If you were lucky enough to be sitting ringside at the TCI EXPO Unboxing Ring in Pittsburgh last year, you would have had the first glimpse at Petzl’s new climbing lines – the Flow and the Control. Petzl is a leading manufacturer of climbing gear in the industry, but one little niche they didn’t really have a hold of until recently is climbing lines. But you asked for it, and they produced it. And these are amazing ropes, so the wait was worth it.
I want to give you my thoughts on the Petzl Flow first. It is an 11.6 mm, lightweight and flexible, low-stretch kernmantle rope made specifically for tree climbing. The Flow is a 24-strand rope that comes in three different lengths, 35, 45 and 60 meter, and two colors – bright green and bright orange.
The Flow has a big-brother rope, the Control, which is 12.5 mm. Since it is a little bit thicker, the Control might be a little more difficult to go through friction devices, as I’ll explain in a bit. But if you are a bigger climber, you might want the extra diameter for more grip in a mechanical ascender. The Control has all the same features as the Flow, including length and color selection.
Personally, I like a smaller-diameter rope, so I’d probably go with the Flow. See what I did there? I can tell how a rope feels right out of the box and whether I’m going to like it or not. I don’t like a real rigid rope, like 16-strand – it’s hard on my hands. A 32-strand is almost too smooth for me, so the 24-strand is a nice, happy medium.
The first thing you notice is the box it comes in. It’s got a cool feature that positions the spliced end of the rope on the outside of the box so it is ready to use. You can pull out the spliced end and install the line without having to take it out of the packaging, which keeps your new rope clean for just a little longer. The rope is flaked into the box, so you don’t need to worry about it tangling out of a coil. Plus, pulling the line out of the box gives you a good sense of the feel, which is amazing, as well as a chance to briefly inspect your new line.
The next thing I noticed was the handing and feel. Both the Flow and Control have Petzl’s EverFlex coating technology, which gives great flexibility. Right out of the box, I tied an alpine butterfly knot for my single-rope system (SRS), and it was pretty easy to tie. You definitely want a rope that is easy to tie knots in if you’re going to be tying and untying knots in it all day long. Both ropes hold a knot pretty well. There is just enough grip, so, unlike a 32-count braid, it is not too slippery or so smooth that it slips.
The termination splice, which is exclusive to Petzl, is another great innovation. On closer inspection, you can see that the termination strands buried in the splice are round and firm, with no bulges or high spots. You can hardly tell the termination is there. That hints that the rope will go very smoothly through mechanical-ascent devices and ring-and-ring friction savers. Nothing worse than your rope getting hung up in a friction saver at the spliced end when you are retrieving it at the end of a long day.
The spliced eye itself is small and folds almost flat. It almost gives me the impression that the rope could self-tend through the ascenders because it is so smooth. In fact, I think there is a caution on the Petzl website about not letting your rope slide all the way through an ascender, so maybe it actually could.
Key elements I look for in a termination splice include, is it going to be durable? How will it run through the components? When using the ZigZag on the Flow, it is almost as smooth as if I had a tending pulley on it. It has very little resistance on my descending device. No stuttering.
It works well in a single-rope system and is especially nice for limb walks. It is also just as responsive in a moving-rope system (MRS) as it is in an SRS.
Donny Coffey is owner of Nature’s Canopy Tree Services in Tyronne, Pennsylvania.
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