Oct 31, 2011

Goodbye Rock . . . Hello Traveling

So, lets start this off right with a little quick recap of the fall. August, 30th, I fell while bouldering in the MSU climbing gym resulting in a nasty ankle sprain and no climbing for nearly 3 straight weeks. In hopes of keeping the body fit while the healing, I filled my usually climbing time with numerous training sessions. To celebrate the return to the rock, a trip to Tensleep with the MSU climbing club was the order of the weekend. We spent the entire trip up at the gorgeously blue bulletproof FCR. I was able to get several more 5.12a onsights under my belt and tried my first 13a . . . Capping the trip with a finger injury off a mono on a 12d which felt miles harder than the 13? Another week or so of rest on the finger led to the most beautiful fall I've seen in Bozeman in 6 years! Perfect temps, sustained nice weather falling on all the days I had off to crush. The psyche, perfect temps, and stress of classes culminated in a redpoint rope solo of The Fugitive, a solid effort on Weapons (3 hangs isn't so bad seeing as I haven't tired it since February), and a one hang go TRing Songline on the first attempt in 3 years. However, with snow / rain predicted for the remainder of the week, I feel last weekend officially concluded rock season on Montana. While most are properly sharpening the ice tools, searching their attics for thing ice gloves, and drooling over Winter Dance; I find myself planning an itinerary of trips down the I-15 corridor toward warmer climates more suitable for rock climbing. First of these such endeavors will be over the week of Thanksgiving to where else but Zion and Indian Creek. Much is planned for this adventure, but I'll postpone the speculation until facts are facts.

I've also decided to attempt to bring some insight to this random little corner of the interweb by doing more than just spraying about how obviously badass I am. This weekend I got another core short in my rope after taking a minor fall. While searching the interweb for a new cord, I realized the lack of reputable gear reviews is astonishing. Therefore, with the motivation of providing a gear review for equipment which has undergone a proper and a reason to read my ramblings other than growing my ego . . . I'll be including a WEEKLY review of a product related to the climbing life. To start things off, lets discuss the Sterling 9.5 X 70m Nano Rope in the bright orange color.

9.2 mm Sterling Nano after nearly 1 year of heavy usage

Most recent core shot
I first purchased this rope from Northern Lights Trading Company in late December of 2010 to use on an upcoming sport trip to Red Rocks and Bishop. Cold and snow limited the cords usage on the first trip. My initial impression was skepticism due the rope's extremely thin diameter. I distinctly remember the feeling of confusion after blindly reaching to my waist while clipping. Grabbing what felt like a rope, but could not possible be my line on account of how thin it felt. A visual downward inspection revealed indeed the thin line in my had was the sharp end! Despite the cord's thin feel, it handled like a dream! Sterling's ropes always have had a stiff feel to me, and as a result their ropes practically jump through the gate. Combine this with ease of handling such a thin line and you've got yourself a winner! Excited about the ropes potential, we made many trips to The Haunta Virus Cave last winter to attempt Weapons of Mass Destruction. This route was solidly above my limit at the time and all my attempts resulted in some form of a fall. Due to the hang dogging nature of my climbing, I found the rope began to wear extensively in the first few feet from either end. As the season and my progress on the route advanced, I began to take more actual falls onto the rope. This culminated in a sizable winger off the 4th bolt and an obvious dead spot some 15 feet from the end I was tied into. I chopped the line to just after the dead spot, eliminating 15 feet off the rope only a few months after the date of purchase. However, due to the nature of the fall's size and my extensive previous hang dogging, I wasn't yet disappointed. The next phase of usage came during the month of May while on a 3 week road trip. My partner and I used the rope on multiple long free routes either as a lead line or a tag line (See Catch Up). I was astounded by the the line's resilience during the trip despite the punishment. We did have to make a special stop in Springdale, UT near Zion to find a hot knife and chop another 10 foot section of the end of the cord due to another dead spot (notice a pattern yet?).  The cord held up incredibly well on multiple 10 - 15 pitch climbs and was a dream to have at each belay due to how easily it stacked and fed. In June, I headed to The City of Rocks where the rope received another core shot over a patina flake due to a fall and another 10 feet later off the line. My now custom 62m special worked like a dream in Index, WA for cragging and a multipitch venture. Combine this with a summer's worth of cragging around Bozeman and I'm now just looking at getting a new cord. After all this abuse, the rope has recently started to show signs of ovaling and is noticeably softer than ever before. Had it not been for the multiple core shots on the ends, I'd give this rope a strong recommendation. This is the first rope I've ever core shot . . . and I've managed to achieve this destruction 4 times.

It appears that the core of the rope is solid, but the sheath is what wears. This is purely assumption, but I speculate because of the tin diameter, Sterling must use a thinner sheath on their Nano's resulting in multiple core shorts. In each of the incidents, the core of the rope was intact, but the sheath appeared to have failed in the damaged area. Overall, I feel the rope's small diameter combined with the extent of usage; created a scenario in which the rope had repeated failures. However, I this in no way is a reflection of Sterling's quality. Bottom Line:

  • Incredible handling
  • Very light 
  • Stacks great at hanging belays 
  • Durable as a mother given how skinny she is
  • Easily wore near the ends 
  • Received multiple core shorts due to falls and sharp edges

If your looking for a great rope thin line for going fast and light on big routes or sending your project . . . this is the rope for you. However, expect the sheath to wear out pretty quick near the ends if your doing a lot of hang dogging or falling. Unless you can afford to update your rope every year, I'd go a bit larger in diameter. Any damage the rope sustained during my usage does not represent Sterling's construction. The damage was caused by the way in which I used the rope. In searching for a new cord, I think a Sterling 9.5 Ion might be perfect balance between light weight and durability.


  1. Nice Work Bro... maybe less text because i stopped reading your gear review after seeing a huge paragaph of stuff..less is more i think...great idea though..keep it up

  2. Just because you haven't written anything since August, you probably should have sprayed a little more. I'd like to make ironic remarks about what you wrote, but I've been on the sharp end once in the last 10 months (the day you got married) so it would feel a bit hypocritical. Plus I'm impressed at how obviously badass you've become. Write more. I live vicariously.



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