Climbing ropes have changed massively in the 20+ years in which I've been buying and using them. Back then a climber in the UK would generally choose between a Single rope of ~11mm, or a pair of ~9mm Half Ropes. Over the years rope technology has got better and better, and we're now used to using skinnier ropes that are lighter to carry to the crag, handle better even in wet and icy conditions, and look much cooler to boot! A more recent development has been for ropes to be rated to more than one of the UIAA standards. "Triple Rated" ropes are certified to be safe to use as a Single Rope, or as one of a pair in a Half or Twin Rope system. One of the main advantages of this is sheer versatility for days or trips away, allowing you to climb on a Single rope when appropriate (e.g.classic mountain rock, mountaineering etc), or pair it up with another rope for days when you prefer to use Half ropes (e,g, UK trad cragging). Perhaps the most well-known of this type of Triple-Rated Rope is the 9.1mm Beal Joker, which has rapidly become a classic of the type, earning a strong following amongst recreational and professional climbers alike. The payback for this has of course been cost--Triple Rated ropes have never been a cheap option, generally costing significantly more than one could buy an equivalent Single Rope for. Thus I was very interested to try the Simond Edge, a UIAA Triple-Rated Rope but at an approachable price. Too good to be true? Let's find out.....
|The Simond Edge in use as a Single rope for cragging|
Simond is a long-standing French mountaineering brand, who have been and still are based in the Chamonix Valley. Indeed, anyone who has climbing around Chamonix, or in the French Alps is likely to have seen (or bought themselves!) some of their wide range of gear. Some years ago they were bought as a brand by the sporting superstore chain Decathlon, and now all Simond products are bought through Decathlon, whether in-store or Online. Simond still manufacture their hardware in Chamonix, whereas clothing etc. appears to be made overseas. Like several brands, Simond do not make their own ropes, instead they are made for them in northern France by Cousin, a long-standing rope manufacturer.
The Simond Edge is a 8.9mm CE certified climbing rope, and meets the UIAA standards for use as a Single, Half or Twin Rope. Used as a Single it is certainly at the "skinny" end of the diameter range(the lightest, skinnies Single Rope on the market is the 8.5mm Beal Opera)! It weighs in at 54 grams/metre, and is available in one colour (Pink!) only. It is available in 50, 60, 70 or 80 m lengths. Sheath percentage: 36%. Impact force 7.9 kN (single rope) / 6 kN (half rope) / 9.5 kN (twin rope). No. of falls 5 (single rope) / 15 (half rope) / 35 (twin rope)
For comparison, the equivalent technical stats for the classic Beal Joker 9.1mm are: Weight 52 grams/metre. Sheath percentage: 35%. Impact force 7.9-8.2 (single) | 5.6-5.8 (half) | 9.1-9.3 (twin). No. of falls 5-6 (single) | 24-26 (half) | >25 (twin)
I have been using the Simond Edge 50m rope for the last year or so. It has often been used fairly intensively, both in my work as a Mountaineering & Climbing Instructor scrambling and climbing, as well as for some personal climbing too. Working in the mountains one can't always choose which days to go onto the hills, so it has experienced everything from dry, dusty heatwave conditions, to torrential rain and dripping belay ledges! I have enjoyed its versatility, and the relative lack of weight when lugging it up and down the Scottish mountains.
Let's get one thing out of the way: the colour! It only comes in a very vibrant shade of pink-I love it it but incognito it is not! With there not being another colour available, you can't buy a second rope of contrasting colour to use as a pair, which is a shame. When guiding rock-climbing, I will often have two clients seconding on separate Single-rated ropes, and having another colour would have been perfect. Likewise if wanting to pair it up to use as Half-Ropes. I've been able to pair it with other similar ropes that I own, but always somehow prefer having an exact pair of ropes to use! I was a bit concerned that it may stain with dirt and mud very easily being such a light colour, but this hasn't been the case. I've washed it regularly as needed, but it hasn't required any more care than other ropes.
Handling is generally very good. Initially I noticed it seemed quite prone to kinking and twisting, but over time this has become much less noticeable. This despite me using Italian Hitches a lot when guiding, something which usually encourages ropes to kink badly! It handles as a fairly "soft" rope, easy to clip and easy to tie knots etc. The Dry treatment has been a little disappointing to my mind. These treatments eventually wear off all ropes in my experience, but it does seem to have done so quite quickly. It still handles well in the wet, but does seem to be holding more water than when new. User reviews on Decathlon's own website describe problems with the Dry treatment feeling "sticky" and discolouring gear, but this isn't something that I've experienced at all. As with all ropes of this "skinny" diameter, it does require experience and care when belaying. A rope of this diameter will be compatible with the majority of modern belay devices, but will definitely feel "slick" and require extra vigilance. It may be too skinny for older versions/models of both traditional and assisted-braking devices, so check compatability carefully.
|The Simond Edge in use guiding on a damp day in the Cuillin, Isle of Skye|
In terms of durability I am impressed. A lightweight skinny rope such as this is never going to last as long as a thicker rope, but given the amount of use it has had it's holding up well. Yes, there are signs of slight wear, but no more so that I would expect from any comparable rope really, especially one that has "enjoyed" rough, scrambling ground, many direct-belays on rock spikes, and plenty of time on the rough Gabbro of the Skye Cuillin. It's not a workhorse rope by any means--if you want a rope that will last for lots of cragging, top-roping or sport climbing then this (or any similar rope) is not the ideal choice, but if you want a versatile, lightweight rope for mountain adventures or trips where you might want to do a mixture of everything, then it should be on your radar. The sheath percentage is similar to that of the Beal Joker, but less than some other competitors on the market (in very rough terms, a higher sheath percentage suggests better wear resistance/durability).As I say, in practical terms it seems at least as good as any other similar rope I've used in the past.
I think it's fair to say that all Simond gear is usually at the Low to Mid price-point compared with some other brands, and the Edge is no exception. At £79.99 (September 2020) for a 50m skinny Triple-rated rope it is excellent value for money. Similar alternatives from more "premium" brands are likely to cost you another 50% on top of that at least. In recent years I have bought and used two other "budget" 50m Single ropes from other (well-known) manufacturers, that cost about the same as the Edge. One of these is already showing serious wear, and the other is so stiff as to be unpleasant to use for many applications. In comparison, the Edge has been and continues to be a "go to" rope for me. I know that some climbers are slightly wary of Simond gear...there is a suspicion that because it is so cheap compared to other brands that it must be inferior. This was one of the reasons I was keen to try the brand for myself, and I'm pleased to say that, for the Edge at least, I can't find any basis for those worries. I'm looking forward to trying other items from their range in the future.
|The Edge in action on East Buttress, Beinn Eighe|