In 2010, I moved to the big city after a breakup, and within a few short weeks, had begun rock climbing in the Gunks and working at an outdoor gear shop in the middle of SoHo. Barely a climber, my new boss asked me what kind of gear I’d been using.
“What kind of harness do you wear?”
“Uhh. The purple one.”
“Okay, what kind of rope?”
“The blue one.”
I’m pretty sure I rode the subway home that evening, crestfallen with head in hands, bemoaning, “I’m never going to be a real rock climber!” Six years of clambering up and down mountains and the sides of cliffs, I’ve now beaten up a rope or two (and I even know the brands.)
My family and non-climbing friends often imply the dangers of rock climbing, and I try to explain to them that it’s like any adventure sport or activity. There are systems in place to mitigate those dangers, including owning proper gear (such as protection, a harness, and a rope—maybe the “blue one”).
What factors are important when looking at when considering buying a new rope? (Yes, those bright colors will look dope in photographs but when it comes to rock and ice climbing, safety first—not third.) Versatility, durability, diameter, weight, and sheath, to name a few.
PMI makes a 9.9mm dynamic rope, available in both 60 and 70m. The “Synergy” is a really great all-around rope for route climbing, is fairly lightweight, and very durable. I got to test the Synergy out climbing in Zion National Park, Kolob Canyon, Eldorado Canyon, and take it up a few classic towers in the Canyonlands this spring.
Typically, one of the most important factors for me is the weight. Obviously, a 70m length rope will weigh more in your pack than a 60m, but I’ve always been more partial to a longer length (especially when it saves you an extra rappel). My boyfriend, who is often in pursuit of long alpine routes, is the opposite and often prefers less weight. Ropes that are lighter in weight are easier to carry on long approaches and to clip if you’re climbing mondo long routes (as there is less weight to pull up). A general alpinist rule: go fast and light. If you’re taking the Synergy for a day of cragging or multi-pitch climbing, it’s a good length to have (or consider something like the 9.4 Elite for something less heavy). The 70m clocks in at 62.6g/m.
I like the Synergy because it’s no skinny bitch but also not a thick, bulky workhorse rope. Skinnier ropes are great but ultimately will not last as long as a medium, all-around rope. And workhorse ropes, while great for things like big walling and toproping, are often heavy in weight and too bulky. So the Synergy really shines here with a good balance between both durability and weight.
I really enjoyed the way the rope handled, especially in a Grigri as well as a basic ATC guide. After climbing with it for most of the spring season, I inspected the sheath of my rope and saw that it showed almost no signs of significant wear, even with a lot of mileage in such a short amount of time. I concluded that it was, in fact, quite durable.
The Synergy is a standard kernmantle design: its inner nylon is composed of twisted fibers that provide that dynamic stretch when a fall takes place, and its sheath, the hollow tube that is the exterior of the rope, that is used to protect from abrasion. PMI constructs their ropes with a thicker sheath over a skinny line, so the strength rating is high but the weight kept low. Sheath percentage of rope matters, as it contributes to the overall durability of the rope.
It is important to note that climbers should use dynamic ropes to climb on and NEVER static ropes. Static ropes are useful in situations that require hauling, fixing, or jugging, but should not be used to climb on or belay with. Static ropes will not stretch in case of a situation where a soft catch is necessary.
It’s worth mentioning that the Synergy is not bi-pattern, which I do prefer, but the middle mark is clearly marked on the rope, so I have had no issues finding it while rappelling. In conclusion, the Synergy is a great rope if you’re looking for a compromise between weight and durability. I would recommend it for trad or sport climbing, toproping, and multi-pitch climbing. It even comes in blue.
Disclosure: The gear for this review has been provided for by PMI. All opinions are honest and my own.
All photographs courtesy of PMI except where otherwise noted.