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Sterling Nano Editorial Review


Submitted by j_ung on 2007-07-13 | Last Modified on 2007-07-16

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Votes: 14 | Comments: 21 | Views: 11067

by J. Young


Ninety-nine percent of the time a package shows up at my front door itís for my roommate. Iím not certain Iíve met anybody who orders more stuff than he does, so, of course, when I arrive home on a crisp, early spring day at the very beginning of climbing season, Iím not surprised to see yet another box. On first glance, Iím certain itís the kind of box rope companies ship cord in, but as soon I heft it, I think no, itís too light.

I am wrong on both counts. The package is a rope Ė Sterlingís Fusion Nano. And it is, in fact, for me. My Nano is sky blue, 60 meters long and a scant 9.2mm thick. I wipe drool absently from my chin.

No, the Nano isnít quite as skinny as some other ultra-thin, single ropes on the market. Bealís anorexic Joker is only 9.1mm and Mammutís otherworldly Ė and ironically named Ė Serenity just about needs a belt to hold its sheath up at 8.9. But a second glance, this time at the Nanoís label, reveals some rather surprising stats. The slightly thicker Nano weighs virtually the same as Mammutís Serenity and a hair less than Bealís Joker. The Nano offers up an impact force thatís almost a full kN lower than the Serenity and only slightly harsher (.2kN) than the Joker. And in UIAA fall tests, the Nano sports a whopping (for such a thin cord) six falls to Serenity and Jokerís five. The Nano also comes with Sterlingís Arid System, a double dry of sorts that includes their standard Dry Core mixed with an external treatment as well.

I skip to the can and pee from sheer happiness.

Sterlingís Fusion series of ropes, which includes the 9.8mm Nitro, the 9.2mm Nano and the as-yet-unreleased 9.4mm Ion, is the bastard love child of the high-durability Marathon and high-performance Evolution series. Fusion ropes, Nano included, arenít quite the diesel truck that Marathon ropes are but their sheathes are beefier than and retain many of the performance qualities, most notably weight and impact force, of the Evolution series. What you end up with, theoretically, is a durable high-performance cord.

Rockclimbing Article Image2_large
dbrayack
Photo by: Dan Brayack.

I wasted little time putting it to the test, but notably, only as a single rope. (Like all the thin cords today, the Nano is also rated as a double and a twin.) As Sterling is careful to point out in all of their promotional material, the Nano is a thin thin thin rope. It is not meant to be your beater. It is not intended for toprope use, nor is it supposed to be your route-working rope. Likewise, if you climb routes that include lots of sharp edges, a thin cord might not be your best option. What Iím trying to say is, when I call a 9.2mm rope ďdurable,Ē Iím speaking relatively.

Oh, and, of course, be ready to belay with it. Thin ropes are like they are to reduce friction and weight, and the Nano does it very well. Switch to a high-friction device to mitigate that particular property when belaying. Drooling and peeing from happiness are two things. Bleeding from misuse is another entirely.

I admit, I didnít always follow all of my own advice. I felt a little guilty every time I toproped on my Nano and every time I fell on a redpoint attempt. Iíve been breaking the thin-rope rules and using it as my primary cord, laying down pitches with it just because. And I still feelÖ I donít knowÖ like Iím wasting my rope. Mere hours before writing this I watched it scrape across a bulge and felt that pang of remorse. To its credit, however, the Nano showed little care for my rule breaking and today, though itís certainly dirtier than when it was new, it still looks and feels smooth to the touch. Considering a thin cordís purpose of reducing rope drag, itís nice to see this is the case.

As for performance, you really canít beat a thin rope. All safety considerations accounted for, itís pure joy to climb with a Nano. Its smooth sheath and low profile slide easily over rock and through Ďbiners reducing rope drag at every zig and zag. The sheath is tight, yet soft and supple. I donít care for stiff ropes and the Nano offers a hand that is, to me, perfect. Clipping is perhaps where I notice it the most. The rope seems to want to be in the Ďbiner. Word on the street is that Euro-traddies are linking longer and longer pitches. Sterling reports sales of 70, 80 and even 100m lengths are up, which seems to support this. After all, if youíre going to tote that much cord up a route (alpine rock anybody?), it had better be light and thin.

