UKC Competition winner Scott Allen won his Sterling 'Sharma' Rope a couple of weeks ago and headed straight off to El Chorro for some redpointing once he'd picked the rope up from The Beta Team in Sheffield.
I have entered countless competitions on UKC and failed to win anything, something I expect many UKC members can relate to. When I received the email from Rob at Beta Climbing Designs informing me that I had won the new 'Sharma' rope, as my climbing crew labelled it, I was pretty happy. Even more so, as I was heading for El Chorro in three days for our annual sport climbing trip. What better way to test out the new lightweight rope than on my many redpoint attempts in sunny Spain. I agreed with Rob and the guys to provide a gear review as long as I wasn't in any of the photos!
First off was a final training session at the local climbing centre to iron out any 'kinks' in the colourfully designed rope prior to heading off to Spain. The first thing I noticed was that, unlike with most new ropes, there was little or no rope tangling or kinks. The first couple of routes found the rope surprisingly easy to lead and belay with. The next thing I noticed was how light it is - especially compared to my current 10.5mm 60m rope. At 9.8mm in diameter and 62g/M it's one of the lightest ropes on the market. This last fact is important; especially if you are about to board a budget airline with limited baggage weight and a 60m rope in your rucksack with your pants and socks.
So rocking up in El Chorro we were all keen to use the Sterling rope for our redpoint attempts on Desplomilandia and the surrounding crags. However first up, and to ease our way in was a day of easier onsighting. Now the Sharma Signature velocity is designed with redpointing in mind, but it works really well for onsighting. It's lightweight and easy to clip quickdraws with, which works well when you are 4 metres above the bolt and have no idea where to go next. The 'Sharma' rope also runs really well though an ATC belay or a GriGri, allowing the belayer to give slack or take in quickly, when required on the onsight. It performs just as well on slabby, vertical or steep routes producing little or no rope drag and its slick sheath prevented any abrasion, even when it was used for top roping. It's fair to say we were all pretty impressed.
So with the crew nicely re-aquainted with the wonderful rock around the El Chorro region, we decided to up the grade level and start working some routes. This is where the Sterling rope comes into its own. It's great for redpointing, really light, easy to handle and doesn't feel like its dragging you down especially on steep routes. It's stiff enough that you can clip really easily at your limit and as when onsighting, the belayer can provide rope quickly when required and take in quickly when needed, unlike my current rope, which constantly snags in the GriGri.
So what about the downsides, careful attention must be paid when lowering off the crag, especially if you are using a GriGri. Because of the rope's slick nature if due care wasn't taken it would be very easy to lose control. If you're climber is hanging around on a redpoint I certainly would have both hands on the dead rope even when using the GriGri. If you are the kind of GriGri belayer who likes to stick your hands in your pockets and solely trust the GriGri (and you see many of these people at the crag) I would buy a thicker rope! There is also the issue of the price, at £160 for the 60m rope, it's a little on the pricey side, £50 more expensive than my current rope.
The rope may be advertised as perfect for beginners and experienced climbers, but in my opinion, this is a top end rope for top end climbers. If you are like me and redpoint 7a-7b I'm pretty sure that this rope will certainly aid your attempts. But if you are determined enough you will bag the route anyway even using a 10.5mm heavier rope. That said though, I won't be going back to my 10.5mm rope for my redpoint attempts in the future because once you have used the Sterling Velocity rope, you won't want to use anything else, just like Sharma.
See where you can buy this rope and other Sterling Ropes HERE
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