Each year climbing gear manufacturers produce lighter and lighter gear. This means harnesses get more streamlined, slings get thinner and ropes get skinnier. This is great for steep, hard climbing where that extra ounce might mean the difference between tagging the chains or pumping out at the last clip. However, I’d rather fight through a rough offwidth, shimmy through a tight desert chimney or climb a big wall than sport climb (at least these days). These arenas are not ideal for ultra-light gear.
Petzl’s new Xion 10.1mm rope — coming out this spring — is spectacular for climbers like me. It’s not a truck and is not dental floss, buts sits right in the middle. I got my mitts on one recently, and, between winter storms have been breaking it in.
The first thing I noticed about the Xion was the way it came coiled in the packaging. Unlike many other manufacturers, Petzl coils their ropes so you can pull it out of the cardboard, and after uncoiling it once, drop it on your rope bag and go climbing. This means I no longer have to spend 30 minutes sliding all the kinks out before tying in.
The Xion is extremely smooth and supple. On the first trad climb it went up, the 460 foot long ‘Naked Edge’ (“Colorado’s best route”), if I didn’t intentionally follow through with my clips, I’d come up short and drop the rope before it entered the ‘biner’s basket. As we got higher up the route, I adjusted my technique and was soon clipping without looking like n00b. Later, when we rapped the wall, I kept an extra tight grip on the rope to keep more control.
Some of this slipperiness can be attributed to Petzl using Duratec Dry treatment on their ropes which helps keep them from absorbing water, and it’s new. As for the suppleness, this is one of the stand-out features of the Xion. It bends and folds like a slimmer rope, say the 9.4 Fuse — the rope I retired and replaced with the Xion — but is thicker.
In conclusion, the Xion may not carry as light in your pack/rope bag as its svelter brethren, but on the rock it outperforms any other rope I’ve used in its class.