It’s that time again when I need a new cragging rope. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or particularly light, just something durable that my partners and I can take a thousand falls on and never worry about it. There are lots of options out there, and the Curve 9.8 mm rope stands out as a good one.
Reviewed by Drew Thayer, Senior Contributor to The Climbing Zine
The first thing you’ll notice holding this rope is that it’s quite stiff. It reminds me of how the Maxim Glider feels: thick and pretty rigid. I like this style of rope; I find a stiff rope is easier to clip, and when I’m pulling ropes after rappelling, the stiff ropes seem catch less often because they don’t loop up as easily.
The impressive thing about this rope is that it’s both thick and stiff, it’s VERY soft catching. Take a look at the impact force: only 7.8 kN — that’s incredibly low, most ropes in the 8.9 to 9.4 mm range are above 8.2 kN, and a comparable burly rope like the Glider is rated at 9.8 kN. Accordingly, dynamic elongation is quite high: 37%. This is one of the stretchiest ropes out there, comparable to skinny Beal ropes like 9.4 mm Stinger and 8.5 mm Opera.
This rope is also STRONG. It’s rated to 9 UIAA falls, about as high as it gets. By comparison, most ropes skinnier than 9.4 mm are rated to 5-6 UIAA falls. Keep in mind this does not mean you can only fall on the rope 9 times, but rather it’s a good comparative statistic of rope strength and the resilience of the stretch modulus (the impact-absorbing part of the rope).
[A UIAA test fall is fall factor 1.77 and 80 kg – this is really big fall! It would be quite… memorable. More info here: http://outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/508/climbing-rope-is-rated-to-x-uiaa-falls-what-is-a-uiaa-fall]
I don’t know how Edelweiss pulled this off, but they managed to build a durable, 9.8 mm rope with a high fall rating that catches as softly as Beal’s super slinky Opera rope…that’s 8.5 mm thick. If you like soft falls, but are looking for a long-wearing workhorse, cragging with this rope is like cheating: you get both.
Soft-catches are not great all the time. You will fall further. On rock where there are obstacles to hit (slabs, low-angle, large percentage of easy-moderate trad climbs) this adds to the hazard of falling, and needs to be considered. Also, the static elongation of the Curve rope is high: 9.4%. For comparison, the Glider stretches 4.5% under static load. What does this mean? If you are top-roping and belaying back on the ground (the common ‘yo-yo’ situation, rope used = twice the pitch length), a climber starting the pitch is quite likely to hit the ground if they fall in the first 10 feet or so. For this reason, I wouldn’t choose this rope if I did a lot of guiding or top-roping at crags.
So far so good, are there any downsides to the Curve as a soft-catching lead rope? Some people are reporting that the sheath frays easily. I haven’t experienced this with mine after 3 months of cragging, but it’s a potential problem. On that note, take negative reviews on the internet with a grain of salt…there’s no way to know the percentage of users who report the problem, and some people report some normal sheath fraying as ‘damage’.
Also, this rope is not light. At 64 g/m, it wouldn’t be my choice for hiking 8 miles into the backcountry. You can lose 10% by going with a rope in the 9.1 to 9.4 mm range. However, I’m looking for a long-lasting cragging rope here, not a slinky alpine rope.
Of note: the middle mark on the single-color Curve is very thick. I mean so thick that it sticks a bit in an ATC while belaying and even rappelling. This has softened a bit over time, but remains stiffer than usual. While this is not necessarily a problem, if I were climbing with a novice I would tell them that the middle-mark will be difficult to pass through the belay device – surprises in rock climbing are generally not good. The bi-weave version does not have a middle mark.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a workhorse crag rope for whipping all over your projects for a few years, look no further. This rope will provide soft catches well into the future. It’s not the best choice for new climbers or people who primarily top-rope. At a mid-range price, you get the stretchy behavior of a skinny rope the in a thick, burly package – not a bad deal at all.
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