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Petzl Volta Guide 9mm Triple-Rated Rope Review- by MAD Ambassador Graham Uney

Words by Mad about Mountains

on 25/02/2021 20:55:20

Every climber looks for something specific when they're thinking about buying a new rope. For some a rope that's durable is important, while for others something super-skinny is the deciding factor. You might want a rope specifically for single-pitch climbing, winter climbing, or long Alpine ascents, or perhaps even just to use as a walkers' confidence rope. For me, when I'm working, I'm most likely to want ropes to fit into one of three categories. I like ropes that work well when I'm instructing and guiding on rock climbs. I also like a rope that is good for use on mountaineering and scrambling ground. And thirdly, I use ropes when I'm instructing on Mountain Leader training courses.

Few ropes are ideally suited to all three of these applications, but there are some that work well, especially those that are 'triple-rated'. This means that they have been designed and tested to meet the standards of a single rope, half ropes, and twin ropes.

I'll be honest, for a long time now my standard work rope has been the Beal Joker. However, when the Petzl Volta Guide came out I wanted to see how it compared to that tried and tested workhorse.

Like the Joker, the Volta Guide is triple-rated, so can be used as a single rope, half rope, or twin rope. For me this means that I can use it on it's own or as a pair when working with one or two clients on rock climbing terrain. At 9mm the Volta Guide is skinny enough that it also works really well as a scrambling rope. I don't really use twin-rated ropes in any application in the UK, but I'm happy in the knowledge that my ropes are perfectly suited to single and half rope usage, and could be used in a twin-rope system too if I did want to.

Of course, I don't necessarily want my rock climbing instruction ropes to be the same length as my scrambling ropes. For general rock climbing work I want 50m ropes, while for scrambling work I typically use a 30m rope (and occasionally 40m if the route demands it, such as abseiling off Pillar Rock into Jordan Gap). The Volta Guide is available in both 30m and 50m lengths.

In use I found the Volta Guide to be extremely supple and nice to handle, straight out of it packaging. The Jokers tend to be a bit prone to kinking for a while, when first used, but I didn't find this with the Volta Guides. This inevitably means that knots feel secure, and it's easy to both tie them and dress them correctly. This is obvious from the moment you first tie in (we won't go into the debate here about whether you should use a re-threaded Figure of Eight or a Bowline with a Stopper - both knots are appropriate and work well for the right application!). Tying into anchors with clove hitches into a krab the hitch cinches up snug, while using an Italian (Munter) hitch to belay (which often causes kinking in the rope) was smooth and kink-free. Taking in and tying off chest coils was easy too.

One comment that I've often heard from other folk at the crag is, "Wow! That's a pretty bright rope!". It is indeed. The Volta Guide comes in what Petzl call 'orange', but we've had debates about whether it's more pink! Not important, you might think. Which brings me onto one of my very few complaints about the Volta Guide. It's only readily available in one colour. Now for most people this really isn't an issue. However, most instructors working with two clients like to use two very different colours of rope, so that it's easy for them to know which client is on which rope when they're out of sight. Different coloured ropes can also simplify issues around stance management when both clients are tied in to the same anchors (for the same reason as many instructors like to use coloured karabiners, with each client using a colour that is specific to them).

Whilst testing my 50m Volta Guide a lot of my work has been with two clients. I've generally had one client on the Volta Guide and the other client on a Beal Joker. Unfortunately, my Joker is 'orangey-pink', and while it is definitely a darker shade than the Petzl, it does make communicating information about which rope is which difficult at times. Obviously with two Petzl Volta Guides you'd have an even worse problem. The Beal Joker comes in two colours, orange and blue, so there isn't a problem if you choose those. As I say, this will never be an issue if you're just climbing as a two, and using the Volta Guide as a single rope. I've heard from the guys at Mad About Mountains that Petzl have made the Volta Guide in red, as well as orange, but that they are very difficult to get hold of here in the UK.

For scrambling work I use just one 30m rope (as above), so the colour really isn't important.

The photo above shows Vikki coiling the Beal Joker (left) and Korrin coiling the Petzl Volta Guide (right).

So, what about using the Volta Guide as a walkers' confidence rope as a Mountain Leader? I think that this very much depends on if this is all you intend using the rope for. Many ML ropes never get used at all, as the rope is only an emergency bit of kit for a Mountain Leader. If you are only ever going to carry your rope around in your hillwalking rucksack, and hope to never get it out in anger, I think the Petzl Volta Guide is a bit on the pricey side (£85 for the 30m option). In my opinion you'd be much better off buying the Petzl Conga instead. This is not rated as a climbing rope, but is lighter than the Volta Guide (it's 8mm, so being lighter, I tend to think you're actually much more likely to have it in your rucksack if you ever do need to use it!), and at £49 it is much cheaper too.

However, if you want a 30m rope for use as a confidence rope for ML work, but also might want to use it as a single-pitch cragging rope (which the Conga isn't rated for), buying a Volta Guide would be a great investment, as it can be used for both.

So, overall I think the Petzl Volta Guide ropes are a sound investment. They are very nice to handle, have a very high spec (see below for the technical stuff from Petzl), and hopefully will be durable and long-lasting. I think as an all-round dry-treated climbing/mountaineering rope they are hard to beat, but that for use just as an ML confidence rope they are a bit too expensive. A good buy, if you want a top-end rope.

Petzl's description

Description
  • Thin, ultra-light and compact rope for intensive mountaineering:
    - for use in rock, mixed, snow or ice environments
    - multi-type for use as a single, half or twin rope
  • Excellent water resistance:
    - UIAA Guide Dry treatment: complete water-repellent treatment, making the rope more resistant to water, dirt and abrasion
    - meets the requirements of the UIAA standard Water repellent test: water absorption of less than 2 %
    - the rope is especially suitable for intensive or everyday use in extreme conditions
  • Convenient rope handling:
    - Middle Mark: indicates the middle of the rope to facilitate maneuvers
    - EverFlex treatment: special thermal treatment stabilizes the core strands and improves consistency; offers excellent grip and consistent handling over time
Specifications
  • Diameter: 9 mm
  • Rope type: (CE EN 892, UIAA): multi-type - single, half, and twin rope
  • Weight per meter: 54 g
  • Percentage of sheath: 39 %
  • Number of factor 1,77 falls: 5 (single rope), > 20 (half rope), > 25 (twin rope)
  • Static elongation: 7.6 % (single rope), 7.6 % (half rope), 4.4 % (twin rope)
  • Dynamic elongation: 34 % (single rope), 30 % (half rope), 27 % (twin rope)
  • Impact force: 8.5 kN (single rope), 6.6 kN (half rope), 10.4 kN (twin rope)
  • Construction: 40 carrier
  • Material(s): nylon

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