Ropes are the lifeline of the route climber - and in my opinion it is definitely worth spending a bit extra and getting good ropes. My reasoning is; they'll last longer, handle better and in the case of half ropes make it more likely that the dodgy runner you just placed will hold if you part company with the rock. When I got back from Yosemite all my ropes were looking worse for wear and a winter of bouldering was looming before me. With the coldest months behind me and my route psyche quickly returning, Petzl sent me the Arial 9.5mm Single and Salsa 8.2mm Halves to test out, and I started getting excited about the improving weather!
The first of the ropes from Petzl that I had the chance to test was the Arial 9.5mm single rope - described by Petzl as: "A single rope designed for experienced climbers, offering maximum longevity and performance in any conditions, thanks to its Duratec Dry treatment". Now, I am by no means a hardcore redpointer, but I like a rope that is tough enough to stand up to me falling on it repeatedly (I'm not that good) but also handle well and be light enough that I can actually clip bolts high up on those pumpy redpoints and onsights. I also really don't like having to look after my kit either and so a good dry treatment is always high on my list of features to give the rope a fighting chance in surviving my ownership.
After a last minute decision to go out on the town the night before flying to Spain I hurriedly packed my bag ready to hit Catalunya and put my winter training to good use to top up my fitness ready for the trad season. Unfortunately for me, yet fortunate for this review, going out the night before flying to Spain meant that my first few days saw me falling off virtually every route I set eyes on.
Luckily for me, the Arial was an absolute dream to fall on, giving a nice soft catch again and again. In addition to this it handled really well with a Gri-Gri, being smooth and easy to pay out slack, but once it got a bit of use it began to grab nicely when the leader fell. I normally do a lot of onsighting on sport trips and the Arial was light enough to not feel like you were dragging a weighted rope up to clip the next bolt, and when I got pointed at harder routes on this trip and began falling off and dogging routes more, the Arial took it all in it's stride. After a two week trip where three people used it day-in, day-out, the rope looked used, but certainly not abused and I was impressed with its durability.
The only negative I can think of for this rope is a very minor one - Petzl state that the Arial has an 'UltraSonic Finish' which bonds the core and sheath together at the rope ends giving greater durability and avoiding frayed ends. I found that although the ends of my ropes are not as frayed as other ropes I have seen, they are still beginning to fray, and this is not something I usually have much trouble with.
Once I returned from Spain, it wasn't long before it was warm enough to start thinking about heading out trad climbing more, and since I got the Salsas I have given them a thorough testing at a variety of different crags. Petzl have designed the Salsa to be used for multi-pitch rock climbing and mountaineering and have again treated it with their Duratec Dry Treatment to improve durability.
The Salsas have been fallen on multiple times by both myself and a number of climbing partners - from long screamers to short slumps and they have performed very well, giving a very soft catch. I love how stretchy they are as it gives me extra confidence that the crap runner I placed when pumped and scared will hold, which for me is very important in a half rope. I always look for a rope with a low impact force and at 6.4kN the Salsa is as good as any other rope on the market give or take a tenth of a kN.
I have climbed as a group of three on them, and although one of my friends expressed the wish that the ropes were thicker, I didn't find them overly alarming when used like this. The Salsas have even been tested as to how they are to prussik up when my partner (who shall remain nameless) fell off seconding a pitch and ended up hanging in space, having to prussik back in touch with the rock. He found that they were too skinny to be able to use slings, but not too bad with prussiks, though as always in this sort of situation, a thicker rope may have been better.
Using them on long pitches is an absolute pleasure due to their lightness and they are really nice ropes to use, handling very well when you are pumped and trying to clip gear. I was originally a little worried about the durability of these ropes due to how skinny they are, but having fully abused them over the last couple of months I am really impressed with them as they still look virtually brand new! I have dropped them in a lot of rock-pools whilst climbing in Pembroke and they dry out very quickly, got them stuck in cracks on long Swanage pitches, fallen on them, prussiked on them, abseiled on them, dragged them through bushes and they still look in good shape.
Once again, I find it very difficult to fault these ropes and my only real criticism is that the colours are a little similar for some people. It isn't a massive problem for me as I shout red/orange and brown/black, but some of my partners have said that you could say they were both orange. If they made one of the ropes a totally different colour it would be easier to distinguish and would show up in photos better, but as I say it is a very minor point.
In conclusion, both the Arial and Salsa are great ropes for climbers looking to push their grade but who also want ropes that they can be confident will also have a reasonable level of durability. They are certainly on the thin side of their diameter, but this means that they handle exceptionally well and give a nice soft catch due to this. The 'Climb-Ready Coil' is a great feature, allowing faff-free first usage of the rope and also prevents you from messing up un-coiling the rope for the first time and ending up with a badly kinked rope.
With a 9.5mm diameter, the Arial is designed for experienced climbers, offering maximum longevity and performance in any conditions, thanks to it's Duratec Dry treatment
Price: £207.00 - 70m
MORE INFO: Petzl Website
The Salsa half rope has an 8.2mm diameter, offering brilliant versatility. This rope benefits from the Duratec Dry treatment to improve longevity and performance in any conditions.
Price: £126.00 - 50m
MORE INFO: Petzl Website
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