You could be excused for believing that modern rock climbing is all about gear. It is so easy to browse websites, brochures, or outdoor shop shelves and come to the conclusion that you absolutely have to have a separate rack of kit for every crag you’ll ever visit. This seems to be particularly the case when it comes to ropes. We are told that one rope is designed for long sport climbs, another for alpine routes, and yet another for single pitch summer cragging. We need single ropes for low-grade routes, and two half ropes for harder routes, while for long mountaineering ascents we might be better off with a pair of twin ropes.
This can all be very confusing, not to mention expensive, for those just coming into climbing. Most new climbers will have quite a few other demands on their finances – harness, rack, helmet, guidebooks, getting to the crag, pints of beer afterwards, not to mention paying the bills at home, buying food, and generally just living – and the last thing they want to be told is that in order to be an all-round climber you need about half a dozen different ropes. Probably best to start with one rope that is good at lots of different jobs, then as your skills, experience, and preferences in climbing style develop, enhance your rope selection accordingly.
But what to buy for that first rope? Most climbers venturing outside for the first time will opt for a single rope. It’s cheaper to buy one than two. It will be easier to master clipping in to gear with one than two, and can also simplify arranging and tying in to anchors at belay stances, not to mention actually belaying, if you’ve only got the one rope to think about. And for most climbers who are just starting out a single rope is perfectly adequate for the grades they are likely to be leading. “What about sport climbing?” I hear you ask. Many indoor climbers venturing on to real rock will naturally gravitate towards sport climbs outdoors. A single rope for that would be the obvious choice too. “OK, what about if I want to top-rope a single pitch gritstone monster?” Single rope again.
But, is there a rope out there that will do all of those jobs? The answer is of course, that many will suffice for sport, trad, or top roping your first outdoor routes.
On a recent couple of days climbing in South Snowdonia I put the DMM ‘Concept’ rope to the test.
The Concept is marketed as a ‘classic sports climbing rope’, and with an impact force of 8kN it’s easy to understand why. Specific trad ropes come out offering a lower impact force than that, meaning that more of the force of a fall is taken up by the rope itself, rather than on the climber, or the protection, or the belayer. Hence the Concept’s apparent status as being ‘for’ the bolt-clipping sport climber. That said, many comparable ropes from other manufacturers also give an impact force of 8kN. For those starting out in climbing, the likelihood is that there won’t be that much falling off those single-pitch Diffs and V.Diffs anyway. All ropes are manufactured in the EU to the European Standard EN892, and for a single rope, that allows a maximum impact force of 12kN, so the Concept is well within the limit.
I headed up to Carreg y Foel-gron with Ben Wells for an afternoon’s easy cragging. We found that the rope handled well for the low-grade routes we climbed, and we tried a number of different belay methods to see how it coped. Through a standard belay plate the rope ran smoothly, but we did notice a bit of kinking when we switched to an Italian hitch. I haven’t come across many ropes that don’t kink when belaying with this method though, and the kinks soon fell out once the hitch was released.
A day or so later Dave Neville and I wandered across to Clogwyn yr Oen in the Moelwynion for a handful of multi-pitch routes. The first thing Dave noticed about the rope was the colour. Yes, it is blue with a yellow-green fleck, but when running in the opposite direction it actually looks yellow or green. Funky, yes, but a bit disconcerting at times too. In practice though, I actually found this apparent colour difference helped to simplify things when tying in to anchors – it was easy to see at a glance which strand of rope came back from the anchor.
At a weight of 65grams per metre, the rope was a sensible choice for carrying up into the hills, and again we used a variety of belay methods to see how the rope performed. At the top of Kirkus’s Climb Direct we even used a boulder as a direct belay, and it still ran smoothly around the rough rock.
The fun came when we moved across the crag to the base of the next climb, ‘Slack’. Being lazy climbers we didn’t bother to coil the rope for the short stroll across the bottom of the crag, and when we came to run through the rope prior to Dave leading off we found the rope had twisted itself into a horrific tangle of knitting. It was relatively easy to untangle, but I was glad we’d run the rope through before he’d set foot on the rock. To be fair though, this can hardly be said to be a fault of the rope – we all know that we should coil ropes when moving them around – carrying an armful of Concept for the walk over was simply user-stupidity.
So, what’s the nitty-gritty with the Concept?
The DMM Concept is quite simply a great entry-level rope. DMM say on their website that this is a classic sport climbing rope, but go further than this in the Buyer’s Guide to state that it’s ideal for all aspects of rock climbing, from sport to cragging. I found it a nice to rope use, and would happily throw it in the bag for days at the crag, whether that be for top-roping, single-pitch, multi-pitch, or sport climbing. The rope isn’t dry treated, so the Concept wouldn’t be my first choice for wet days out or winter climbing, but it’s not intended to be used for those activities. The Concept is ‘Core’ heat treated, which gives nice, supple handling, and DMM tell me that will also aid its durability, but I’ve not had it long enough to see if that is the case.
Would I buy one? Yes, definitely. For anyone venturing outside onto rock for the first time the Concept is an ideal choice, and is a brilliant all-rounder for anyone who’s activity involves just a single rope. It’s not a bad price either at £140 (RRP) for the 60m rope, and in practice many retailers are selling the Concept for less than that, helping it to stand out against its competitors.
Lengths available: 50m, 60m, 70m, 80m
Impact Force: 8kN
% Sheath: 38
Sheath Slippage: 0
RRP: £140 (for the 60m version)