Sweet Gear: A General Rope Review

22 01 2009

Back in 2001 I bought my first rope a Mammut Tusk at 10mm 50 meter. I had been climbing on partners ropes for the previous year or so and it was time for my own rope. It’s main purpose was short sport climbing so I didn’t mind the 50m length. This rope has aged well and I still use it for occasional top roping or anchor duty. It is a bit fuzzy after almost 8 years of use but I have managed not to get any core shots. Since pitches keep getting longer I doubt I would ever buy a 50 meter rope again.


Practicing the Portuguese Bowline on Sickle Ledge on The Nose with the Mammut Tusk

My next rope was a Maxim Whippet bought the first year of college at REI. It was the only 70m rope they were selling at the time and it was on sale!! This rope made its way to Australia where I sold it to fund a bouldering trip to New Zealand. During its two years of use it was my main rope, lighter than the Tusk and a joy to use.  It was my first skinny rope, 9.5 mm, even though it was supposedly a bit heavier than average. It wore well and I would have kept it except I was able to sell it for close to what I payed for it and didn’t have to carry it home to the US.


Lizzy having fun during our short stay on El Capitan

Upon my return I purchased a 60m Mammut Infinity 9.5mm . This rope has been awesome and quite durable. While it is marketed as 9.5 it feels fairly thick and definitely fuzzed up a bit over the years, so it doesn’t feed super fast in a Gri-Gri. Regardless, I enjoy the clipping action and even though we had to cut the ends off, making it only about 155 feet,  I still like using it.  So far this is my favorite rope and at some point I will likely get a new one of the 70 meter variety. It is light enough for a hard redpoint but still durable to last on day of projecting.


The end of a fun day in Squamish with the Infinity.

Around the same time I got the Infinity I picked up a pair of Beal Verdon II double ropes. At 9mm and 60 meters they were perfect for taking multiple followers on trips to the Gunks. These are a bit heavy for doubles but have worked well during their limited use. Lizzy and I used only one of these ropes as a superlight way to simul Royal Arches and Cathedral Peak. The use as a fast and light single as well as a lighter rap line adds value to these two ropes. I would not purchase such a thick set of doubles again but would consier the Beal Ice Line 8.1 mm orthe Petzl Dragonfly 8.2 mm.  I have used my friend Hartley’s Ice Lines and they are quite thin and light, though not as durable as our current doubles.

n3802675_31410505_8253Coiling the doubles on Solar Slab in Red Rocks.

Also in 2006 I got a Beal 8mm by 60m static trail line that I use for rappeling.  Initially purchased for aid climbing I worried about its long term durability. This rope was super light (40 g per meter) and went up many multipitches before it got stuck on Cloud Tower (Red Rocks)  in October of 2008. It was the perfect small rope for stashing in the pack for when one needed to do double rope rappels.

yosemite-june-07-252Lizzy is ready with the Beal Verdon II after a fun trip up Cathedral Peak.

Also in college I got another Mammut Tusk this time in a 60m length. We found this rope at the RRG and after multiple postings at Miguels it came home with me. Wary of a used rope this has been relegated to TR and Aid climbing duty.  It has seen use and spends most of its life in our rope box.


Enjoying the 70m Petzl Fuse at Suicide Rock.

After graduating college I was anxious to get a 70meter rope again and bought the 9.4 mm Petzl Fuse. This rope was excellent until it got a core shot in the middle while descending the Incredible Hulk. We got super lucky because while we were unable to retrieve the cord, we ran into another party who hiked it down and I was able to pick it up at the Bridgeport ranger station. Fortunately I was able to salvage the pieces of the Petzl rope and kept the two parts since the rope was  still fairly new. I use the shorter section for a lead rope at the gym and the ~35 meter piece is perfect for short sport climbs such as our recent trip the Gallery in Red Rocks.

One of my ropes came to me by chance when I won a Sterling Marathon Pro 10.2 Bi-Color 60meter rope. This is the thickest rope I own and it shows. It however has been a great workhorse and accompanied me on my first 12c redpoint. Lizzy doesn’t like this rope at all and with a dry coating it is quite dirty but it has worn well despite constant use as a TR rope. It feeds ok through the Gri-Gri, mainly due to its slick dry coated sheath which is slowly becoming fuzzy. I wouldn’t buy such a thick rope but it impressed me enough with Sterling to buy one of their thinner ropes.


The already fuzzy BlueWater static line with the frog we found on El Capitan.

After chopping the Petzl rope in half I was again in need of a 70m rope. I purchased a Sterling Ion at 9.5 mm and have only used it a few times. The main disappointment was the lacking middle mark. However it runs smoothly and clips well. It is quite small and feeds fast through the Gri-Gri. You have to be a bit careful lowering which is similar to the Petzl Fuze. Once this rope gets a few more pitches I will report back on it’s durability.

We also own a Bluewater static haul line that I bought for a trip to Yosemite. During the short time on the Nose, we bailed from Sickle, it showed alarming wear. As well the rope was super stiff and did not handle well. This along with some experiences with Bucknell Climbing Club ropes in college, makes me stay away from Blue Water.


