Beal KARMA 9.8mm single climbing rope, helps you get used to smaller rope diameter
It offers the perfect compromise between handling and thinness for climbers wanting to progress.
For the past 18 months I have been using two Petzl triple rated ropes for much of my climbing: the 9.2mm VOLTA (all Petzl product names are in shouty CAPS) and the ultra skinny 9mm VOLTA GUIDE. Each has been used for a wide variety of activities. The VOLTA GUIDE accompanied me as my only rope for a week long trip to Swiss Alps, while the VOLTA spent two weeks as my main rope in the low grade trad climbing paradise that is Red Rocks. In addition to this both ropes have been used for a stack of UK trad climbing, and Scottish winter climbing, whilst climbing as a three, and even the occasional sport route.
I've used both these ropes singly a lot; I've also used them together as a nearly-matched pair. When climbing with them as a matched pair the difference in diameter is obvious, the VOLTA feels much thicker in your hand than the skinny VOLTA GUIDE. This is even more apparent when the ropes are coiled, when the GUIDE is substantially less bulky and takes up less space in your pack than its chunkier cousin.
Why go triple rated?
Working as a guide and instructor I spend much of my time climbing as a three, and doing easy mountaineering routes where climbing on a single rope is more efficient for moving quickly. For bringing up a client a single rope is essential (you go absolutely miles if you fall off seconding on one half rope), and a modern skinny single is much lighter and less bulky than an old school 10mm rope. Of course there are also times when you need a pair of ropes for lead climbing. But how many ropes do you want to take on a trip? Here's where a triple rated rope comes in; since it's made to perform both singly and in a pair (and also as a twin, though that's not relevant to most of us) you can use just one model of rope for pretty much everything, climbing on just one when one will do or doubling them up when you need a pair for leading.
Prices and lengths
Both ropes are available in a good range of lengths:
Triple rated dry treated ropes are not cheap, and these are no exception. A 60m VOLTA has an RRP of £180, whilst a 60m VOLTA GUIDE is £190. This is roughly comparable with other widely available triple rated ropes (a 60m Gold Dry Beal Joker is £172, whilst a 60m Mammut Revelation Dry is £180.) Given the higher sheath percentage of these Petzl ropes, and the increased durability that goes with this (see below) I think both ropes present good value for money, and am surprised they are not more widely available in the UK.
Both the VOLTA and the VOLTA GUIDE are dry treated. The VOLTA uses Petzl's Duratec Dry treatment, which as well as making the rope water resistant, also improves abrasion resistance and handling. The VOLTA GUIDE, on the other hand, complies with the stringent UIAA Guide Dry treatment, which means that it is almost completely water-repellent. It passes a test where after 15 minutes of submersion in water the rope only increases in weight by less than 2%. On several occasions I've got well and truly soaked whilst using these ropes. In my experience the VOLTA absorbs more water than the VOLTA GUIDE, but you'd expect that as the VOLTA GUIDE passes the UIAA test. Both ropes handle well when soaked through.
Knot-ability and handling
Both the VOLTA and VOLTA GUIDE were quite slick feeling when brand new. In the past I have experienced unknotting on brand new ropes, especially slick feeling, dry treated skinny ones. When any rope is new I now take extra care to dress my knot well, and pull and weld all four exit strands when tying on. I alternate between tying in with a bowline and a figure of eight. The untying issues I have experienced have always been with the figure of eight. I'm not certain why this happens, but perhaps it's because the fig.8 finishes around a climbing strand, rather than round the rope loop as on a bowline, and there is more movement on this bit of the rope/knot? I would welcome comments from any knot boffins lurking out there. Like all ropes, once both the VOLTA and VOLTA GUIDE had been used, their sheaths became lightly worn and now knots in them bind much more readily.
New Petzl ropes are supplied butterfly coiled, meaning the rope is ready to use, and doesn't need to be uncoiled in a specific way. Petzl call this the ClimbReady coil - it works well and I have experienced no problems with kinking on either rope.
Sheath Percentage and durability
The VOLTA GUIDE is noticeably thinner, and feels almost like a half rope, whilst the VOLTA is reassuringly chunky, and a good deal bulkier.
A hefty 42% of the VOLTA's make up is its sheath, whilst the VOLTA GUIDE has a 39% sheath. All else being equal (OK it rarely is) more sheath generally equates to a more durable rope. This would indicate that, in terms of abrasion resistance, the VOLTA will be the more durable of the two. This has been my experience, and the sheath of the VOLTA, whilst now slightly fluffed, is still in good shape after almost a year of regular use.
