Since the end of 2009 Rock + Run have had 2 Sterling ropes on test (we are also currently testing a Marathon Pro 10.1mm): the Velocity 9.8mm and the Duetto 8.4mm. I shall be reviewing the Velocity (all round single rope) later in this article, but first for some background info.
Sterling Ropes are already a well established brand in the USA and Europe. They are however a newcomer to the UK and it is only since the late spring that they have been available over here, distributed through Beta Climbing Designs. Sterling Ropes are based in Maine, North West USA. From their factory there they make a range of ropes for climbing, rope rescue, guiding, industrial safety, work access and OEM markets. They have been making climbing specific ropes for over 15 years and as expected they provide a range of ropes, enabling you to choose the most suitable rope for your needs.
In Sterling’s words:
“Sterling climbing ropes are made to perform extraordinarily well in all conditions due to our unique DryCore™ and Better Braid Technology™. These processes give you incredibly durable ropes that are smaller in diameter, lighter, and better handling, as well as dry cores, designed to keep moisture out and performance up.”
Sterling has a whole host of climbers as part of their “Athletes Team”. Surely the biggest name has to be Chris Sharma, but there are other notable climbers on their list. This includes Paul Robinson, Sonnie Trotter, Will Gadd and Nicolas Favresse. It’s these guys that are really pushing the limits of the sport, and it’s their feedback that is taken on board as their ropes are put to the test. This backing and testing ensures that the ropes that are good enough for the best are great for the rest of us as well.
Rock + Run Sterling Range
A brief overview of the core range of Sterling Ropes that we currently stock (Update: Our current range can be seen here
- Duetto 8.4mm Half Rope (Dry and Standard) - an ideal choice for those looking for a cragging and multipitch half rope.
- Velocity 9.8mm Single Rope – A lightweight and versatile single rope. (Reviewed later in this article)
- Pro 10.1mm Single Rope – A good ‘workhorse’ type rope; durable enough to be used as a working rope, or for top roping, whilst still great to use on the lead as well as to belay with.
- Nano 9.2mm Single Rope (Dry) – Lightweight single rope, ideal for onsights and redpoint attempts. With full dry treatment, this would also be a good rope for ice, mixed and alpine use.
|Weight Per Metre
The following are a range of technologies that are part of the Sterling rope making process:
All of Sterling’s climbing ropes have their unique DryCoreTM. This is a treatment of the core yarns which reduce moisture absorption and yarn-on-yarn abrasion. Sterling has tested ropes both with, and without their DryCore treatment and have found that ropes with DryCore maintained their strength characteristics and have less elongation than ropes without when wet.
Arid System Sterling's Dry Treatment
In addition to the DryCoreTM, some of their ropes also have their own extra unique dry treatment coating. It is these Dry ropes that you would be looking at for ice, mixed and general winter use. This Arid Dry treatment protects the rope from water absorption; eliminates weight increase; risk of freezing in cold weather; and slows the wearing of the rope considerably.
Thermo Dynamic Conditioning
This is a process where the rope is heated in a state-of-the-art conditioning chamber - this controls yarn shrinkage which affects the balance between the core and sheath yarns (ie sheath slippage). From our side of things this means that it helps keep the rope supple and dynamic. Sterling is one of only two rope manufacturers in the world who take this step.
Better Braid Technology
A combination of high quality yarns, state of the art machinery and high levels of quality control are some of the aspects of this, but it really comes down to the way the ropes are created; Sterling’s ropes have plenty of twists in the yarn which creates a rope that is strong and durable, as well as moving smoothly through gear. That’s enough of the technical spiel, now onto how I found the rope in use.
Sterling/Beta Climbing were kind enough to give us two ropes to test out, just over a year ago. They were the Duetto 8.4mm half rope, and Velocity 9.8mm single. Some of you may have already seen the preview
that Andy Hyslop and I wrote back in December 2009. At that time it was the Duetto that was seeing the most use. Since then the Velocity has seen a lot more action, and most of us at Rock + Run have used it to some extent. However it was I that was lucky enough to have it for most of the year.
As soon as you un-coil Sterling’s ropes you can tell that they are going to be of high quality. After checking on Sterling’s website I was pleased to hear that in addition to the quality control checks throughout the rope making process, all of the ropes are hand checked at the end of production. This means that every metre has been run through someone’s hands to check for any irregularities before even leaving the factory, which is nice to know.
The first few times it was used, there were no signs of any kinking, and there are still no signs now. It handles amazingly; it flows with ease, and runs through gear and belay devices very well, but is not so floppy that clipping becomes an issue. Part of this is down to the smoothness of the sheath. This means that the rope runs amazingly smoothly across rock, or through your gear. It is also knots neatly and compactly for tying in and at belays etc, with no evidence of the knots slipping through.
It goes without saying that the longer routes get, the more the weight of the rope becomes an issue. This is in addition to the amount of drag that occurs on the gear. It’s the 70m version of the Velocity that I have been using, and whilst I admit to not testing its lightness out on any mega 30m+ routes, I still have to carry it up to the crag! Even on routes in the mid 20m range, pulling the rope up at the top was a breeze, and noticeably different to the 10mm Mammut that I was using before I moved onto using this Sterling rope.
Falls & Impact Force
Impact force is how much force is passed to the climber when a fall is stopped. A low impact force is usually best as this will provide a softer fall due to a gradual slowing as the rope catches you. The other benefit is that your runners will also receive a lesser shock (especially important on marginal trad gear, or ice)
Just roughly comparing the Velocity to some of our other similar diameter ropes you will see that the Velocity has a slightly higher impact force than many others. However I am going to say that from my actual in-flight testing, I can say that you do get smooth, soft falls, even after considerable use (the impact force goes up the more a rope is fallen on). In fact I was reasonably surprised to see these values were higher than some other manufacturers when looking at them retrospectively.
The Velocity is a great rope to belay with. It works well with most standard belay plates. It was perhaps a little slick when new and used with my Black Diamond ATC, but has been great with a higher friction belay plate. The Velocity also works well with mechanical devices such as the Trango Cinch and Petzl GriGri. I will point out that technically speaking the GriGri is for 10mm plus diameters, but the Velocity has been sound through it, even when new. It’s easy to feed out slack for the leader, but is still thick enough for the GriGri to ‘Lock’. I have also used a Trango Cinch with the rope, and this too has been fine (for more info on the Cinch I have done a review of it here).
Okay so it’s not going to be the critical factor in deciding if you want the rope or not, but the Velocity certain looks the business; they are not too boring or over the top. I will point out that it doesn’t have a middle marker which could be an issue to some, but it’s something that can be lived with.
Whilst the rope no longer has its ‘as new’ look, it still looks in good condition and I am no way near wearing this rope out. Having access to the rope for approaching a year means that I am in a good enough position to comment on the durability so far. Purchase a Sterling Rope here.