Chicks Gear Review: Sterling Evolution Velocity


Karen Bockel lovin' the juggin' on Tangerine Trip, El Cap.

Karen Bockel lovin’ the juggin’ on Tangerine Trip, El Cap.

In the fall of 2014, when Kitty Calhoun and I made our gear list for climbing Tangerine Trip, a big-wall aid route on El Cap in Yosemite, it was I who said “I got the lead rope”.  I had been climbing with my 9.8mm Evolution Velocity for a summer and it had proven itself with strength, durability, and handling.  Just what you need when you’re about to head up the biggest piece of rock there is in the lower 48!

The exposure and commitment on Tangerine Trip are mind blowing as the route overhangs more than 100’ over its length.  A solid rope is what connects you to the rock, and the Evolution delivered.  The strength of a rope should be unquestionable, and with Sterling’s track record of having manufactured and tested their ropes in the US for decades, the Evolution series is a top of the line choice.

For long routes, a somewhat thick diameter is desirable for durability, and the size of the Evolution Velocity at 9.8 mm fit the bill.  Anything smaller than that, and jugging the line after the leader fixed it becomes nerve racking.  Peace of mind is priceless when you’re dangling in free space a couple thousand feet off the deck.

Also of great importance is the handling of a rope.  People often refer the stiffness of a rope as a benefit for critical clips, but it also plays into how your lifeline runs through a long aid pitch of tensioned gear placements.  On our wall climb, the Evolution Velocity excelled.  The slippery flat sheath ran smoothly through the gear and the stiffness was perfect for stacking and re-stacking the rope at every of the 18 belay stations.

Climbing a big-wall is a tremendous amount of work and effort.  Having good gear, especially a solid rope, makes all the difference.  Thanks to the Evolution Velocity, rope management was not a problem for us on the Trip.  Oh, and if you’re not convinced yet, take it from Chris Sharma.  I hear this is the rope he sends his projects on…


Chicks Tech Tip: How to Coil Like a Pro!

Chicks co-owner and guide, Angela Hawse, shows us the in’s and out’s of the perfect, well-balanced coil with one of her favorite Sterling Ropes!


Is a Wet Rope Dangerous?

The simple answer is yes, a wet rope should cause you more concern than a dry rope. There are a couple of reasons why you want to keep your rope as dry as possible while climbing. The performance of some materials (like the nylon that ropes are made from) change when they become wet. Read on…

Sterling RopeReason 1:

Some wet ropes can see a loss of 10-20% of their strength. Fortunately, the loss is temporary and the strength is recovered when the material dries.

Reason 2:

In drop tests on dynamic rope that had been soaked in water for different periods of time, the impact loads increased by up to 22% above those for dry ropes (typically by between 8 % and 12 %).  An example of an event that can cause this to happen is a lead fall. Remember ropes are designed to elongate in order to absorb and dissipate an impact l0ad. Since a wet rope can actually shrink a rope by 10%, that means there is less rope in the system to absorb the impact, thus creating a higher impact load.

Reason 3:

Your belay device doesn’t function as well. Wet and icy ropes makes them more slippery, or even worse, they ropes get frozen stiff and will no longer pass through your belay device. All belay devices create friction to help brake and arrest a fall. As you’re wrestling to pull the rope through your device on a frozen section, unwanted slack could build up in system. If all of the sudden the climber falls with that extra slack out, it’s equivalent to taking a fall on a static rope…can you say ouch?!

So what can you do to keep your wet rope dry?

1. Use a rope bag or tarp. This will help keep the rope clean from snow, dirt, debris and in a quick rainstorm. Fold it up like a burrito and keep it covered as much as possible, stuff it in your pack, cover it with your jacket…whatever you need to do.
2. Buy a dry treated rope.
If you plan on ice or alpine climbing or live in a chronically wet environment (ahem…as all of you East Coasters know all too well), buy a rope with a dry treatment. What is this technology I speak of? Well, a dry treated rope has a coating applied to it that helps it repel water from it’s surface, but won’t prevent it from absorbing water all together.
Sterling Rope has has several dry treatments which include: DryCore, DeltaDry and DryXP. All of these waterproof treatments are applied to not just the core fibers but also to the exterior sheath fibers. This makes for an uber water resistant rope which keeps water absorption to a minimum.

What’s the best way to dry a wet rope?

1. Choose a place that is: cool, airy and shady
The ideal place is indoors, out of direct sunlight and away from any heat source. Why? The sun’s UV rays cause damage to the fibers of the rope, as does any type of heat source.
2. Expose the rope surface
Uncoil your rope and lay it out so you expose as much of the surface area of the sheath as possible.
3. Create airflow
Turn on a fan, open a window, create airflow to help speed the drying time.

Want to learn more about climbing equipment testing and standards?

Rest and climb assured that when all is said and done, your rope recovers almost completely when dried under normal conditions. If your inner engineer wants to geek out on a bunch of numbers here are a couple of resources:
  • The UIAA sets the worldwide standard by which all things climbing are tested to uphold. If you want to learn more about how the UIAA determines how waterproof your rope is, the process by which it is tested and lots of other fun facts to know and tell, check out the UIAA’s awesome website. They recently announced a new testing standard, methods and procedures for dry treated ropes.