Interestingly the VOLTA has a much greater sheath percentage than many comparable ropes. To take one random example, the triple rated Beal Joker, which has a similar diameter, has a much lower sheath percentage (35%). I have used and worn through (direct belaying whilst short roping) one of these in the last year or so. Anecdotally this tallies with the higher Sheath Percentage on the VOLTA which is still going strong after similar use. The only rope I have found to be of comparable durability is the Stirling Evolution Areo 9.2mm, which has a sheath percentage of 41%. Case closed?
Both ropes feature Petzl's UltraSonic Finish, a process which bonds the core and the sheath together towards the ropes' ends. Petzl claim this gives the ropes greater durability and avoids frayed ends.
Both the VOLTA and the VOLTA GUIDE come middle marked, however on my grey colour VOLTA I found the middle mark faded relatively quickly, and I've used a Beal rope marker to redo this.
To paraphrase Goldilocks I like my ropes neither too hard, nor too soft. Most modern ropes handle nicely when new. However it is with wear when a rope's true handling proprieties become apparent. Over the years I've had some turn cable like, whilst others go uninspiringly soft and fluffy. The design team at Petzl must have been doing something right, as neither the VOLTA nor the VOLTA GUIDE have gone soft or cable-like, and are still handling as nicely as they did on day one. This is particularly impressive considering I regularly belay with an Italian Hitch on them.
Both ropes use Petzl's EverFlex treatment. I read Petzl's blurb on what this involves but struggled to get through the spiel ("special thermal treatment stabilizes the core strands and improves consistency; offers excellent grip and consistent handling over time"). I think it means that the core and sheath are bonded together, which improves the ropes' handling. If this is correct, then I would agree that both of the ropes handle well from the word go, and continue to do so.
Belay plate compatibility
As one would expect from two mid diameter ropes, both the VOLTA and the VOLTA GUIDE work well with a wide range of belay devices. I have used the ropes with the following devices over the past year, and haven't found any compatibility issues with any of them: DMM Pivot, Petzl Reverso 4, Kong Gigi (good if you do a lot of direct belaying on fat ropes), DMM Mantis, Edelrid Gigajul, DMM Bug, BD ATC, Petzl Grigri2, Italian Hitch and... waist belay.
According to Petzl the VOLTA weighs 55g per metre, whilst the VOLTA GUIDE weighs 54g. Both are slightly heavier than the very skinniest single ropes on the market, like the Edelrid Cannary (8.6mm) and Mammut Serenity (8.7mm), which both weigh 51g per metre. Ropes are tricky things to weigh accurately, but I am surprised that the svelte VOLTA GUIDE is only 1g per metre lighter than its substantially bulkier and chunkier-feeling stablemate. Be that as it may, neither feels particularly heavy in use.
The VOLTA is available in two colours: Orange and Grey. The VOLTA GUIDE is only available in bright orange. In an ideal world I would prefer to climb on a matched pair of ropes, so hopefully Petzl will release the GUIDE in a second colour at some point.
Both these models are high quality and comparatively durable dry treated triple rated ropes. I would recommend a pair of 50m VOLTAs to any climber regularly climbing routes as a three. 9.2mm is my preferred diameter for a work rope when rock guiding, being both durable and a little easier to handle. I have been very impressed with how the VOLTA has worn compared to other similar ropes, and I think this is largely thanks to its high percentage of sheath. The skinnier VOLTA GUIDE is a more specialised rope. I would recommend this for alpine rock routes, multi pitch sport routes, and for pairing with an 8.5mm half rope as a great road trip combo. It is a shame it's only available in one colour.
Multi-type, ultra-light 9.2 mm diameter rope for classic mountaineering and elite climbing performance. The VOLTA 9.2 single rope has the light weight necessary for elite users, offering maximum longevity and performance in any conditions, thanks to its Duratec Dry treatment. Certified for all uses: single, half or twin, for multiple uses and maximum versatility according to the terrain.
For more info see petzl.com
Ultra-light and compact 9.0 mm multi-type rope for mountaineering, with UIAA Guide Dry treatment. The VOLTA GUIDE 9.0 mm rope provides the light weight and low bulk necessary for intensive mountaineering. The UIAA Guide Dry water repellent treatment gives it excellent water resistance, and is well-suited to everyday use in extreme conditions. Certified for all uses: single, half or twin, for multiple uses and maximum versatility according to the terrain.
For more info see petzl.com
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