Diets are everywhere these days, and climbing is no exception. Even the gear we use is losing weight. Gear development over the past decade has meant that contemporary equipment is firmly in line with the ‘less is more’ philosophy. Maybe that bowl of steamed broccoli wasn’t necessary after all? There was a time that single ropes had a standard 11mm diameter, and half ropes 9mm. Nowadays some half ropes clock in around 8mm and single ropes are giving supermodels a run for their money. Unlike in the fashion industry, however, the crash diet that’s hit the rope making business has been very well received. As well as checking out the Edelrid Eagle 9.8, this review aims to give a few tips on what to look for in ropes more generally.
Buying a rope: things to consider
The process I used to go through when choosing a rope involved deciding on the length I needed and seeking out the cheapest. I never understood all that jargon about ‘impact force’ and fall ratings anyway, and besides, a rope is a rope, right? Well, to some extent this is true – all climbing ropes meet minimum standards and safety requirements set by the UIAA. It would, however, be wise to spend some time considering what you require a rope for before you buy, as you will need to balance the features you need based on your intended use. Things to look for in a rope...
For belaying and climbing alike, it is important that your rope is supple and easy to manage.
Durability is also an important factor when you are paying a small fortune for a new rope. Unfortunately, a bit of a trade off exists between handling and durability: in the same way that rock shoes with soft rubber are stickier but less durable, a rope that is very soft and supple will wear out quicker that its stiffer rivals. Weight:Weight is an important factor for obvious reasons – the rope is probably going to be the heaviest thing you carry to the crag and there’s no point in having the latest super light quickdraws if the weight of the rope is (literally) dragging you earthwards. Length:This is also an important consideration, as it will dictate the routes available to you. A 60M rope will sort you out for most routes in the UK and allow you to climb the majority of routes when you go abroad. A 70M will cover virtually all of the longest pitches, but hauling the extra 10M may wear you out on the walk up to crags like Ceuse! Dry Treatment: A common misconception is that dry treatment is only worth paying extra for if you’re planning some winter climbing. There is more chance of hell freezing over than me going to Scotland this winter but I would always choose dry treatment if I could afford it. ‘Dry treated’ ropes have added protection from general wear. It will also come in handy when you drop your ropes from a hanging belay into the sea (I’ve done this more than once!).
The Edelrid Eagle 9.8mm
The German Edelrid brand is likely to be one you have heard of, as they are very well established in the rope market. Climbing ropes are what they are best known for and they have been making them for decades. In fact, Edelrid produced the world’s first kernmantle rope back in 1953 and have been developing rope technology ever since. Nowadays kernmantle construction is the industry standard. One of their latest offerings, the Edelrid Eagle is described as “a universal light weight rope for climbing in alpine, crag or indoor conditions”. Being very impressed with my Edelrid ‘Fat rock’ half rope, I was keen to see if the Eagle could match it and satisfy its all round credentials.
Handling is for me the first thing I look for in a rope. The product blurb states that the Eagle comes with Edelrid’s special “Thermal Stabilization Treatment” – a process in which yarns in the core and sheath “undergo a heat treatment cure to stabilize and harmonise individual yarns” to soften the rope’s feel. This all sounds very impressive, but does it work...? Well, it certainly seems to. I found the general handling of the Eagle to be excellent, in fact similar to some thinner single ropes I’ve used. It was easy to draw through to make clips, sliding over my index finger and minimising the rope-in-mouth-while-I-pull-up-some-more routine. Untying afterwards can sometimes be a pain, especially after a big fall, but the Eagle was no problem in this respect. Again, this may be partly because it was new, thanks to the Thermal treatment... or maybe I just didn’t take any big enough falls.
One of the downsides of thinner ropes is that they do not work so well with the GriGri. The good news is that the Eagle seemed to take to the GriGri better than any other rope I used. Perhaps this was because it was newer, or perhaps because the 9.8m diameter was just right, but the rope ran freely when paying out but still locked when weighted. Either way, being perfectly compatible with the most popular of belay devices is a clear advantage. Although I have not used Edelrid’s own locking belay device, the Eddy, you would expect it to work at least as well.
Durability is a key concern, as you will want your rope to last as long as possible. The rope’s suppleness meant that at first I was a little concerned it may not last very well. However, durability is clearly a factor that Edelrid have spent much of their 55 year rope making career working on. The Eagle is treated with their “new and highly efficient Advanced Shield treatment” giving the “perfect protection for wet and dirty conditions”. This consists of a hydro and oleo phobic fluorocarbon based coating. Whatever this is (I’ve no idea!), each fibre of the rope is treated with it to ensure effective and long lasting protection. I’ve not had the rope for long enough to legitimately comment on the long term durability. However, having used it for a couple of months and intensively on a trip in very dusty and sometimes wet conditions, I can report that the rope still looks and feels as good as new.
One of the first things I noticed was the clear middle mark which is unlikely to rub off. This is a good sign, as it’s important to know where the middle of the rope is. The mid point of my first set of ropes was marked with a strange logo sticker-type thing, which looked pretty cool but wore off on their first outing!
Like all climbing gear, safety requirements for ropes are governed by the UIAA (International Union of Alpine Associations). Below are two boxes – on the left is a beginners guide to the sometimes baffling information card that is supplied with all ropes, and on the right a summary of the Edelrid Eagle’s credentials... Conclusions I found the Edelrid Eagle to be a very good all round rope. It represents a great compromise between handling and durability, scoring excellent marks in both departments. It works well in all belay devices I tried it in, including the GriGri making the Eagle a strong choice for anyone looking for a general sport climbing rope that will go anywhere and do anything. Climbers wanting a rope to save for redpointing may prefer to choose one of the ultra thin models available, but these climbers are few and far between, and I think the thin diameter will lend itself for this purpose anyway. The modest weight and superb usability of the Eagle will make it my choice for all eventualities in the foreseeable future. Even my climbing partner commented that overall he felt the Eagle was the best rope he had climbed on recently. Overall, this product gets a resounding ‘thumbs up’! Finally, here are a few important care tips that will help you make your investment last longer whichever rope you choose. General Care: Looking after your ropeUncoiling the rope for the first time:It’s very important that you do this correctly, otherwise your rope may have kinks and twists that are very difficult to get rid of – see a video on how to do this here.Rope protectors:If you are abseiling on the rope or using it for rigging, get one of these. Swap ends: Continually tying in on one end of the rope can wear the core out at that end, so switch ends regularly. Keep it clean: Clean ropes last longer, so do everything you can to avoid stepping on your rope (this grinds dirt into the core and can cause all sorts of problems). * Get a rope bag – these are inexpensive and can make your rope last a lot longer. Check out R+R's rope bag range here. * Clean the rope regularly – particularly after use in dirty conditions or near the sea – Use a Beal Rope Brush and a bath full of warm water. You can use a specially designed ‘rope cleaning’ product like Beal Rope Cleaning Fluid, although any non-detergent soap (e.g. Soap flakes or Nikwax Tech wash) will do the job. Check it regularly: Keeping an eye on your rope can prevent wear patches etc. * Check for irregularities, soft sections, lumps and sheath damage * This will ensure no damaged sections go unnoticed