Speaking of thin, letís take a moment to talk about truth in advertising. Sterling earned my respect in that regard when it labeled the Nano a 9.2mm rope. Actually, it measures in at 9.1 and change. Thank you, Sterling, for rounding up, instead of down. While weíre on the subject, Nanoís UIAA triple drop testing yielded falls of 6, 6 and 8, respectively. Further word on the street is that the Nano sustains 7 falls in the Sterling drop tower more than any other number. And yet, Sterling again rounded in a customer-friendly direction and called it a six.

I know, consciously, that my Nano is less durable than probably any other rope Iíve owned, but I havenít actually seen evidence of it yet. Iíve been somewhat, but not really, careful of its limitations and am perfectly happy with its durability. Still, only time will tell. Iíll pop back into this review in a few more months and let you know how itís going.

In the meantime, Iíll keep pounding this Nano and try to keep my bodily fluids contained... especially on the sharp end.

Go to this item in our Gear Database.

Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to RC.com and RC.com then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on RC.com Ė 7/13/07.

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21 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

 ginger749
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 2007-07-13
Thanks for a good read,
 bent_gate
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 2007-07-14
4 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read! I'd hire you for a magazine writing reviews. (too bad I don't run a magazine) ;)
 coastal_climber
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 2007-07-16
5 out of 5 stars Funny & Informative, keep it up:)

>Cam
 psprings
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 2007-07-16
Thanks for the review, Jung. Couple of questions:
1. How long have you had it/how many pitches have you done with it?
2. How did you feel the tangle-ability was during belaying with the smaller diameter?
3. I'm assuming no grigri use...
Thanks, Peter
 j_ung
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 2007-07-16
Thanks folks.

Peter, I've had it since early spring and at a guess it's been tied into probably 40-50 times. A few of those have been toprope attempts that tickled my guilt bone like you wouldn't believe. And yet, I can report no appreciable damage. I'd be lying if I said there was NO wear and tear. But certainly, not any more than you expect on any thicker rope. I think I mentioned above -- and this is going to be standard practice for all of my reviews from now on -- I'll be back in a couple months with an update on durability. I wonder if this thing can take a whole season of use as a primary rope.

I've had no tangle trouble whatsoever. In fact, as with every thin single rope I've used (I've tried others a time or two and also own a BlueWater 9.4mm Dominator), rope management gets easier the thinner the cord is.

And as for Gri-gri use, be careful what you assume. Haha! Dbrayack belayed me once or twice with a Gri-gri. He reports that it worked, for the most part, fine, but that he made a conscious effort to do things by the book, so to speak. Maybe he'll join in and comment further.
 j_ung
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 2007-07-16
One more note; something kind of funny. The last time I had it out, a girl walked by and said something like, "Wow, that sure is a skinny rope. How thick is it?" I told her 9.2 and the look on her face was like I was carrying a rack of slung newborn babies to stuff into cracks.
 overlord
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 2007-07-17
4 out of 5 stars lol, got a good laugh on the last comment, jay.

and im really interested in how it holds up after some time. it sounds to me sterling found the balance between lightness and durability. and it makes me wish even more that petzl would finally pull their head out of the sand and make a grigri for 9-10mm cords.
 sterlingjim
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 2007-07-17
I shouldn't really comment on the subject of the review but for sure the writing is excellent. Nice job Jay!

FWIW the rope is really nice but I might be just a little biased.
 dbrayack
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 2007-07-17
5 out of 5 stars I liked the rope myself, though I'm on a pretty strict budget, so I'll be sticking to whatever I can find as bouty for a while.

As far as the Gri Gri is concerned, if I figuratively let go (put a loop of slack between my hand and device), on body weight, it creeps through the Gri-Gri ever so slightly.

But remember, the locking force of a Gri-Gri is proportional to frictional force which is proportional to load: On a hard catch, the rope will definitley lock hard.

Strength is proportional to cross-sectional area. Since the rope is so Skinny, I'm curious if there have been any (gri-gri cut) lab tests with high loads on a 10.2mm and small ropes such as the 9.2.

