Top Gear #7 Mammut Serenity
I was delivering a training course last weekend and a team were climbing nearby using some old school techniques and a very old school rope (see photo below). I'm glad to say that type of rope became obsolete well before I started climbing (so I dread to think how old the rope was!) and, as well as making an interesting discussion point for the course attendees, it also got me thinking about how far rope technology has come in a fairly short timescale. Nowadays we have a vast choice of rope diameters, sheath coatings, colour combinations, sheath slippage measurements and a host of other factors to consider.....but this can all also make our choices harder to make.
I've used a lot of types of rope over my climbing career and we regularly get asked by course participants which rope they should buy. The new downloadable BMC guide (you can find it here) to rope selection is a great resource for anyone trying to make a choice and my use of many different types of rope has shown me that there aren't many bad options out there particularly if you select from well respected manufacturers, but our top gear series is about what we consider to be the best kit out there and there's one rope that I keep finding ticks so many boxes for me.
Mammut's Serenity ropes are fantastic. At 8.7mm they are currently (as far as I know) the thinnest single rope on the market (they are also rated as a double and twin rope) and, at 51grams per metre, they are also the lightest. They are also double dry treated (the sheath and core both get treated for minimal water absorbtion) which makes them suitable for use in all weathers. I have recently bought 2 more Serenities which, by my guesstimation, means I'm now on my eighth and ninth of these woven marvels. So, I am delighted to welcome the Serenity as Peak Mountaineering's seventh in our Top Gear series.
However, there are several potential downsides to ropes of this diameter. Very thin ropes can be harder to handle and care needs to be taken to ensure the belay device used is compatible. There is also the potential psychological disadvantage of staring down at your super skinny rope on that long runout pitch and realising this cotton like thread is the only thing standing between you and disaster should you take a whipper. Thin ropes are also more prone to wearing out quickly as the thinner protective sheath won't take as much abuse over rough rock or sharp edges. Lastly, the cutting edge technology of a rope like the Serenity inevitably brings with it a high price tag (the 50 metre length comes in at around £130).
So there is lots to think about and the Serenity would never be my choice for climbing on rough gritstone or certain other high friction rock types. I also wouldn't bother choosing it when a short walk in means I don't need the pack ability or weight saving they offer. However, when faced with a heavy pack, a full on mountain day or a long walk in, the Serenity is worth every penny and the Serenity is currently my first choice for both personal and professional use on long multi-pitch and mountain routes. I have also found the Serenity lasts well if managed carefully and the rope is a dream to handle providing the thin diameter is factored in. Well done to Mammut for producing another innovative and high quality product. So, if your budget allows and the rope suits your requirements, I would really give the Mammut Serenity a close look. You won't be disappointed.
Posted by Paul