While shoestring-thin ropes are popular with limit-pushing sport climbers and alpinists, the lack of durability and edge cutting resistance make them less suitable for everyday climbing or big wall adventures. In these situations, a beefier rope is the way to go. These larger diameter ropes with their thicker sheathes and cores, deliver better abrasion resistance, greater edge-cutting resistance and increased fall-catching performance.
Here are some concepts worth considering when buying a thicker rope.
Yes, these ropes will weigh more, but it’s the increased weight/metre that allows manufactures to build a more durable cord. Some companies choose to put the added weight into the sheath for increased protection from abrasive rock, jugging and sharp edges. Other manufacturers prefer shifting the material to the core for improved fall-catching properties. Ultimately, each gain in a performance characteristic requires a compromise in another.
At one time, climbers looking for a durable rope had a simple choice – buy an 11 mm cord. Today climbers can choose from a variety of diameters, but most will agree that as a rope moves towards the 10 mm mark, it become less appropriate for high-wear applications. Stick to ropes that have diameters greater than 10 mm when seeking durability.
Aphex 11 mm – $160
With an 11 mm diameter and a weight of 79 g/m, the Apex is a top choice for any climber that wants maximum durability. This is the perfect rope for big walls, challenging route-working sessions with bigger climbers or extensive top rope rehearsal on abrasive rock routes. The rope’s tight sheath and firm construction allows for relatively smooth handling while also increasing the rope’s lifespan. As a secondary bonus, the Apex’s 11 mm diameter improves security with almost any belay device; the rope is less likely to creep when catching falls or holding climbers.
Marathon SPort 10.4 mm – $210
The Marathon Sport does a great job delivering balanced performance that will appeal to any sport, trad or big wall climber. The midsize 10.4 mm diameter flows easily through most belay devices without compromising safety when catching falls. Sterling uses their substantial Marathon sheath construction, which assures the rope can shrug off the abuse of jugging, toproping or working a route. And with a 69g/m weight, the Marathon Sport is not overly heavy during difficult free climbs. A great versatile rope.
Xion 10.1 mm – $190
Climbers looking for a rope suitable for a variety of free climbing without sacrificing durability might want to check out the Xion. Measuring in at 10.1 mm and weighing a reasonable 66 g/m the Xion is versatile enough for use during hard redpoints while still offering the security and abrasion resistance necessary on bigger climbs. Perhaps not the best long-term rope for abusive rope-eating situations (think endless toproping), the Xion is a solid option for any free climber that wants a durable and versatile cord.
Osprey 10.3 mm – $162 or $2.75/m
The Osprey uses a unique sheath construction that provides surprising abrasion resistance. The rope’s 10.3 mm diameter does a good of balancing smooth handling with reasonable durability. As such, this is a fine cord for a variety of climbing situations: sport routes, trad and even some big wall adventures.
With a weight of 71 g/m and 39 percent of that weight going into the sheath, the Osprey will hold up nicely during any regular toproping or jugging. What’s particularly interesting about the Osprey is that Edelrid makes it available by the metre. This way climbers can buy the length they need without paying for extra cord they won’t use. A great solution for toproping or short gym routes.
Supersafe Evo 10.2 mm – $305
With 40 percent of the Supersafe Evo’s weight going into the sheath, climbers are assured that this will deliver exceptional durability. And thanks to its reasonable 69 g/m weight and 10.2 mm diameter, the Supersafe Evo is versatile enough for big walls and challenging free routes. The rope achieves much of this balanced performance from its sophisticated coating finishes that significantly improve abrasion resistance without unnecessarily increasing the weight. Handling is typical Mammut – supple without being so soft that durability is compromised. This is a great, versatile rope with plenty of safety reserves.