Sterling Nano Editorial Review
Ninety-nine percent of the time a package shows up at my front door it’s for my roommate. I’m not certain I’ve met anybody who orders more stuff than he does, so, of course, when I arrive home on a crisp, early spring day at the very beginning of climbing season, I’m not surprised to see yet another box. On first glance, I’m certain it’s the kind of box rope companies ship cord in, but as soon I heft it, I think no, it’s too light.
I am wrong on both counts. The package is a rope – Sterling’s Fusion Nano. And it is, in fact, for me. My Nano is sky blue, 60 meters long and a scant 9.2mm thick. I wipe drool absently from my chin.
No, the Nano isn’t quite as skinny as some other ultra-thin, single ropes on the market. Beal’s anorexic Joker is only 9.1mm and Mammut’s otherworldly – and ironically named – Serenity just about needs a belt to hold its sheath up at 8.9. But a second glance, this time at the Nano’s label, reveals some rather surprising stats. The slightly thicker Nano weighs virtually the same as Mammut’s Serenity and a hair less than Beal’s Joker. The Nano offers up an impact force that’s almost a full kN lower than the Serenity and only slightly harsher (.2kN) than the Joker. And in UIAA fall tests, the Nano sports a whopping (for such a thin cord) six falls to Serenity and Joker’s five. The Nano also comes with Sterling’s Arid System, a double dry of sorts that includes their standard Dry Core mixed with an external treatment as well.
I skip to the can and pee from sheer happiness.
Sterling’s Fusion series of ropes, which includes the 9.8mm Nitro, the 9.2mm Nano and the as-yet-unreleased 9.4mm Ion, is the bastard love child of the high-durability Marathon and high-performance Evolution series. Fusion ropes, Nano included, aren’t quite the diesel truck that Marathon ropes are but their sheathes are beefier than and retain many of the performance qualities, most notably weight and impact force, of the Evolution series. What you end up with, theoretically, is a durable high-performance cord.
I wasted little time putting it to the test, but notably, only as a single rope. (Like all the thin cords today, the Nano is also rated as a double and a twin.) As Sterling is careful to point out in all of their promotional material, the Nano is a thin thin thin rope. It is not meant to be your beater. It is not intended for toprope use, nor is it supposed to be your route-working rope. Likewise, if you climb routes that include lots of sharp edges, a thin cord might not be your best option. What I’m trying to say is, when I call a 9.2mm rope “durable,” I’m speaking relatively.
Oh, and, of course, be ready to belay with it. Thin ropes are like they are to reduce friction and weight, and the Nano does it very well. Switch to a high-friction device to mitigate that particular property when belaying. Drooling and peeing from happiness are two things. Bleeding from misuse is another entirely.
I admit, I didn’t always follow all of my own advice. I felt a little guilty every time I toproped on my Nano and every time I fell on a redpoint attempt. I’ve been breaking the thin-rope rules and using it as my primary cord, laying down pitches with it just because. And I still feel… I don’t know… like I’m wasting my rope. Mere hours before writing this I watched it scrape across a bulge and felt that pang of remorse. To its credit, however, the Nano showed little care for my rule breaking and today, though it’s certainly dirtier than when it was new, it still looks and feels smooth to the touch. Considering a thin cord’s purpose of reducing rope drag, it’s nice to see this is the case.
As for performance, you really can’t beat a thin rope. All safety considerations accounted for, it’s pure joy to climb with a Nano. Its smooth sheath and low profile slide easily over rock and through ‘biners reducing rope drag at every zig and zag. The sheath is tight, yet soft and supple. I don’t care for stiff ropes and the Nano offers a hand that is, to me, perfect. Clipping is perhaps where I notice it the most. The rope seems to want to be in the ‘biner. Word on the street is that Euro-traddies are linking longer and longer pitches. Sterling reports sales of 70, 80 and even 100m lengths are up, which seems to support this. After all, if you’re going to tote that much cord up a route (alpine rock anybody?), it had better be light and thin.
Speaking of thin, let’s take a moment to talk about truth in advertising. Sterling earned my respect in that regard when it labeled the Nano a 9.2mm rope. Actually, it measures in at 9.1 and change. Thank you, Sterling, for rounding up, instead of down. While we’re on the subject, Nano’s UIAA triple drop testing yielded falls of 6, 6 and 8, respectively. Further word on the street is that the Nano sustains 7 falls in the Sterling drop tower more than any other number. And yet, Sterling again rounded in a customer-friendly direction and called it a six.
I know, consciously, that my Nano is less durable than probably any other rope I’ve owned, but I haven’t actually seen evidence of it yet. I’ve been somewhat, but not really, careful of its limitations and am perfectly happy with its durability. Still, only time will tell. I’ll pop back into this review in a few more months and let you know how it’s going.
In the meantime, I’ll keep pounding this Nano and try to keep my bodily fluids contained… especially on the sharp end.
Submitted by j_ung on 2007-07-13 (Modified:2007-07-16)
Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to RockClimbing.com and RockClimbing.com then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on RockClimbing.com – 7/13/07.
Click here to view this article on RockClimbing.com.