A few years ago, my partner and I set out to tackle an old project of his in the desert. After abandoning it the prior year, static line and draws and all, the weather took its toll. From the ground, it was difficult to assess the extent of the damage. He chose to jug the line, while I put him on belay for back-up. Turns out, all that he was jugging on were a few zippy strands of core—and they held.
Ever since, my expectations for Sterling ropes have been high. Although I didn’t abandon Sterling’s VR 9.4 on a desert tower for a year, it thus far hasn’t disappointed. The VR 9.4 has proven an excellent choice for the thrifty climber—at nearly 200 bucks for a 70 meter, it’s solidly on the lower end of the price spectrum. I’d call it a refined workhorse, for its durability, but also with excellent handling.
It isn’t kink- or twist-prone, even out of the box. Neither too soft nor too stiff. The sheath is smooth, and it handles nicely. Because it’s a 9.4, it feels like a fancy send-rope, without being noticeably small in standard belay devices. It does stretch quite a bit (the dynamic elongation sits at 31 percent), making for pleasant, soft catches.
Even after 50 pitches, many of which involved some sharp limestone and sandstone edges, the rope shows mild, even wear. The main con is that you can’t get the rope with a dry treatment. If your primary crag is swampy, or if you ice climb, you might want to reconsider opting for this one. But, Sterling’s DryCore, which comes on the VR 9.4, makes the core water-resistant and increases lubricity between fibers. The effect: a longer-lasting rope that is less prone to water absorption and can withstand dry desert conditions. So, still a major step-up from a completely non-treated rope.
My initial disappointment with this rope was the color. Sterling markets the options as “Orange” or “Purple,” but I’d call them grey and greyer. And one other complaint: I wish the middle mark was darker. It’s there, but easy to miss. All in all, an excellent choice.
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