Some relationships come together so incredibly well that the only logical explanation is that some sort of cosmic divine astrological magic must be at work. Such is the case with Sara. The universe was simply waiting for us to find one another and become climbing partners so that we could find our climbing bliss in part via our project Solo in Tandem. This was also the case when the PETZL Fuse came into our hands. Together, the three of us are a rope and team match made in climbing heaven.
Solo in Tandem was given the opportunity to start testing out Petzl’s 70m, 9.4 Fuse earlier this season. For Sara and me, it’s the smallest diameter rope either of us had used yet in our combined 16-years of climbing. After 3 months of steady use, we feel qualified to share our experiences on the Fuse’s basic functionality and how it’s wearing. We’ve put a good bit of mileage on it already clipping bolts and placing pro; one trip to Vantage, two to Smith Rock, the most recent to Leavenworth, and next up Squamish. We have not been on any multipitch with it yet, but have climbed and rap-cleaned enough single pitch routes to have an intimate understanding of the rope’s characteristics.
On all these trips, we’ve either used the Reverso or the Grigri and have been very happy with our experiences using both tube-style and auto locking belay devices. While Sara’s Grigri recommends using ropes between 10mm and 11mm putting the Fuse at the smaller end of the devices limits, the slim circumference of the rope still feels secure and easy to manage for lead and top-rope belaying, as well as providing a solid bite on the rope for a few sessions of falling practice at Smith. We both have the Reverso 3, with recommended use of ropes of 8.9mm or greater. As with the Grigri, the combination of Reverso and Fuse feels confident and secure from the belayer’s perspective running smoothly through the device to pay out or quickly bring in rope for a leader and provides a smooth, manageable descent speed when lowering or rappelling.
When asked her favorite attribute of the Fuse, Sara responded, “Its got a good hand and I love how well it feeds through a belay device, especially when belaying leaders.” As a nervous leader, I truly appreciate having a belayer who can quickly take if I need to shake out my nerves and nimbly react when I’m on the hairy edge between clipping or falling rather than fumble-futz with a stiff, unresponsive rope.
I agree with her that the rope feels supple and moves smoothly in my hands. What stands out the most in my mind though is how good the rope feels when clipping pro. It feels light and malleable in my small, girl-sized hands. There have been plenty of times I’ve been frustrated and thrown off by thick, stiff ropes that feel cumbersome to clip. This one, while substantial, is easy to manipulate.
While I could expound for hours on the virtues of the Fuse, I have one little hang-up. No matter how much I love it, 70 meters is a lot of rope to manage. Less a rope-criticism, and more of a rope-manager (that’s me) criticism, for single-pitch 70 meters is a lot to keep organized and unknotted. As I dust off the cobwebs, I’m finding I need to pay more attention to what I’m doing with the Fuse. Our conclusion on this: its great if you can afford a range of ropes for short, single pitch days to long multi-pitch days. But it isn’t a reasonable expectation to be able to buy 5 different ropes. Both Sara and I agree that if you’re a single-rope owner, a 70m is the only way to go. The benefit of the lightweight Fuse versus other heavier or thicker diameter ropes is that it fits very well in my pack with a full rack and all my personal gear and doesn’t weigh me down on steep approaches.
Despite solid use including falling practice, being hauled up damp early-season slab and crack, one epic cluster setting up a top rope (caused solely by user sloppiness), dust, rain, and snow, the Fuse is holding up well. While it’s a bit dirty and could use a soak in the tub – much like me after a weekend of playing on rocks – it still feels pliable and the sheath is smooth and unmarred.
For all the reasons above, it’s become our go-to everyday rope and it’s the only rope we’ll take backcountry this season. I will also admit to a bit of unexpected ego boosting by way of the Fuse. While I did not physically make this rope, it is in my possession and I feel like it has become almost a part of me. Having received positive and inquisitive feedback – “what kind of rope is that?!” – from friends including highly rope-experienced and gear-critical guides, I’ll admit to feeling a bit of glowing pride. So great has been the positive feedback that I think I’ve also found my newest pick up line for meeting men. Next time at the crag, you may just hear, “Hey baby, want to belay me with my Fuse?”
The origins of my love for the outdoors started with my mom and dad who took me on my first “camping trip” at the age of 6 months. I didn’t always love nature, bugs, or dirt and took a “recess” from the ages of about 14-20 (this era coincides with an increase in my usage of hairspray, the word “like”, and fingernail polish). But when a boyfriend reintroduced me to the woods via my first backpack trip at age 21, I fell back in deep love with open spaces, the quiet of being far, far from pavement, air I can breathe in, and mornings that begin when the sun lights up my tent.
Then, about ten years ago, a small fear of heights started infringing on my fun. My solution? Do what I feared. Go to high places. Learn to climb. For Christmas that year, my parents gave me intro lessons at the local gym.
Since those early backpacking and climbing days, my fear has become manageable, a “good” trip is one where I come back dirty, and my ideal Saturday starts at dawn with a backpack. My passion for being outdoors -climbing, hiking, skiing, learning to alpine climb, biking- has brought the most amazing people into my life, taken me so many adventures, and led to the best job as a writer and VertiCulture editor for Outdoor Research.
You can read more of my stories including my summer climbing project with my bestie, Sara Lingafelter on www.SoloInTandem.com or about travels, adventures, and random musings on my blog SnarkyBumbler.blogspot.com.