March 1, 2017
Upon first unwrapping the Sterling Evolution Helix 9.5-Dry the texture and play of the rope grabbed my attention. The sheath had a silky smoothness and folded in my hand with a malleable ease. Although I obtained this rope for an ice climbing trip to Ouray, Colorado, the softness of handling gave me some concern over its potential to clip quickly at the sport crag.
In Ouray, I ran this rope through its paces. Whether on rappel, top-roping, or hauling, this rope got it done. As with most dynamic ropes fresh from the factory, there was a great deal of elongation even after weighting the rope; however, it seemed to recoil quickly into a fresh rope between uses. More notable than its ability for a soft catch was the way it remained dry while other ropes took on water. I expected some dampness with all the melting ice and snow, but it remained seemingly bone-dry, even after a long day on melting snow.
While using the Helix, I took the greatest pleasure in the way it fed through every belay device. Grigri, ATC, Reverso, it did not matter; this rope maintains a slick feel that makes belaying a delight, especially with a hang-dogging partner. Keeping the device locked off for long periods with one hand was comfortable.
After the ice climbing trip, I decided to test the clip-ability of this rope at Sender One’s climbing gym in Santa Ana. Although the Helix 9.5 felt like a rope that’s softened from a bit of use, it held up to the dynamics of sport climbing better than expected. I once again found merit in the smooth sheath as it enhanced pulling slack to make each clip. Also, the bite of rope I clipped to each quick-draw lacked the mushiness we have all come to disdain in an old rope. Pulling each loop of rope may have been slightly limper than with stiff ropes preferred by some, yet clipping remained fluid and I felt no limitation.
All-in-all, I am continually impressed with the performance of this rope. The 9.5 diameter makes it highly versatile, while the sheaths luster and build says a lot about the kind of durability it will have. For some people, the rope could be a bit stiffer, though this would likely reduce its large latitude of use. If you need a solid rope on the thinner side for everything from ice to sport, this one’s for you.