Tendon Master 7.8 half ropeThursday 28 April, 2016
Tendon Master 7.8 half rope
– a somewhat long winded rope review –
Disclaimer: I am brand ambassador for Tendon ropes. However, in relation to all equipment sponsors I had or have, I have never endorsed to guided clients, friends or in articles a product I would have not paid full retail price for.
Ropes: every climbers has an opinion on them, has favourites and good and bad stories. However, funny enough, a lot of discussion on ropes nowadays is carried on purely on specs. The other day, on a climbing forum, a beginner climber was asking a simple yet very complicated question: “I’d like to buy a rope and I have narrowed down my choice to two models from two brands. I’ll be using the rope mainly for…. What do you suggest I should choose?” The answers poured from several posters but, of course, as on most forums one cannot judge the experience and experiential knowledge behind each and every answer. However almost all (I say almost since I have stopped following the thread) answers focused on two aspects: specs (parameters) and grade to be climbed. Basically the number of falls taken factored a lot, the dynamic elongation, the weight per meter, the lab parameters on water absorption (numbers) and of course the fact that the rope will be used for up to 6b max. I was dumbfounded by the amount of energy put into comparing these aspects and, I would not say by their irrelevance, but by their lack of truly useful information in the given context for the given climbers. One of the arguments, somewhat parallel, was exulting the merits of one brand as being for a century and half in business while the other for being somewhat less… Finally the original poster concluded, a few days later with a very scientific closing remark choosing one model from one brand based on the specs and the numbers.
The thread itself made me think of what would be a useful recommendation to someone like that. Are those specs really that useful, especially for beginner to intermediate climbers (usually those who need to ask on a public forum which of two rope models are preferable for general purpose climbing)? When are they useful and for whom? All rope manufacturers list this info and call their rope treatment in different ways. Can someone, in the recreational field, make good use of that information?
Point in case: half ropes.
Climbers or alpinists intending on acquiring half ropes are people who plan climbs that are either multi pitch, trad or ice climbs and sometimes all these combined. The half rope is a more specialised type of rope and comes second in the sales hierarchy after the single ropes (that can be used not only for sport but also for multi pitch, ice, mixed or big mountains).
So what are the advantages of half ropes over single ropes? This is something most climbers know but it’s not a bad thing to just list them here again. First of all the term advantage is to be taken in context and not as an absolute. There are situations when single rope system is more advantageous than half ropes and situations when the advantage lies with the reverse. A route where several, full rope length, abseils are needed is a situation where half ropes are preferable giving speed. However a single rope with a 6mm tag line is preferable if the route is bolted and the grade higher and several falls are expected. If the route is trad or winding the half ropes are better.
If protection is bad rather than scarce then the dynamic elongation of the rope (how much it stretches when catches the falling climber) is important, but again contextual. Usually the dynamic elongation is between 10% (what would be a very rigid rope) and 40% (what would be a very stretchy rope). The stretchier the rope is the less impact is on the poor protection (old pegs, cams, etc) but also the longer the travel distance and the chances to hit a ledge as usually is the case with mountain routes. Having a single rope with 36% dynamic elongation on la Dura Dura is great as it provides a safe fall; having the same rope on Pierre Alain on the Dru on the same argument would be a wrong judgement.
Protecting waterfall ice is more comfortable with two half ropes but also somewhat safer. Even the best climbers have at least once cramponed the rope when leading or snag an ice tool into the rope when seconding. Having two strands increases the safety margin around sharp edges.
Same goes for mountain routes where sharp edges and rockfall may damage one strand and then the half ropes system works better than the single rope plus tag line system.
If glacier travel is involved again the half rope system offers a less bulky alternative, using only one rope while the other is in the backpack.
Weight per meter was another factor thrown around yet I wonder how many climbers can tell the difference between a 60 meter rope at 42 grams per meter and a 60 meter rope at 38 grams per meter. I know that, in the real world of usage, I can’t tell the difference regardless if I flaunt or not my superior knowledge of specs on an internet forum…
So back at how to choose a rope; a half rope in this case. If specs don’t matter that much what does it matter? It would be wrong to assume from what I wrote above that spec do not matter at all. They do matter but always in context; this is the point I am trying to make. However when recommending ropes what I believe is most important (probably similar to rock climbing shoes) is the subjective rather than the objective factor. People like different things and different things make them feel safer or more comfortable. Someone coming from indoor climbing may prefer stretchier ropes while someone at the beginning of their climbing and with mainly top-rope experience may prefer a more rigid one. A guide will prefer a shorter, lighter, thinner rope as he needs to lug it around everyday but for those endless toprope sessions at les Gaillands a 10mm may be handier… The use dictates the need for certain specs but, in my opinion, what makes a rope preferable to another is the feel it gives!
