MSRP $259 (60m) $289 (70m); non-bi-pattern (80m) $289
For many years, I made a point to climb on thinner and thinner cords. Besides being lightweight, the smaller-diameter ropes have less surface area and thus less friction when passing through carabiners and sliding over rock. Theoretically, climbing with a skinny rope should be easier, which is mostly true if you can ignore the pucker factor. Plus, they were a cinch to carry on long approaches. And, so long as the cords were triple rated–meaning they are certified for use as single, double and twin ropes–a sub-9mm diameter rope could be safe enough for many types of climbing, albeit with less durability and a shorter lifespan. You just had to be careful of sharp edges and keep an extra-vigilant grip with the brake hand while belaying with skinny lines.
Sure, these freakishly thin ropes worked, but I was scared when I fell while following a pitch of friable sandstone in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado (once was enough), and watched the floss-width line skid across ledges and blocks above my head.
To take it one step further away from safety–this was many years ago–I even went so far as to use a sub-9mm rope on Half Dome’s well-traveled Regular Northwest Face and also used it as a second/jugging line on a rare of ascent El Cap’s A4+ route Born Under a Bad Sign. The later was a horrifying mistake. Hard aid routes with skinny ropes aren’t a good idea, in case that wasn’t already obvious.
I began looking for a rope that struck the happy medium between lightweight and durability, and found Edelrid’s Topaz Pro Dry CT 9.2mm.
This triple-rated rope is available in two lengths, 60 meters and 70 meters. CT stands for ColorTec, which means that the rope has a bi-pattern weave. (It’s also available without the bi-pattern, which instead has a solid black middle mark. This rope is also Bluesign certified. Bluesign is a separate entity from Edelrid that oversees textile production to ensure the best environmental practices are being followed.
The rope also has Thermo Shield protection: the final step in a multi-step “the works” dry treatment that includes Pro Shield, Pro Dry and Thermo Shield. This three-step process protects the rope from dirt, water, extends the life of the sheath, and provides a finish to improve handling and flexibility. Additionally, this process means the Topaz exceeds the UIAA Dry minimal-water absorption test by absorbing less than 2 percent of its weight it water. The UIAA Dry standard is 5 percent.
When I talked with the Edelrid rep, Blair Williams, he assured me that this rope would handle like a beefier cord. This sentiment was backed up by IFMGA certified guide Rob Coppolillo who said: “Noticeably heavier than the 8.9mm [Edelrid] Swift, but I’ve tried to baby the Swifts…I think I would’ve trashed ’em had I used them in the same way as the Topaz.”
Soon after it arrived in the mail, I got right to trashing the Topaz and took it mixed climbing throughout Colorado including at Bear’s Den in Rocky Mountain National Park, Vail and for an extended group top-roping sessions on ice and mixed terrain in Clear Creek Canyon. I also took it sport and trad climbing, treating it like a gym rope. Today, after months of use, the rope is holding up well and continues to handle as if it just came out of the box.
I also belayed with it using the Petzl Grigri 2 and with the Edelrid Mega Jul, which are rated for ropes generally in the range of 9 to 10mm. Every time, it locked off in the devices without slipping–this was unexpected, as I often experienced some slippage when using similar diameter ropes. It handled like a rope closer to 9.6mm. The Mega Jul/Topaz combination made for a smooth rappel.
What I didn’t like about the Topaz is the subtlety of the bi-pattern weave, otherwise known as a pattern change. It’s just not that obvious, meaning I still have to be careful to find the middle mark when feeding into the anchor while setting up rappels.
And, it’s heavy for its width at 59 grams per meter. Edelrid says the rope has a 37 percent sheath proportion, which is a lot, and this is the main reason why the rope handles as though it’s fatter than it is. This weight is can be attributed to the dense sheath. Williams says, “We are in the top end of grams per meter, which is evidence of the tighter thread count in the rope.”
In comparison, the Petzl Volta 9.2mm Dry weighs 55 grams per meter. The Sterling Evolution Aero Dry 9.2mm weighs 56 grams per meter.
Chris Van Leuven is the former digital editor for Alpinist. He’s currently a “stay-at-home dude” and is working on a book. But a few times a week, he sneaks away from his desk to climb in Colorado’s Front Range.
A skinny rope that performs like a middleweight
UIAA Dry certified
Available in both bi-pattern and standard patterns
Bi-pattern is too subtle
Heavy compared to other ropes in its class