Review by: j_ung, 2006-07-11
[size=14][color=red]Editor's note: This product review written by Michael Reardon and submitted by J_ung.[/color]
[b]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.[/b]
What matters more, girth or length? It is a question pondered through the ages, particularly when it comes to ropes. To understand the variety of cords, one needs to get into the mindset of the variety of climbing and the generation gap that separates them.
Mountaineers have always preferred the wider strands with which to savor the slower gains into the altitude of the gods, while alpinists go thin and long to dispatch with their conquests as quickly as possible. Traditional ground-up climbers prefer a thicker sheath to withstand the abrasions from extended belays and occasional dismounts from risky protection, while sport climbers trend towards the color-coordinated lightweight skimpy models for quick sends without the emotional commitment. Me? I'm a “variety-is-the-spice-of-life” kind of guy, otherwise known as a slut, particularly when it comes to climbing gear. So when I got the new Mammut Serenity 8.9mm rope, I jumped like a dog in heat to see what it would take to tear this baby down.
First up, the sport climbing haven of Malibu Creak. The breccia pockets are unforgivable to the skin and I figured running a circuit would destroy it in a matter of moments. I was wrong. Though skinny to the touch, the weight belied strong innards (capable of sustaining five UIAA falls according to Mammut), and remained supple throughout the course of the day. However, fifty laps was the limit before the sheath started to puff out like a warm bagel from the repeated rubbing. Two days later I decided to take it to the thousand-foot granite spike of Tahquitz for a bit of multi-pitching. The lighter weight was an obvious plus when simul-climbing while the anorexic profile shimmied its way smoothly between blocks that a girthier package might not have been able to squeeze through. After a vertical mile, the wear started to get worse but there was time for one last date. Stoney Point has the texture of a belt sander and never been kind to the pretty, skinny models. Toprope set, I mounted up with the intention of going until one of us collapsed. It took two blown tips and a core shot in the elbow before an inspection portal finally appeared at the halfway point of the rope rendering it unsafe. I finally untied with a whimper of relief.
Ropes are slowly getting thinner and lighter, but the ability to handle the same abuses as their predecessors diminishes as well. The Serenity unfortunately does not provide any real breakthrough in this regard, so it still all comes down to what you what you want your rope to do. While the Serenity is somewhat surprising in its durability, it won't stand long under conditions in which thicker, sheathier cords still hold sway. Ironically, rock climbers at [i]opposite[/i] ends of the spectrum of our craft will like the Serenity most. Sport climbers who want separate ropes for working and sending and alpinists who need light, fast, long and agile cords all the time are, for once, in the same camp. Blame Mammut!