Making a Rope That Matters

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Edelrid’s Boa Eco 9.8 sets a new standard in green construction.

The basics of the modern climbing rope haven’t changed much since Edelrid, headquartered in Germany, launched the first dynamic rope in 1964, 11 years after they developed kernmantle construction, both revolutionary innovations enhancing durability and safety. Since then, we’ve seen twin ropes, dry treatment, ever-skinnier ropes, and trends toward longer ropes. We’ve even seen varied thickness ropes to enhance durability or provide a tactile indicator of the middle or end of a rope to a belayer. But perhaps the greatest innovation in the past 10 years, is one with no measurable performance benefits.

Edelrid was the first rope manufacturer to adopt the strict Bluesign standard of manufacturing. Bluesign, likely the most influential environment standard you’ve never heard of, comes from a Swiss company (also called Bluesign) founded in 2000 which analyses textile manufacturing from raw material to construction to finished product and provides benchmarks to lessen a good’s impact on the planet. Edelrid’s achievement resulted in a 62% reduction in the product’s CO2 footprint, an 89% decrease in water consumption, a 63% decrease in energy usage, and a 63% reduction in chemical usage. Now, their new Boa Eco 9.8, hitting stores as we speak, takes it a step further by incorporating a sheath made entirely of reused yarn, left over from standard rope production. In an effort to minimize resource consumption, the Boa Eco’s sheath is 100%  constructed of unused yarns that otherwise would have gone to a landfill.

As Blair Williams, sale and marketing director of Edelrid North America, explains, “When manufacturing climbing ropes, there are two main production stages that produce leftover sheath yarns. The first is during preparation when the sheath yarns are wound onto braiding spools. The second is after braiding the rope on the braiding machine when the batch length has been reached, but there are still sheath yarns remaining on the spools. The Boa Eco 9.8 mm ensues from these two stages, using only the remaining yarns to create the sheath of this rope. We collect the unused yarns on a special spool in a separate process and make the Boa Eco 9.8 mm in shorter batches than the standard production. The sheath is produced 100% in one piece and contains no irregularities.” Other than the unique, 1970s color patterns, that is. The production leftovers cannot be planned in advance, so the color of each batch of this rope is one of a kind.

Edelrid’s focus on the environment, which they haven’t crowed about that much, helped lure Tommy Caldwell to their athlete team.

We caught up with Tommy at his Estes Park, CO home to chat about life and ropes:

So, how’s your post-Dawn Wall year been?

The Dawn Wall was a little over a year ago now, and after that, I found myself going to so so many events. I attended like 50 events from fundraisers to speeches to news segments. Plus I’m writing a book. It got to a point where I needed to step back from all of it a little bit and just say whoa. Then I began to think the whole thing like school. This was an education in how to write a book and how to become a public speaker. That mindset made it easier to approach.

How much weight have you gained, then?

[Laughs] Despite being on a plane literally every single week, I’m happy to say none! I have a woody at my house and have stayed relatively fit. I’ve also been ski racing. Well, not actual races, but timing myself. I do uphill time trials here in Estes near my home to stay fit. I’m really yearning for adventure, though! But I gotta say, having a kid is definitely an adventure, and we’re expecting our second any day now!

[ed. note: Tommy and his wife welcomed their second child, Ingrid Wilde, into the world on March 9, 2016.]

Wow, congrats! Parenting, this ubiquitous thing, is actually a major adventure. 

Yeah, it totally is. It’s got it’s twists and turns and unknown outcomes.

And another part of your year was becoming an Edelrid rope ambassador.

I’m good friends with Carsten [Carsten von Birckhahn is Edelrid’s Brand Manager]. I met him down in Patagonia, and I stay at his house down there when I go. So my relationship with Edelrid really grew out of my friendship with Carsten. I’ve always been aware of their products, though. They’re always pushing innovation. After I dug into their company values, I really fell in love and got psyched about it. I toured the factory in Germany, and they have this amazing family vibe there. You can tell their heart is in the right place. They are doing so much to take care of the environment. No greenwashing–they do it just because it’s the right thing to do, and they’re doing everything they can with Bluesign. It’s a pretty darn strict standard, and they’ve rethought their whole manufacturing process to be more efficient. Companies that think this way are the way forward. That’s why I’m psyched to be with them.

Learn more about the Boa Eco and the life and times of Tommy Caldwell, by visiting this forum post where Tommy answered questions from Mountain Project users.