Sport Climbing Rope Review 2021

  • Posted on
  • By Eric Hughes - Climb On Staff Member
  • Posted in Ropes, Sport Climbing
Sport Climbing Rope Review 2021

Sport climbing only requires a few key pieces of gear; shoes, harness, belay device, draws, chalk and most essentially a rope. This review focusses on six of the best available for the 2021 season. The Climb On buying team select the best designed ropes from the leading manufacturers for all the climbing disciplines but always bring in sport climbing speciality ropes. This review looks at a selection of ropes from pure performance lines suitable for red point attempts to thicker work horses suitable for dogging and top-roping.

Climb On Squamish, selects products based on the expertise of our team. We comprise of climbers, athletes, guides, skiers and mountain rescue. We take the selected products and compare them in this independent review to help consumers make educated purchases! We are not paid for these reviews. This means that if we don't like a product feature we will tell you, if we love a product we will be out there using it next to you at the crag!

All the ropes in this review will perform beyond your expectations, which is why we selected them to be in our collection. This review looks at the nuances between a range of Sport Climbing Ropes from pure performance lines suitable for 'red point' attempts to thicker work horses suitable for dogging and top-roping. All the ropes reviewed are rated as single lines, meaning they can be used on their own. However, some will also be rated as half/double ropes or as twin ropes. And some will be triple rated (single + half/double + twin). Knowing when to use which system is not covered here. We are going to only focus on the single rope system used by most sport climbers. The symbols you see below are used internationally to indicate the rating on a rope — a triple rated rope is the most versatile. If you want to understand what safety standard a rope has to meet to receive a rating, research the UIAA Safety Standards

When choosing a sport rope the key considerations are:

Handling and Feel

A rope needs to be soft enough to clip easily into a quickdraw or be pulled through a belay device, but not so soft it coils and loops making handling difficult. The weave on the sheath — the sheath thickness and finish on a rope — will contribute to how a rope handles. Finding a balance between all the factors takes years to develop and production skills in the factory. Handling is often noticed more by a belayer who is attentively giving and taking slack during a day of sport climbing. 

Diameter (mm)

The diameter of a rope plays a huge role in its handling. A fat 10mm rope is "sticky" in a newer GriGri but a skinny 8.9mm rope used with an ATC requires a very attentive belayer. Rope manufacturers have improved rope technologies and rope diameters have been gradually reducing, as have belay devices to match the new norm of rope diameter. The balance between a skinny and light rope that is also durable and catches softly is a never ending quest for manufacturers. For high-end sport climbing, a rope under 9.5mm is the new normal. However, single rated ropes are now available down to 8.5mm.

Durability

Paying for a cheap rope may at first seem like a good idea. But, after a half dozen falls it starts to breakdown, flatten, swell or even open up. You will need to replace it sooner and be back at our store to pay for another rope. A good quality sport rope should be able to handle multiple falls over a season and, if you avoid sharp edges, can last many seasons. The longevity of a rope is often shortened by misuse rather than just normal use. One sharp edge or a gouged out carabiner can damage a rope after one fall; expect a rope to take use not abuse. Keep your rope clean and away from chemicals, out of direct sunlight and stored in a cool dry spot. 

Weight (Grams per Meter - g/m)

The lighter a rope the less weight you are carrying to the crag and the less weight you have to drag up a route. If you find yourself counting saved grams of weight in your harness, draws and diet, then picking a lighter rope will be of importance.

Features

Ropes come with a variety of additional safety features that benefit the climber.

  1. Mid-marker. The rope is marked with a black mark at half way. 
  2. Bi-Colour. The rope is two different colours, the colour changes at half way.
  3. End warning markers. Some ropes come with markers to indicate the end of a rope.
  4. Length (m). Select a rope most suited to the area you are using it. Most routes in Squamish can be climbed with 60m rope, However you might need a 70m, 80m or more in other destinations.
  5. Pre flaked rope. A rope that comes directly off the spool during manufacturing will need to be flaked at home before use. Some manufacturers do this for you so can climb immediately.

