When preparing for a single or multi-day wilderness alpine climbing trip I carefully consider every item I pack. How necessary is it? Is it required or for comfort? Is it single purpose or multi-purpose? Can the weight be trimmed down? All of these factors contribute to comfort, speed, efficiency, safety and success in the alpine.
As one of my mentors said “an arsenal of ropes is necessary.” So one item that has become an integral piece of the alpine rope arsenal is the Sterling Fusion Nano 60m x 9.2mm bi-pattern dry rope. At 52.6 grams per meter this rope is obviously light weight but here I will reflect on my experience including out of the package use, preparing the rope, coiling and packing, durability, and ease of use.
At the base of the route I ground stacked the rope straight out of the package. Noticing some twists and coils Chris re-stacked the rope as he pulled it through a carabiner. The rope looked good so we started our climb.
Chris led up the next pitch and as he climbed the coils and twists reappeared. I gradually worked the coils down the rope as it payed out. After he arrived at the anchors and was off belay I quickly remedied the issue. I attached myself with a personal anchor, untied, worked out the twists, and tied back in. Then I followed the pitch and we prepared for our descent.
This is when the next benefits appeared. I looped mountaineer coils just above my belly button tied off and attached the rope to my pack. Again I loved the compact coils that fit neatly around my 35 liter pack with out any potential of sagging loops or snags while on the approach. Perhaps most noticeable was the ropes light weight. In combination with a stripped down alpine climbing rack, a day’s worth of food, and extra clothing my pack was light, compact, and held close to my body with little sway as I scrambled during the approach.
As with the other route we climbed the Sterling Nano 9.2mm was easy to handle and clip into protection. With slightly stiff handling often accompanied with dry ropes it was easy to pinch and clip into protection. In addition slack pulled easily and ground stacked super tight leaving ample real estate for 2 climbers and even enough space to have a seat on. Again lap coils were incredibly compact but also soft and supple enough to allow for clean easy flipping onto the other climber.
The final great feature of this rope is the dry treatment. While climbing in the alpine there are many opportunities for the rope to become saturated. Either from rain fall during afternoon storms, being dragged through snow and ice on glaciers, climbing steep snow in couloirs, or on snowy faces. This dry treatment limits the amount of water the rope absorbs.
All though it's been nearly 12 hours since we started in the morning we still have smiles on our faces. We descend through loose rocky scree and talus, the heat of the day has passed and we slowly cool after hours of continually paced movement. Eventually we reach tree line and gently glide onto well traveled and worn trails. Across split log planks, above lush wetland wildflower blooms we reflect on our favorite parts of the climb.
On the hike out of every alpine climb with the Nano I am still stoked that I added it to my arsenal of ropes. The comfort of carrying it on long approaches, the compact ground stacks, efficient lap flaking and kiwi coils, the durability on natural terrain features, and speedy rappel setups have consistently contributed to my successful alpine climbing trips.