Feeding was da-bomb, it slide through the Gri-Gri like a hot knife through 4mm spectra.
 pcassiday
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 2007-07-17
I just acquired one of these ropes last friday and have climbed on it three times (days). I've only used a gri-gri on it so far and have had no problem with the gri-gri locking up on it. I was more concerned with how well you could lower a climber with the rope using a gri-gri as the only other time I've used a thin rope like this (a beal joker, 9.1) lower was very scary and required either gloves or a petzl freino. No problem though with the nano. I was able to control the lower using only the gri-gri as you would with a large rope.
 phang_nga
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 2007-07-18
5 out of 5 stars Excellent review... witty and informative. You're a very good writer bother... please keep it up! :-)
 psprings
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 2007-07-18
Thanks for the feedback on the grigri use, Jung et al. Much appreciated. I love my sterling 10.2 70m and was thinking about a lighter weight rope for alpine. Sounds like this might be the ticket.
Peter
 reg
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 2007-07-25
4 out of 5 stars nicely written, informitive (u work for them?)
 skinner
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 2007-07-29
Great review j_ung!
While I don't own a Nano yet, I've been eyeing it closely, as a replacement for the Beal Joker we've been climbing on for a over a year now. The marginal weight difference isn't enough to sway me, but it appears as though it may be a little more durable. I'm totally sold on the idea of thin ropes now. The weight, or lack of, has been a huge bonus as we carry our 70m x 9.1mm and a 75m x 7mm allowing us to do full 70m raps at a fraction of weight of our previous (2) 60m x 10.5mm that we used to carry for trad climbing.

As far as belaying.. we own several Gri-Gri's and recently acquired a Faders Sum. The Sum is the answer for the latest generation of thin ropes, while the Gri-Gri still performs better on the old fattys.
 vegastradguy
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 2007-07-29
5 out of 5 stars fyi- none of our reviewers work for any climbing gear companies or within the industry- as much as some of us would like to!
 j_ung
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 2007-07-30
Nope, I don't work for Sterling. I try to talk to the companies whose products I review to get a feel for what their goals for the product are, why they developed it and how smoothly (or not) the development process went.
 smeinhold
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 2007-08-03
i've had a nano for about 70 pitches now mostly redpoint burns and laps on comp days. its the best rope i've used. its starting to wear but most ropes do after this much time and it is still in great condition esp for a 9.2. Above someone said that it slides through the gri gri ever so slightly, i think that is mainly just the super dry coating. my nano slid like that at first but after time the dry coating became less slippery and now it locks like any other rope. its still good measure to be careful, any rope under 10 mill can be a hazard with the gri gri.
 j_ung
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 2008-05-29
UPDATE:
It has now been almost a year since I submitted this review and well over a year since I first put the Nano into use. Well, it's still going. From all around me, I hear reports of others misusing Nanos and laying down pitch after pitch. One friend took only Nanos on a trip to India, beat them like a government mule and is also still using them. I certainly notice wear on this rope, but it's far less than I would have expected and I have yet to surgically remove even a single inch of it. My only complaint is that, as with pretty much every Sterling rope I've used, it collects 'biner cheese like my climbing shoes collect stink. My hands haven't been even remotely clean on a climbing day for some time.

(An interesting side note... the odyssey of rope research that Sterling endured while developing the Nano led to redesigns of a significant portion of its line up. That and investments in new technology have resulted in an almost brand-wide increase in drop-tower falls held. Sterling plans to (if they haven't already) submit several models to the UIAA for re-certification.)

I just bought -- that's right BOUGHT -- a Sterling Ion 9.5mm, so I'm probably going to set the Nano aside for a few weeks. But you can bet your ass I'm going to wash it and keep using it. Hey, Sterling, keep making them like this, huh?
 j_ung
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 2008-05-29
Oh, one additional note: Despite its durability, I probably shouldn't recommend this rope for anybody looking for a first cord, a major workhorse or a bigwall rope. There. My ass is covered!
 phUnk
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 2008-06-01
5 out of 5 stars Great review and great 1-year-later followup. Thanks j_ung!

My response to the inevitable "That's a pretty thin rope, what is it?" and corresponding look of "omg he's climbing on dental floss" when I tell them it's a 9.7mm Beal Booster III? I look them right in the eye and deadpan, "Taste death, live life."

Then I try to high-five them as they recoil in fear.

Good times.
 Benzesp
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 2009-11-09
I'm running a 9.2 Monster (for the last 7 months), the weight and easy clipping spoils you. New rope time is almost here and I'll be getting one of these bad boys and eventually retire the monster. I keep hearing reviews like this one, which makes me think this rope will probabbly rule.

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