Dry Treatment

Ropes can be treated to reduce water absorption. Additionally, the dry treatment also reduces the grit and dirt being picked up. This prolongs the life of a rope. The dry treatment can fall into four categories:

  1. Sheath is dry treated.
  2. Core is dry treated.
  3. Core and sheath are both dry treated.
  4. Core and Sheath are not dry treated.

Price ($CDN)

Everyone loves a good deal and rope prices are creeping upwards. The price of a rope generally increases with the addition of features, length, treatments and technologies. We would advise selecting a rope that is fit for purpose with the features that keep you safe. While all the single rated ropes will complete the job of catching falls safely, a carefully selected rope may help you complete your red point list quicker this summer. 

Other considerations

  • Static Elongation (%) - How much a rope stretches under a 80kg load.
  • Dynamic Elongation (%) - Dynamic elongation is the amount of rope stretch produced by the standard dynamic test.
  • Sheath Proportion (%) - The ratio of sheath vs core. One of the indicators of durability. 
  • UIAA Fall Rating (#) - The number repeated of UIAA falls a rope can handle before breaking. (See diagram)
  • Impact Force (kN) - Is a measure of the elasticity of the rope, the lower the kN number the stretchier the rope.
  • Ecological - Benchmarking the impact of a product on the environment.

Sport Climbing Ropes Comparison

  Mammut Petzl Sterling Edelrid Edelrid Sterling
  Crag We Care Classic Arial Dry Rope VR Tommy Caldwell Eco Dry CT Hummingbird Pro Dry Nano IX DryXP
 

UIAA Certified

Reviewer Feedback

Uses recycled yarns in it’s sheath and comes at a great price point. Suitable for top roping and working routes. A smooth handling great all rounder with new red & blue colours for spring. Suitable for working projects. A durable workhorse with great price point due to greater use of white yarns in the sheath. New thinner TC rope from Edelrid balances performance, durability and handling. Nice soft catches and a smooth handling rope. Very durable due to its high percentage of sheath. A very light performance triple rated rope! Not designed for top roping and requires a suitable belay device.

Price

$195.00 - 60m
$235.00 - 70m
$344.95 - 70m $259.95 - 70m $418.94 - 60m
$474.95 - 70m
$376.95 - 70m  $389.95 -70m

Diameter (mm)

9.5mm 9.5mm 9.4mm 9.3mm 9.2mm 9.0mm

Weight (g/m)

59g/m 58g/m 56g/m 57g/m 57g/m 52g/m

Dry Treatment

Non - Dry Duratec Dry Treatment DryCore Eco Dry Finish Pro Dry Treatment DryXP Treatment

Features

Mid-marker
60m/70m/80m
Mid-marker
60m/70m/80m
Pre-lap Coiled
Mid-marker
60m/70m
Bi-Colour (Pink & Turquoise)
60m/70m/80m
Pre-lap Coiled
Mid-marker
30m/40m/50m/60m/70m/80m
Pre-lap Coiled
30m/40m/50m/60m/70m/80m

Static Elongation (%)

8% 7.6% 8.4% 7.4% 6% 7%

Dynamic Elongation (%)

33% 32% 31% 34% 31% 26.4%

Sheath Proportion (%)

40% 40% 38% 39% 44% 29%

UIAA Fall Rating

6-7 7 6 7 8 6

Impact Force

8.8kN 8.8kN 8.8kN 9.0kN 8.8kN 8.5kN

Ecological

Sheath made from residual yarn
Bluesign Material
    Eco-Dry finish. PFC Free.
Bluesign
Bluesign  

Rope Summaries

Mammut Crag We Care Classic 9.5

Sport climbing isn't always about red point attempts. Sometimes top roping with friends, working moves and covering miles of rock is more important. The Crag We Care Classic rope is exactly that; a classic all-rounder that "does exactly what is says on the tin."