Therefore when someone recommends you a rope it would be most useful not if that person knows the specs from the catalogue but if that person has climbed in the same environment as you intend on doing, has used several rope brands so has a knowledge of the offer and has experienced ropework more than a couple times a year and more than through the Gri-Gri at the climbing wall.
Now coming finally to the review bit, after this lengthy introduction. Tendon Master 7.8 is a rope rated half and twin (which means it can be clipped either consecutively or simultaneously in the same piece of protection yet cannot be used only on a single strand for the entire length of a pitch). The specs everybody loves to read are below:
sheath slippage (%) 0
CE 1019 yes
rope diameter (mm) 7.8
number of UIAA falls min 6
max. impact force (kN) 5.2
static elongation (%) 6.5
dynamic elongation (%) 32
EN 892 yes
weight (g/m) 38
The first line means that through its construction the older the rope gets you won’t notice much shift between the sheath and the core (mainly due to the process through which the ends are closed); the second line and the ninth mean it’s a EU certified rope and not a shed manufactured clothesline sold as climbing equipment; the third line is obvious and tells you how thick the rope is; the fourth line tells you that it is compliant to the safety standard required same as the following line; the sixth line tells you how much it would stretch if you abseil on it and the seventh line tells you how much it would stretch if you fall on it; the last line tells you how much you will carry around and pull up the cliff in addition to all the other kit you have.
Objectively speaking I like to know that my ropes have the specifications mentioned in the second and ninth line. The rest is subjective.
I have used in total 4 brands and 5 models of half ropes. I have used these ice climbing, trad climbing, multi-pitch and for routes including glacier travel. I am and have been using for the past 3 years Tendon Master 7.8 and for the foreseeable future will continue to do so for the following reasons:
(1) although I cannot tell the difference in real life between 38 g/m (like Tendon Master 7.8 has) and 39 g/m or 41g/m I like to know that this is one of the lightest half ropes available out there. I can’t tell the difference but the knowledge is reassuring that I can hardly do better weight-wise.
(2) I can tell the difference between a 7.8 mm rope (like Tendon Master 7.8) and an 8.6 half rope. Hell, the single rope I am using for guiding is a 8.9 mm (Tendon Master 8.9). I can however barely tell the difference between a 7.8 mm and an 8 mm half rope when out of the box but I can see the difference between Tendon 7.8 and all the other half ropes I used after one or two years of abuse in the
mountains. Tendon Master 7.8 is still close to 7.8 – the others are close 8.9 …. Why does it matter? Beyond the extra care when using slick belay plates a thinner rope means less bulk which translates in less room in or on the backpack or the body or in the duffle bag and I am still waiting to hear a good argument why extra bulk is to be preferred to less…
(3) all ropes, after a year of heavy use suck in water. It’s life and we need to deal with it. You can call it Teflon coating, you can call it Dry Cover, you can call it whatever – at some point it wears off. It’s not like the GoreTex shell we can DWR spray once it starts wearing off. We can’t do anything about it but we can notice more or less this fact and how long it takes to wear off. I have noticed that after 3 years of heavy use my Tendon Master 7.8 ropes absorb less water than the previous ropes I used. For me this is enough as long as this means they stay close to the 38 g/m they have when dry.
(4) ropes take a beating but half ropes usually less than single ropes. For one because usually they are used in terrain where falling is less desirable. So they should last longer before they get all trashed, unless of course you step on them with crampons or have rocks falling on them. Usually the demise of a half rope is dramatic and in one go – for single ropes it creeps in during the course of the climbing season. I am still using my Tendon Master 7.8 ropes after 3 full years and several expeditions. These two ropes have been on Bhagirathi 1, on several multipitch climbs in Taghia Gorge, dozens of multipitch routes in the Carpathians, the Dolomites and the Alps, a dozen ice-falls and a dozen alpine routes. They can handle still at least half more of the same treatment. Rope care also is an important part of this!
(5) I have no idea what knotability 0.9 means in relation to say 0.8 and I know for sure that this is significant only for new ropes as through use they become more supple. But since I usually tie in with a bowline I prefer a soft rope and I like that my Tendon Master 7.8 is a soft rope to start with. This means that knots do not come undone by themselves easily nor do I have to twist cables when clove-hitching a carabiner. However what I like most is that although soft the rope does not kink (unless I belay with Munter hitches or Mountaineer’s coil the rope without uncoiling it properly before first use).
So here you have it! This is my experience with half ropes and the reasons I prefer Tendon Master 7.8 half ropes to other equally reputable brands and models. It may work for you or you may prefer different attributes. As I said earlier specs taken purely in an objective manner do not mean anything in real life. Ropes are safe as long as they are industry certified – end of discussion. The real deal is in how they feel (comfort) and how they look to you (reassurance) and this what gives them the true value and performance (reliability).