At just 7.1mm, and 36g per metre, the Skimmer takes lightweight skinny ropes to a new level. This dry treated rope is double rated, so a pair can be used either as half ropes or twins, while its 40% sheath proportion makes it more durable than you might first think. In the UK its benefits may be limited, but for big routes on big mountains the weight saving on offer could be a major advantage, says Tom Ripley.
If I was allowed only one word to describe Edelrid's rather excellent Skimmer 7.1mm rope, that word would be: specialist. If given a second word it would be: light. Described by Edelrid as "the skinniest and lightest half rope money can buy", the first thing one notices when picking up the Skimmer is how heavy it isn't. The second is that it's almost as thin as the cord you might make a prussik out of. If you are a UK based trad climber looking for your first pair of half ropes, then these are not for you. But if you're heading to the Alps and need to save weight wherever possible, then at just 36g per metre the Skimmer should really be on your radar. Being double rated makes them versatile in a big mountain setting too, since they can be used either as conventional half ropes or as twin ropes (meaning that you clip both ropes into every quickdraw). As such they'd be ideal for multi pitch sport climbs or ice routes with an abseil descent, since they allow a full-length abseil where a single rope would give you only half lengths.
Who is the skimmer for?
I'll say it again: the Skimmer is a specialist rope, designed for situations where every gram counts. I cannot think of a single trad climb in the UK where a pair of these super skinny, double-rated ropes would increase the chances of success over a pair of standard half ropes in the 8-8.5mm range - especially when you consider that with ropes this thin you are increasing the chances of damage over an edge in the event of a fall. This certainly wouldn't be the rope of choice if you enjoy 'trying and flying' on rough rock types like granite and gritstone.
Having said that their advantages over a conventional skinny rope are limited in a UK trad context, that is exactly what I've been using them for during the period of this review, after my summer Alps trip fell through. Needs must. Though the Skimmer is optimally suited to ice and mixed climbing, several months of regular use on rock has at least given me a good feel for them.
The Skimmer's lightness is its chief point of difference, making it an ideal rope for alpine climbs and routes a long way from the road. One of the best UK applications I can think of would be ice and gully climbs, especially those with long walk-ins in Northwest Scotland. Who wants to carry more weight than they have to in winter?
But it's really when you take the Skimmers away from our little island that they will start to look their most useful.
The benefits of the double rating
Being double rated, both half and twin, suits them to a variety of Alpine uses, from ice and mixed climbs to multi pitch sport routes.
Half ropes may often be the best rope system for British rock climbs, especially wandering ones that pick lines of least resistance up complicated terrain, but twin ropes (where you clip both ropes into every runner) aren't really on many British climber's radars. However on Alpine mixed routes and longer rock routes they come into their own. Twin ropes are as quick and convenient as a single, but in addition allow for full length abseils, something you don't get if climbing with a single rope. Think of long bolted routes with an abseil descent for instance, an application for which a pair of Skimmers would work well.
The best of both worlds is being able to swap between the two systems, opting for twin ropes when the ground is easier, straight up and straightforward, and then swapping back to double ropes for crux pitches or when the line starts to wander. For this, of course, you'll need a double rated rope.
Lightness - a massive plus for alpine use
The Skimmer weighs a mere 36g per metre, which makes a sixty metre Skimmer weigh around 2.16kg. To put this in context, compare that with a 'conventional' skinny half rope like the Beal Iceline (8.1mm), which weighs 2.36kg/60m; or a more beefy rope like the Mammut Genesis, which weighs 2.88kg/60m. It's clear that using a rope as skinny as the Skimmer (and not many are) allows a substantial weight saving. Very few ropes are as light as this - Beal's Gully (7.3mm, 36g/m) is the only directly comparable one I can find. In an alpine setting that's of particular advantage.
Naturally with a rope this specialised, there are drawbacks that need to be considered.
First, durability: Skimmers are made from fewer fibres than a thicker rope and therefore will wear quicker, all other tings being equal. Typically, Edelrid tell us, skinny ropes have less sheath in proportion to their core than a thicker rope, due to the fact that it's difficult to construct a slim rope that isn't mostly comprised of core. The 40% sheath proportion of the Skimmer however does help mitigate their thinness, and should provide a comparatively good level of durability and protection against abrasion and sharp edges (though by way of comparison it's worth noting that the Beal Gully has a 45% sheath percentage). Nevertheless I would be very surprised if they lasted more than a year of weekly use.
