Thanks to the kindness of some friends in the biz (thanks, David, Jack and Larry), I was lucky enough to score a new Bluewater Lightning Pro rope for my most recent Red Rock trip. Here are some of my thoughts on rope shopping and selection, and a review of this particular rope, which gets two solid thumbs up from me after several hard days of use.
I’d been shopping ropes in the 9.7 – 9.9 range for awhile, and I’d considered ropes including the Bluewater Lightning Pro, Beal Booster, Petzl Nomad, Edelweiss Onsight Arc and the Sterling Evolution Velocity, but hadn’t decided which to buy.
The criteria I personally use when selecting ropes is the number of UIAA falls held in testing (see this Climbing Magazine post for more detail on skinny ropes and how UIAA falls aren’t just lead falls in the real world, at least, as of 2003); and, the weight per meter. For this rope, I knew I’d be getting a 70 meter, so weight was very important; and, since this will be my project rope, it had to be durable and have a higher than average UIAA fall rating so that I can take lead falls on it with less worry. I also prefer bicolor ropes, for ease of finding the midpoint when setting up rappels.
The Bluewater Lightning Pro 9.7 fit my bill perfectly. Only the Beal has a higher number of UIAA falls held in testing (9 to the Lightning Pro’s 8) but the Beal is 2 grams per meter heavier, so the Lightning Pro won on weight. My workhorse rope right now is an Edelweiss 10.2 60 meter, weighing in at a little over nine pounds; on paper, the Lightning Pro 70 meter is about .2 pounds heavier, but I didn’t notice a difference packing it around; and, it packs down noticeably smaller in my rope bag than my 10.2, making it a great rope for traveling.
The bicolor pattern change is visible even in bright light (a complaint I’ve had about some of PMI’s bicolors, and even my Edelweiss). The rope comes with a narrow little tube-style rope bag which looks better equipped for carrying a rolled Thermarest than a rope, but maybe I’m just spoiled on my non-free rope bags.
Before leaving home, I flaked and reflaked the rope a few times to get the twisties out and to detangle it. The hand of the rope is quite nice; it felt really thin right out of the box, but at this point I’m getting used to the feel of 9.x single ropes, so it didn’t feel scary thin at all.
In real world use, the rope exceeded my expectations. We used it hard during the Red Rock trip — on everything from long easy multipitch to long hard multipitch to redpoint lead and toprope attempts. It caught falls comfortably, it feeds very nicely in a variety of belay devices including Petzl GriGris, ATCs, and ATC-XPs.
Edit: the Petzl Grigri technical specs show it rated for ropes sized 10-11mm. A number of online sources indicate that the range is “10-11mm (9.7 Accepted)” but I don’t have a test source or word from Petzl on that, so use at your own risk as always. Anecdotally, I caught one moderate lead fall on the rope with the Grigri without hesitation or any slip, but we didn’t take any huge whippers on the system.
The only catch we ran into was an unusually large amount of rope twist during our raps off of Eagle Dance — but that wasn’t the rope’s fault. I know that newer ropes are going to twist and curl more than older ropes on rappel; I also know that using a higher friction device (e.g., the ATC-XP in high friction mode) is going to aggravate the twist. After one epic-ly twisted rap and heroic rope rescue by Shawn after we had both rapped the lines on our ATC-XPs in high friction mode, we rapped in low friction mode and had almost no twisting on subsequent raps.
The rope (somehow) seems cleaner than my ropes usually do when I’ve put this kind of miles on ’em at Red Rock… could be the dry treatment is just all spiffy and brand new, but the rope looks almost new even after several days of hard, dirty use.
All in all, I’m very happy with the Lightning Pro and look forward to pushing more limits on it on longer multipitch routes and hard sport climbs. I’m wishing I had the 60 meter version for everyday cragging, since it was noticeably smaller and lighter than my current 10.2 when the terrain got more challenging. The Lightning Pro also comes in an orange and turquoise “HERA” color scheme to raise funds for the HERA Womens’ Cancer Foundation, which is cool.
Bluewater will definitely be on my list to consider for future rope purchases after this. The relatively low weight, relatively high number of UIAA falls, the highly visible bicolor, and the rope’s performance in the field make this a solid choice for climbers looking for a dry rope in the 9.7 range.
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