Written by: Elaina Arenz, Chicks co-owner & guide
As a full time Certified Rock Guide there are a few pieces of gear on my harness that I can’t imagine living without. At the top of the list is the Sterling Hollowblock, it’s like the swiss army knife, the one tool that does it all. What is this magical piece of gear? It’s a pre-sewn prussic cord that I use for backing up my rappel and lowers, ascending the rope and performing load transfers.
What makes this piece of gear so special you ask? The features and benefits are many, giving it a decisive edge over prussics you can make yourself with 6mm cordage.
-Flat woven construction doesn’t get twisted up like cordage does. This proprietary weaving pattern makes it faster to tie up than cordage does because you’ll spend less time dressing the friction hitch. This thing practically dresses itself when you twist up an Autoblock, Klimheist or Prussic wrap.
-It’s made out of Aramid fibers, which is the same stuff that Kevlar bulletproof vests are made out of. It’s heat resistant up to 900 degrees so it can easily withstand the heat of any friction hitch you throw it’s way. Again cordage falls short in this department. Aramid fibers allow it to slide easily without seizing up and it even works great on icy ropes.
-Excellent gripping power on climbing ropes no matter the diameter, but performs especially well on 7mm and bigger. A recent test by the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) showed that the Hollowblock used in a 3 wrap prussic held up to 4.3kn. When it did finally fail (slipped on the rope) the only damage observed was glazing on the rope it was attached to.
-The Hollowblock is available in two lengths, 13.5 and 19 inches, the width is 6.8mm and the retail price starts at around $12.00. So it costs a little bit more than cordage you can purchase by the foot, but the benefits far exceed the cost. I prefer the shorter of the two, because it’s long enough to get 3-4 wraps out of it, but short enough that it won’t creep up too close to my rappel device.
The bottom line is that this baby is burly, durable and has no “break-in time” like cordage. It’s soft and supple enough to do the job from day 1 to 100. I simply don’t leave the ground without this piece of equipment on my harness, and many guides I work with feel the same way.