Monday, May 17, 2010

GEAR REVIEW: BlueWater Lightning Pro 9.7mm Double Dry Rope

Florian 'Flo' Heel on Taleus (5.10a) - Siung Beach, Indonesia

Quite frankly, I never gave too much thought about my ropes before my encounter with Bluewater’s prized line. I just knew that they were all UIAA approved and lasted about a season or two. But with an upcoming climbing trip that was going to span across the continent of Asia, I knew that I would have do some careful research on the subject. I was going to need a rope that would be extremely durable in order to withstand rigorous abuse in nearly every environment while being lightweight and compact enough not to fill my entire pack. My rope would have to endure ice (and occasionally poor ice tool placements), intense salty air, abrasive sand, high humidity, TR’ing over razor-sharp limestone ledges, monkey attacks and scorching desert heat. Does such a rope exist? Why yes it does, and BlueWater calls it the ‘Lightning Pro.’

There was a reason that seven of my coworkers at Seattle REI's climbing shop all owned the same rope: the Lightening Pro just plain rocks. My first experience with BlueWater’s masterpiece was at Washington’s beloved crag: ‘Exit 32.’ My friend Paul Lebel had just prodealed his new project rope and was itching to pin it to a route. Of course, I was more than happy to oblige him in the endeavor. Right out of the package I found that it already had that supple, broken-in feel that typically takes at least several weeks of use to obtain. Upon first flaking, there were no bothersome coils that one normally encounters with a new cord. And the ‘knotability’ (flexibility) was superb. Every climber knows that a rope with poor knotability is a rope that will make you swear like a truck driver every time you untie a weighted knot or attempt to cram it through a tight belay device.

Lisa Eaton rappelling off the Fire Wall in Tonsai, Thailand

Other qualities that turned me on to this piece of gear:

-The incredibly visible bi-pattern weave in the rope’s sheath ensures that you will always find your center mark. There is no ink or tape that will inevitably wear off with regular use.

-It is a double dry rope. Meaning the dry treatment is applied to each individual fiber in the sheath and core. Not only does this keep the rope clean and dry, it drastically increases abrasion resistance – extending the life of the rope significantly.

-It’s American made. Given our current economy, probably a good time to buy local.

-More specific stats can be found here:

These ropes even taste good! Alphin Alfiandi on Echo Wall (5.9) - Harau Valley, Indonesia

So without thinking twice, I ordered myself a 60 meter the very next day - thus bringing the number of screaming yellow rope owners in Seattle REI's Climbing Department to eight. After a light cragging season in the Pacific Northwest and an occasional ice route in the Adirondacks, I packed the rope and headed off on our Asian excursion.

Fast forward one pretty rugged year, I am still the owner of a very amazing rope. No visible core shots or dead spots to mention despite the dynamic whippers it endured. It’s still maintaining it’s incredible knotability and the dry treatment is still going strong. Though it looks and feels great, due to it’s rich and full life, it may be closing in on a retirement date. But I have to say that this 9.7 is a true workhorse. Most of the ‘burly’ 10.2’s that I owned in the past would not even have made it out of India, never mind seven countries. Needless to say my next rope will be another Lightning Pro.

Peter Watn lowering off Lion King (6c+) - Tonsai, Thailand

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