Climbing brands come up with creative products that capture our attention every year, but few brands are as open about how those products are made as Edelrid. Their ethos over the past decade has been to make more sustainable and eco-friendly products that the consumer can feel good using.
As top climber Tommy Caldwell told us here, “The clothing companies are doing a pretty good job at finding ways to reduce their impact. Food companies are doing great, but ropes and hardware – nobody was even talking about it before Edelrid.”
Edelrid is now leading the industry when it comes to having environmentally conscious products. From understanding how much power it takes to make a rope to how much water machining a carabiner requires, Edelrid is constantly tweaking their processes for the better.
“It’s very important to us to make our products more sustainable, which means the impact on the environment is reduced,” said Philippe Westenberger, head of product for Edelrid. “For almost every group of gear, we offer an option that is more sustainable than what’s on the market.”
In 2015, Edelrid introduced the first-ever bluesign harness to the market with the Edelrid Huascaran. Bluesign is the strictest certifier when it comes to evaluating material and energy consumption, wastewater and air emissions production, hazardous materials use, and worker and consumer health safety. It’s the gold standard when it comes to eco-friendly products and it’s the bar that Edelrid tries to meet with all its products.
They now make bluesign approved ropes, harnesses, carabiners and more, but Westenberger said that until now, something missing, and that was a helmet. He said the goal has always been to offer climbers a head-to-toe kit that is far more eco-friendly than what’s available, and that goal will be accomplished next year.
“Over the years we worked on a recycled rope, which was challenging,” said Westenberger. “A rope made from rope, the first closed climbing gear loop. Usually in recycling you reduce performance of the material you’re recycling, which doesn’t matter so much when you recycle clothing, but it’s not good when you recycle rope.”
They worked it out and created the first recycled rope with the Edelrid Neo 3R 9.8mm. “That led us to think that with our new rope recycling process that we’ve established, is there a way to make other climbing gear out of this as well because it’s all polymer based.”
Westenberger said that during their rope recycling process, they stop before the building of rope fibers, and they take it another way to make materials used to make head protection. The Edelrid Zodiac 3R will be the climbing world’s first fully recycled helmet.
“It has a recycled shell which is made from nylon that came from ropes,” said Westenberger. “The inside is an EPS foam, which is based on polyester and is easier to recycle.” The Zodiac 3R won’t be available until next year, but it’s good to know that environmentally conscious climbers will soon be able to equip themselves from head to toe in eco-friendly gear.
More Cut Resistant Ropes
Edelrid’s new line of ropes aren’t just built with the environment in mind, but with increased safety. The Protect ropes are far more cut resistant than other ropes on the market. For example, The Swift Protect is 8.9 mm but meets testing standards to certify it as a single, half, or twin rope and weighs in at 53g/m.
The sheaths of the Protect ropes have aramid fibres braided in, a material commonly found in ballistic armour. This results in extremely high resistance to abrasion and cutting.
“It all started when there was an accident in Swiss mountaineering training where two people rappelled at the same time and the rope running over an edge cut and both people fell,” said Westenberger.
He noted that it started a conversation about whether bigger diameter ropes are better than smaller. “That’s when we got involved and thought about how we could quantify cut resistance of ropes. It’s not a new thing, but all research lacked. The same test done in different spots were coming to different results, which wasn’t good for quantification.”
Westenberger said that after a lot of work, they were able to build a machine that can quantify the cut resistance of ropes. “It’s a very valuable thing for the climbing community to know.”
He added, “We learned a lot of important things that we can pass along to the consumer, including what characteristics the rope needs to be more cut resistant. And what we’ve learned we’ve integrated into our Protect ropes. The Swift Protect is 8.9 mm ane has a cut resistance of 80 kilos, which is normally what you’d get with a 10 mm rope.”
The Protect line of ropes includes a half-rope, a rappel line, a static rope and has a new option for next year. “For 2023, we’re introducing a burlier rope to complete the collection of ropes where are designed to be more cut resistant,” said Westenberger.
There’s a lot of climbing equipment available, so it’s good to know brands like Edelrid are working to bring us, the consumer, gear that we can be proud to use.