Second, skinny ropes are more susceptible to cutting on sharp edges and require a lot more care in use than conventional ropes.
Third, handling: When everything is going well the Skimmers work just fine, but as soon as you start dogging, frigging and taking lobs they require more attention from your belayer than a thicker rope does. For example taking in on a taut Skimmer is near impossible. It would definately be prudent to wear gloves if this sort of behaviour is anticipated.
Forth, psychologically they're just terrifying. When I'm climbing with Skimmers, as soon as the rock starts to feel sharp and I'm trying hard, I start to get nervous. I know this is all in my head, but then climbing is a head game!
Belay device compatibility
One thing to be aware of when belaying with super skinny ropes - and thus with the Skimmer in particular - is that it is harder to control the ropes when abseiling or holding falls. With this in mind it is a good idea to wear leather-palmed gloves when belaying. More important still, you'll need a high friction belay device that's able to offer a sufficient measure of control on ropes this thin. Few devices are officially rated for such a small diameter of rope; Edelrid's Micro Jul is one example. Though it isn't officially designed for ropes quite this thin, I've been using a DMM Pivot too, which works - with due care (disclaimers apply here!). I have also found that adding a second krab when abseiling increases friction, allowing for greater control and peace of mind. The fundamental point about the Skimmers is that belaying and abseiling needs that bit more attention than with a rope of more conventional thickness, and this is one of the chief reasons why this rope is best suited to the more experienced user.
Handling and feel in use
In use I have found the Skimmers to handle well, albeit with that caveat about belaying with extra diligence. Their nice handling is in part thanks to Edelrid's exclusive ThermoShield treatment, a heat treatment that stabilises and harmonises the ropes' individual yarns, keeping the rope nice and supple. It cannot be washed out and lasts for the duration of the rope's life.
The low weight of the Skimmer and their thin diameter helps to massively reduce friction, too. While I've found that getting to the top of big pitches without rope drag pulling me down is amazing, I do also find it pretty disconcerting, and on more than one occasion have had to look down to check I'm not mistakenly soloing.
The Skimmers use Edelrid's Pro Dry treatment, a durable form of dry treatment that passes the recently introduced UIAA Water Repellent Test. This is a controlled test that ensures that a rope that has seen some abrasion is less than 5% heavier after a prolonged soaking, than it is when dry. For use on sea cliffs I've certainly found this beneficial, and of course it'd be an advantage for snow and ice too.
On paper the Skimmer's impact force is a little higher than some rivals, which is perhaps surprising given how thin they are - 6.1kn when used as half ropes and 10kn in twin mode. The lower the value, the softer the catch the rope provides and the more energy it will absorb from the system, thus taking more of the load from your runners - a consideration if you're ice climbing, for instance. Having taken no huge whippers on the Skimmers, this is one aspect of their performance that I can't personally comment on.
One last thing: Often at the end of the day I will single coil both half ropes together to save time. With a conventional rope I find no real disadvantages of doing so, however when I have done this with the Skimmers I have experienced some awful tangles. I put that down to their sheer thin-ness.
The Edelrid Skimmers are as about as specialised as ropes get. They aren't really aimed at British trad, and are certainly not a beginner's rope. However, take them to the big mountains and they would shine, their lightness making them perfect for the weight conscious user with the experience to know exactly what they're buying into. Their rating as both half ropes and twin ropes gives them versatility in a number of settings: Alpine ice and mixed; multi pitch sport routes with an abseil descent; granite crack climb adventures; and committing mountain madness in Patagonia. They might find a place on Scottish ice too. At £165 per 60m rope they are by no means a budget buy, but if you have a big trip planned and you're counting every gram, then the Skimmers have to be one of the best options currently available.
The skinniest and lightest half rope money can buy. The go-to solution for demanding ice and mixed routes or situations where every gram counts.
Ultra-light, minimal diameter; Pro Dry for outstanding dirt and water resistance; Innovative design
- Price: £165 for 60m
- Weight: 36g/metre
- Diameter: 7.1mm
- Dynamic elongation: half: 32 / twin: 39
- Static elongation: half: 9.0 / twin: 5.2
- Number of falls: half: 5 / twin: 18
- Impact force: half: 6.1kn / twin: 10kn
- Core proportion: 60%
- Sheath proportion: 40%
- EAN: 4052285498924
- CE Label: CE 0123
For more info see edelrid.de
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