Lizzy and Rebecca and a pretty pink Beal rope at Rumney

Lizzy has a pink 60m  Beal Flyer II which is 10.2 but feels really skinny, more like a 9.8.  Lizzy loves it for its soft catch, even though I think it is too stretchy. It handles well but kinks easily due to it’s supple nature. She has had it for many years and I am anxious to turn it into a RUG…


The well loved Edelrid LiveWire

Lizzy also has an  Edelrid Livewire. 70 meter 9.8. This rope has been our long route work horse and has taken a lot of abuse since Lizzy bought it back in 2006. Despite being fairly cheap at REI this rope has held out really well and cleaned up nicely after we washed it. It is still the go to rope for the 100+ foot pitches at the Riverside Quarry. Between this rope and a 10mm Edelrid of Leah’s (I think its a Hawk) that I used I have respect for the durability and handling of the brand. Even though it is getting old I hope that we won’t have to retire it any time soon.

Overall I think my ranking is as follows:  (Top being the best, in my opinion)

Mammut – Clips well and last a long time.
Petzl – A bit on the stiff side but handles and wears well.
Sterling –  Soft and a bit kinky but durable.
Edelrid – Feeds and clips well and stands up to abuse.
Maxim – Heavier than average but clips well.
Beal – Too stretchy and seems to fuzz easily.
PMI – A bit slippery but clips well.
BlueWater – Heavy and not very durable.




Sweet Gear: Coming Soon!

21 01 2009

Between holiday gifts and sales, I realized I have a ton of new gear to test out in the next couple months. A lot of it is relatively new, so keep an eye out for some upcoming reviews if you’re considering any of these items:

Mountain Hardwear Women’s Cloud Rest 5° Sleeping Bag – this is my new down sleeping bag. It’s not warmer than my older sleeping bag, but it is much lighter and is actually the right size.

Mountain Hardwear Cima Mitt – I needed some mittens for cold days climbing and snowboarding. These have some really good features and some not-so-good features. Stay tuned for more info.

Patagonia DAS Parka – This is my new warm jacket. Not that I’m getting rid of my down jacket, but this is way better. It’s built to be a belay jacket and the hood keeps my head warm. 🙂

Arc’teryx R280 Women’s Harness – Luke got me this sweet new harness for Christmas. All I can tell you so far is that I definitely forgot that I was wearing it.

La Sportiva Miura VS – I think Miuras are probably the best all around climbing shoe there is. I was very excited to try these tweaked Miuras, but due to my lame chest injury (which is still not better) I haven’t gotten to use them too much yet.

Camp USA Women’s Armour Helmet – Just got this on sale (screaming deal) at REI. My old helmet was not the most comfortable, so we’ll see how this one works out.

PMI 9.7mm Arete 60m Standard Rope – this rope was recently on sale at REI. I haven’t had a non-dry rope in a while and my beloved pink rope is probably nearing retirement age.

Also look for a couple of reviews from Luke pretty soon. If you are interested in any of the items and want to know about them (or tell me about them) feel free to comment.


Sweet Gear Review: Patagonia Plush Pants

6 01 2009

Sorry guys, they only make these for the ladies. You should be jealous.

I had the opportunity to try on a pair of Patagonia Plush Pants at Adventure 16 a couple months ago. I immediately fell in love with their great fit and super soft, warm fleecy feel. But it was summer and I really had no need for fleece pants.

But Luke knew that even though I didn’t need fleece pants, I did want them, and so they appeared under the Christmas tree this year. I got the chance to wear them on our recent trip to Bishop and Mammoth and was every bit as pleased with them as I hoped I’d be.

I have the XS pants in black and they fit perfectly – comfortable waistband, nice shape, perfect length. They are soft and warm and feel great against my skin, but I can also wear them over long underwear or tights (which I did, post-snowboarding). They were awesome to wear relaxing in the motel room after a tiring day of climbing or snowboarding and I plan to wear them as often as possible until it gets too warm again.

I do feel that I should point out that these aren’t really “technical” fleece pants – they are great for hanging out, but maybe not the best to actually wear out climbing or anything. I have another pair of (less fuzzy, comfortable, and flattering) wind-proof fleece pants that I still plan to use for more “technical” applications (e.g. really cold day at the crag, snowshoeing, cold/windy camping, etc.).



Sweet Gear Review: Patagonia R1 Flash Pullover

3 11 2008

Luke and I love gear. Luke’s favorite is probably shoes (he has 5 pairs of Miuras…) And the gear I love the most is outerwear. I’d like to blame it on growing up in the Pacific Northwest, where your most important clothing asset was not your sexy clothing, but your “technical” outerwear. There was a time in my life where I worried that I was not cool because I didn’t own a TNF Denali jacket (you know, to wear with jeans and a hoody underneath). I now realize that I was more cool because I got a custom-made BeyondFleece jacket instead.

