The climbing rope is a unifying piece of gear. Primarily, it connects a climber to his belayer, but every tribe member who wants to get higher than 15 feet off the ground ties into one, whether he’s toproping or big walling. (The Honnolds and Crofts of the world don’t count!) However, a toproper and a big waller will be looking for two very different cords. Our testing crew visited nearby Colorado areas, Ten Sleep, Wyoming, half a dozen Utah crags, and California’s High Sierra to find the five best single ropes on sport, trad, and alpine routes.
Climbing Rope Reviews
The Haku makes transporting and flaking a breeze, with this bag, bucket, and tarp in one ultra-portable package. When you’re done climbing, flake your rope onto the 4’x4’ tarp, grab the corners and give a shake, and the cord will disappear into an attached nylon bucket (that lies flat when not in use).
Slated for a fall 2013 U.S. debut, these ropes sold out so fast in Europe that Edelrid couldn’t meet demands for both the U.S. and all of Europe—and that should tell you something. The Snipe is a 9.8mm rope that increases to 10mm for six meters at each end and in the middle using Edelrid’s EnduroTech technology.
The brunt of a rope’s strength comes from the core, and while the sheath doesn’t add significant strength, it does protect the core from damage. A sliced sheath will quickly unravel, exposing several feet of core, making the rope unusable. Solution? Beal introduced Unicore technology last year in two ropes; this bonds the core to the sheath via a thin, lightweight filament that’s woven between the two.
This cord quickly became the top choice among our sport climbing testers thanks to its supple feel, easy handling, thin diameter, and kink-free performance. “We’ve had this line for about seven months, and it permanently stays in the rope bag as our go-to cord,” said one testing duo. “It hasn’t kinked once on 100+ pitches, and it clips like a dream.”
Although the average diameter of most ropes is getting smaller, the standard length is growing, and Metolius has responded by making their tried-and-true rope bag in a “high capacity” version. For day trips to Clear Creek Canyon and weekend trips to Shelf Road, both in Colorado, the bag easily fit an 80-meter rope and full rack of 15 quickdraws.
The climbing rope is the centerpiece of your safety system. Unless you’re bouldering, it’s your most critical climbing equipment. You may buy a one-size-fits-all rope, or build a quiver of ropes that suit each type of climbing you do. Modern nylon climbing ropes use a kernmantle design, meaning they have a thick “kern,” or core, providing most of the strength, plus a thin “mantle,” or sheath, to protect the core. Extensive twisting of the core yarns gives a rope most of its stretchiness and energy-absorbing capabilities.
New England Ropes/Maxim Airliner 9.1: Easy clipping and complete smoothness out of the gate made this Maxim rope an absolute favorite for the serious sport climbers in our test squad. Knots were easy to tie and untie, and initial kinks were kept to a minimum. The 9.1mm diameter is absolutely perfect for redpointing—thick enough to stand some abrasion and big whips, but thin enough (61 g/m, or less than 9.5 lbs for a 70m rope) to feel like there’s practically nothing there.
Over the winter, we climbed with a wide sampling of single ropes (most are new for 2010/2011) and boiled the selection down to eight favorites. During the review process, certain biases became evident: Some testers wouldn’t even look at a rope above 10mm in diameter, while others nervously said “no thanks” to anything under 9.8mm. Dry treatments also became a point of contention: Sport climbers in Colorado shrugged them off as an unnecessary extra expense, while ice climbers were incredulous at this indifference. While such characteristics will factor into your own decision, we hope to at least point you in the right direction on the journey to find your dream cord.
After months of testing on hundreds of routes, we offer up our picks for the most innovative, useful, and just damn good gear of the year. The Singing Rock Crux, Mammut Smart Alpine, Black Diamond Gridlock Screwgate, Petzl Grigri 2, Five Ten Arrowhead, Arc'Teryx Squamish Hoody, Beal Joker 9.1, North Face Verto, and Salewa Rapace GTX all won our high praises and took home the Editors' Choice Award.
By thinking eco, French company Millet has raised the bar on their already top-notch Triaxiale rope line. The 10mm Low Impact Triaxiale is a green rope, literally and metaphorically — Millet found ways to reduce energy consumption and use fewer chemicals during production, as well as minimize packaging.
New for 2009, Millet’s Cristal buffs out the popular 9.8mm-diameter category with this addition to the French manufacturer’s cabled-core line (the threads are twisted and assembled, not braided). The Cristal is an excellent all-arounder with an angle toward sport climbing — thick enough to work with all belay devices and withstand a day of crux-bolt whippers.