands are woven into, changing the appearance of the rope.
Explaining: “The Bump”
Due to the manufacturing process, you might feel a slight bump in the middle of a bi-pattern climbing rope.
This is caused by the fusion of the two different strands or because the strands change their weaving pattern and are a bit more criss-crossed in this area.
This does not change the strength of the rope and should not be mistaken for damage when inspecting your climbing rope!
Hi there, I am Mirjam and have recently discovered rock climbing for me while backpacking in Colombia. Originally from Switzerland I currently live in Venezuela and work as a freelance writer and translator. I have always loved being in nature and the mountains and am stoked to explore more of the world’s best climbing in the years to come!
You can find me at @mirigoesround or www.bosstranslations.com