Mammut have been producing amazing quality ropes for years and are now trying to reduce their ecological footprint by using residual yard in their sheath production. This rope will take the abuse and last many days of bolt clipping but weighs a little heavier than the others, has a slightly stiffer sheath and isn't as slick through a belay device as the skinnier ropes.

Petzl Arial Dry 9.5

If you enjoy a soft and supple rope that bends easily, the Petzl Arial is a great choice. At first it will feel a little stiff and slippery, but it soon softens with a few days out. The Arial handles great, offers soft catches and is a great workhorse, but will fuzz up a little quickly. Despite a little fuzz, this rope keeps its shape and performance well into its life. We would recommend this rope to anyone looking for one rope to rule them all — take out on regular sport climbing days + work routes + send routes with the same cord.

Additional Technologies:

  1. UltraSonic finish bonds the core and sheath together at the rope ends by an ultrasonic process. It provides greater durability and prevents frayed ends.
  2. EverFlex thermal treatment stabilizes core strands and improves consistency. It provides excellent grip and consistent handling over time.

Sterling VR 9.4

This rope is relatively inexpensive, handles great and can be taken out day after day for red points, top roping or working routes. If you are looking for a rope that strikes a balance between lightweight performance and pure workhorse, the VR 9.4 is an amazing option. The VR handles great but the weave has a little rougher feel in your hand. 

Edelrid Tommy Caldwell Eco Dry CT 9.3

9.3mm might be the perfect balance between handling and durability. While the ropes under this diameter will perform amazingly, they are designed for red point attempts and not for working routes. The "Tommy Caldwell" is light enough to be used on send attempts but can be taken on a wall and face the abuse of working pitches. The TC Eco Dry comes with all the best features including bi-colour (which is better than any mid marker), pre-lap coiled and produced with ecological standards above the industry standard. The 9.3 TC is the most expensive in our test but this trendy rope will be more durable than some of the cheaper options. If the price point is not a major factor in your purchase decision then this rope will impress you with the balance it strikes between durability and handling.

Additional Technologies:

  1. Color Tec is a braiding process for making bicolor ropes. 
  2. Thermo Shield treatment is a heat treatment cure that first relaxes then shrinks the rope's fibers. This harmonizes the gliding characteristics of the yarns inside the rope to ensure it is compact and supple throughout its life.
  3. Eco Dry Treatment ensures less than 2% water absorption.

Edelrid Hummingbird Pro Dry 9.2

A great minimal workhorse rope for projecting but also light and skinny enough for on-sight attempts and red-pointing, the perfect allrounder. The Hummingbird has the highest sheath percentage in this review and more than most of its competitors, this makes the Hummingbird more durable and abrasion resistant. This high sheath percentage also correlates to a higher number of UIAA falls but reduced elongation, you cant have it all! The rope feels supple and the dry treatment stops it from glazing after many falls. Compared to other 9.2mm ropes it feels bulkier, it handles closer to a 9.3mm rope and has a similar weight to a slightly thicker rope. This rope was a favourite among our testers because of the ability to work routes all season without having to chop the end of your rope. 

Additional Technologies:

  1. Thermo Shield treatment is a heat treatment cure that first relaxes then shrinks the rope's fibers. This harmonizes the gliding characteristics of the yarns inside the rope to ensure it is compact and supple throughout its life.
  2. Pro Dry Treatment ensures less than 2% water absorption.

Sterling Nano IX DryXP 9.0

Having dialed in your beta, waited for the right conditions and trained all winter you will want to pull this rope out for your send. At 52g/m it is the lightest and skinniest in our test, it also comes with a warning, only for use by experienced belays with a suitable belay device. When ropes are triple rated like the Nano IX, they are incredibly versatile, this rope could be used to ice climb, as a pair in a wandering traditional route or on its own as a single sport climbing rope. The 9.0mm diameter also means it wont take the abuse of a thicker rope but your are buying this rope for pure performance. Avoid rough edges, sharp carabiners and minimize the time working routes on this rope and you will have an amazing sending rope for years.

Happy Climbing!
— From the Climb On Team

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