Rope: Mammut Serenity 8.9mm
Mammut Serenity 8.9mm 60m
Ropes are one of those bits of kit that we kid ourselves about. We buy a new one and read all the blurb that comes with them scaring ourselves with the talk of 'stretch on first use', finite number of falls and rope care. We convince ourselves that we have done the right thing in retiring our old tatty bit of string, play down the number of falls we've actually taken on it, and convince ourselves that we've only had it 4 years when in reality it's probably closer to 10. Let's think about this objectively for a moment: the rope is the single most important bit of kit we own, and yet we routinely use old and tired work-horses that are barely suited to top-roping. After all, who has ever heard of a rope snapping?
Mammut have long been an industry leader in rope production; the Galaxy is arguably one of the most popular ropes of modern times. It's no surprise then that they have pushed the standards again, this time with the smallest diameter and lightest single sport rope yet. The Serenity is just 8.9mm and weighs 52g per metre (that's 3.12kg for a 60m rope). This compares with 10mm and 3.9kg for a 60m Galaxy. When I started climbing (early 90's) 9mm was the standard diameter of a half rope, with single sport ropes just dipping under 11mm. How times have changed, that I now climb on two 8.5mm half and an 8.9mm sport ropes.
The Serenity comes in a fairly bright orange, giving it a fairly retro look. It is extremely slick to handle, due in large part to its 'Coating Finish' which is Mammut's latest high tech development. Basically each fibre is Teflon coated to encourage equal movement between fibres both within the sheath and core. This Teflon coating may be designed to keep water out, but at the end of the day it is much the same as any other 'dry' rope I have had: it may not absorb water in a light shower, but dangle the end in a puddle and it will take it on board pretty quickly. To test out its waterproofness I dipped the end 5 metres quickly in and out of a basin of cold water, and then immersed the next 5 metres in the same basin and left in there for 20 minutes. The quickly dipped end dried off pretty quickly in about half an hour, whilst the immersed section took about 3 hours to dry. Drying took place inside with no sunlight or breeze. A little orange dye was lost to the water.
It has both a middle marker, and two end markers set around 5 metres in from each end to alert you to the fact that the end of the rope is imminent - a very sensible innovation. The Teflon coating means that tying knots is very straight forward, but has the flip side that they can untie themselves with equal ease so stopper knots are essential (as they always should be). In a month or so of use, with a variety of belay devices, it has shown no twisting or kinking and continues to handle like a dream.
The slick handling and small diameter mean that with a non-locking belay device dynamic belaying is pretty inevitable unless you add an extra karabiner into the system to increase the friction. Dynamic belaying may be what you want, but if not it's important to be aware that holding a fall isn't quite as straightforward as with a well used furry rope down at the local wall. The other major consideration is when using an auto locking device. The Gri Gri has long been the standard device in this category, but is not designed for such small ropes. Fortunately Faders have developed a new device called the SUM which does work comfortably with the Serenity, despite it's specification stating that 9mm is the minimum rope diameter that it should be used in conjunction with. See the planetFear review of the SUM. I've actually used the Serenity with a fairly wide range of belay devices and found that it works with most, with some needing an extra krab to increase friction.
Another factor to consider is the number of UIAA falls it is recommended that the rope can withstand before it should be retired: 5 as opposed to 7 or 8 on a Galaxy. A pretty hefty difference if you take these stats seriously and take frequent whippers!
Retailing at £160 (for a 60m - note that it comes in 50m and 70m lengths too) it's by no means cheap, but it has an awful lot going for it if saving weight and space are important to you. For example I recently took a trip to Val Di Mello. We decided to take just the Serenity and one 60m 8.5mm half rope. This gave us ample scope for short single pitch sport climbing using the Serenity, and longer multi pitch trad climbing using both, and saved us around 3kg in weight on our baggage allowance (we were flying with Ryanair so this was an issue!). If you are working a hard red point then the Serenity has the obvious benefit that you are pulling less weight behind you.
Note that the views expressed in this review are exactly that. If a device states that you should not use a rope less than Xmm, and you choose to ignore this, you do so at your own risk. To read more about belaying check out these links 1 | 2 | 3. To read more about UIAA rope terminology (rope weights, falls etc check out the UIAA website).