But on to the main point of this post.

I first came across the Patagonia R1Flash Pullover on my second summer of youth climbing trips with Northwest Mountain School (run by my friends John and Olivia). My friend Alex had one that seemed like the perfect layer for our adventures, which involved sport climbing in Smith Rock, alpine rock climbing at Washington Pass, and checking out the Smoke Jumper base near Winthrop, WA. Upon returning home, I immediately went to REI and tried on a Women’s XS. I was bitterly disappointed. It did not fit well for base layer, being baggy and strangely shaped.

Lizzy, Alex, and our awesome guide Matt Farmer at Washington Pass. Alex is wearing the coveted R1.

Despite my disappointment, I came back to the R1 after a couple years of cooling off from my disappointment. I spent the summer after my freshman year in college living in John and Olivia’s awesome house in Leavenworth and theoretically working for Northwest Mountain School. As an employee, I got to take advantage of NMS’s sponsorship by Patagonia and ordered one to try out. Women’s XS in green. This time, Patagonia got it right. The fit was perfect and I began using it immediately. In fact, Luke and I think that I may have worn my R1 on every single multipitch climb I’ve done since buying it, which is a real testament to its usefulness and ability to adapt to lots of different environments. I loved it so much, I now have 2 (green and blue). Luke also has one, which he loves, although maybe not as much as me because I am much better at being cold all the time.

squamish-sept-07-040Wearing the trusty R1 on one of my favorite routes, Diedre, in Squamish.

So here’s the story: The R1 Flash pullover is a great base layer. It’s excellent at regulating body heat (which is why it’s part of the “Regulator” series, I suppose) – it keeps me warm when I’m cold and it doesn’t make me sweat when I warm up a little. It has a 1/2 zip on the front that helps me cool down and I can pull the sleeves up to my elbows when I have to do a little crack climbing. It also has a small chest pocket where I can put some Shot Bloks or a topo. It has a soft waffled texture on the inside that feels nice on my skin. I often end up wearing it as my next to skin layer after I’ve gotten my t-shirt a bit wet from sweating on the approach hike. Plus, its fit isn’t too tight that I’m uncomfortable, but easily goes underneath plenty of other layers like fleeces, down jackets, shells, etc. and fits nicely underneath my harness.

yosemite-june-07-265R1s and Peachy-O’s in Tuolumne. I know, we’re pretty cute.

The punchline? Among the many (and yes, it is quite a lot) of jackets that I currently owned (or have ever owned), the R1 Flash Pullover is absolutely the most useful piece of outerwear that I have. Without it, I’d probably do a lot more shivering. The $115 price tag might seem a little much, but in my opinion it’s well worth the years of valuable use that I receive.


Sweet Gear: Approach Shoe Reviews

23 09 2008

For me, approach shoes are very important. The comfort and security I feel when I’m hiking and scrambling to the base of a climb can help set my mood for the day. If I’m uncomfortable while hiking or sliding around and nervous while scrambling, it’s no good. So I thought I’d share my approach shoe experiences for your benefit or to get some of your thoughts about shoes.

Five Ten W’s Mountain Master

I absolutely hated these shoes. They did not fit well, were not sticky, and had ridiculously stiff soles that killed my feet. Even with my superfeet insoles, they were no good. I was not at all impressed. This is probably why they don’t make these any more.

Five Ten W’s Access

These shoes aren’t really approach shoes, they’re trail running shoes. For trail running shoes, they’re quite nice. They fit well and are very comfortable. For just hiking, they are great. However, they aren’t made for scrambling and don’t really perform well there. They’ve been demoted to my “just hiking” shoes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love them. Also on the downside, the construction of the shoes seems not to be the highest quality. A lot of little decorative things on the shoes (nothing functional) took about a week to fall off.

Montrail W’s CTC

These shoes are absolutely fantastic. They fit great, are comfortable for hiking, work great for scrambling (I lead Tenaya Peak wearing these instead of my rock shoes), and last forever (except for the laces, but these are fairly easily replaced). They are vented so that your feet don’t get too hot, although it also means your feet get wet if it’s raining/snowing/etc. But if you are dealing with a lot of those conditions, I’m pretty sure you need a different kind of shoe anyways. My sensitive feet love the CTCs and I can wear them for hours and hike long distances with no blisters. My first pair of CTCs have been going strong for three years (although they recently got “retired” to the brutal job of being my geology shoes). I now have a newer version of the shoes, which Montrail thankfully let remain essentially the same except for the color and the laces. Highly recommended!

Montrail D7

I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to use these because I got mine used and they are sized a little too small to be comfortable for hiking a lot. I know plenty of guides who swore by these a while ago, though, so they can’t be that bad.

La Sportiva Cirque Pro

I just got a pair of these last weekend at the REI used gear sale (wooo $8!!!) and I’m very excited. From just trying them on, they fit my feet perfectly (although I do seem to have La Sportiva feet) and feel very comfortable. I’m excited to try them out after I get them resoled.

What approach shoes work for you?