The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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PMI Spire 10.2mm Rope: Dry to the Core
Posted on: March 3, 2008
Weight: 9.13 pounds
Several years ago I humped a 92-pound pack full of the cheapest, heaviest climbing gear in the world uphill for several days in Wyoming's Wind River Range. We're talking old school: full-gate oval biners on everything; 11mm ropes; old, rigid-stem Friends; big hexes; everything horrid you can imagine. I seriously debated purchasing either a large dog or a small burro for my next expedition.
Upon my return to civilization—in this case, a gear shop—I immediately began my collection of the lightest-weight, fully functional climbing gear on the market. It's become an obsession of mine, and I will freely admit to the reader: before going any further, understand that counting grams is the practice of an obsessive compulsive. Me.
I normally climb on a 9.5mm single rope—with a fantastic dry coating—from a different manufacturer that weighs 7.67 pounds. So, when confronted with PMI's Spire 10.2mm dry rope, I was slightly taken aback. Not only does the 60m version tip the scales at 9.13 pounds, it is heavier than other dry-treated ropes in its diameter by about two thirds of a pound.
Dutifully, I removed the rope from its packaging, unwound it per PMI's instructions, and immediately found myself holding a tangled, knotted, snarled mess of Gordian proportions. This is not a criticism, as every rope I have ever purchased, when unwound by the manufacturer's directions, has done the same thing. However, it did set my testing back by a few weeks, as this pre-use kinking takes a while to work out. So I went sport climbing, which I detest, a bunch. A few weeks of this took out the kinks and impressed me with the rope's feel and handling. This rope is decidedly supple.
No dry-treated rope, no matter how supple, can truly be tested without exposure to lots of ice climbing. Hyalite Canyon, Teton Canyon, Death Canyon, the Ouray Ice Park and an aborted attempt on Laughing Lion Falls in the Tetons seemed a reasonable way to start. Through sub-zero temperatures on long moderates in Montana and above-freezing drip-fests in Colorado, the dry coating on the rope handled marvelously. At times it iced up, got wet or developed a strange coating of frost. Not once, though, did the moisture seem to penetrate deep into the core or greatly affect the handling. It dried quickly (indoors) and was ready to use the next day. I was unable to test the rope's ability to retain function over several days of freezing temperatures without that inside drying time, but its performance cragging would give me confidence on a longer ice trip.
I'm still climbing with the Spire, six months in, and have seen no signs of sheath wear or damage, and no lessening of the dry coating's effectiveness. Despite the slightly greater weight, this rope will not be removed from my "climbing-gear-in-use closet" and added to my dog's ever-growing "rope rug" anytime soon. Because of the inexplicable weight difference between this rope and other similar ropes, I'm shying away from five stars, but it deserves high marks in all other categories.
Pros: Great feel and handling once broken in; superior dry-coating; durable.
Cons: Heavy for its length and diameter.