Petzl Volta Review
Cons: Not durable enough for heavy duty sport climbing, a lot of stretch when seconding
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Volta is Petzl's highest-end climbing rope, designed for use in the alpine as well as for high-end single-pitch climbing. It is available in lengths from as short as 30m, all the way up to 100m for those mega-sport pitches in Europe. It comes in a single pattern weave with a pen-marked middle marker, which was fairly durable over a long trip. Like most skinny high-end ropes, we found that this one is excellent for alpine and multi-pitch climbing, but should not be used intensively for working on sport climbs. We used it side-by-side with competing ropes on a long trip to the alpine rock climbing paradise of the Bugaboos in British Columbia, and found that it withstood the abuse of the abrasive rock better than the rest, likely due to is whopping 42% sheath percentage. The dry treatment fared extremely well as we dragged it through melting wet snow on glaciers in the rain, and the super-soft handle found on all Petzl ropes is second to none. In many ways, this rope performs very similar to the popular and well-loved Petzl Arial 9.5mm rope, except that it is a bit thinner and a few grams per meter lighter. If you enjoy the Arial as your everyday rope, we think you will also love the Volta to help you lighten the load on long pitches and long approaches.
When it comes to easy handling, the Volta ranks up there with the very best. One mountain guide tester said it best after a day of using it in the Bugaboos, "I think this is the softest and most supple climbing rope I've ever used." We couldn't agree more, and point out that a soft and supple rope is not only more comfortable to use as it slides through your hands, but is also easier to manipulate when shoving a bight through a belay device, or when tying knots. The biggest complaint we hear when people describe the handling of a rope to us is that, "its really stiff, like a cord." The Volta will never be accused of feeling stiff and cord-like, so consider it, or the thicker Arial, if soft handling is your primary concern.
Despite being listed as a 9.2mm diameter, we can't help but notice that this rope is thicker than comparable Mammut ropes of the same diameter, and compared right next to each other, could even be said to be as thick as 9.4mm. It's possibly that the thicker dimensions combined with a lighter weight is what enables it to feel so supple and bendable, it simply isn't woven super tight. While it comes feeling very slick from the dry treatment, like most ropes this will wear off over time, and as fibers in the sheath begin to show wear, the feel of the rope becomes a bit rougher against the skin. In our experience, this doesn't affect the suppleness though.
For a skinny rope, the Volta is very durable. However, don't let that convince you that this rope can withstand the same level of abuse as a 9.5 or 9.8 workhorse rope, because it can't. While there are a lot of variables that affect durability, the ones that are easiest to predict are thickness, and use. Thinner ropes simply don't last as long as thicker ones, so while we found this rope to be quite a bit more durable than the similar 8.9 — 9.2mm ropes that we tested and compared it directly against, there is no way that it can withstand the abuse that a 9.8mm rope will be able to. How you use the rope also affects durability greatly, and there are many online user review complaints to the tune of: "I took it on one sport climbing trip and now it's trashed." This should be expected of a thin rope such as this one, and while we chose not to trash out our Volta on one single sport trip, we aren't surprised that people have had this experience.
As you can see, the Volta has a whopping 42% sheath proportion, which ranks it at the top of the pile. However, since this is a thinner rope, the actual number of sheath fibers is likely the same as the 9.5mm Arial, which has a mere 40% sheath proportion (still high). Since the sheath is typically what becomes damaged, one could assume this rope will be able to take more damage than ones with less sheath. Indeed, compared to the Mammut Revelation, another 9.2mm rope that we also tested in the Bugaboos, this one looks to be in a lot better shape after the long trip. Used in non-hangdog applications, like in the alpine, this rope should last you for a very long time. We also found that the middle mark lasted a lot longer than on other ropes as well.
The Volta weighs 55 g/m, which means that it is among the lightest ropes in our review, and the weight savings over a fatter rope, even a 9.5mm one, is significant.
According to our math, a 70m cord would push the scale at 8.49lbs, over half a pound lighter than your average 9.5mm cord for the same length. However, you could save another half a pound pretty easily by opting for one of the 52 g/m 8.9 or 9.0mm ropes instead. Of course, another way to save weight is to simply carry a shorter rope, such as a 60m instead of a 70. When linking long, rope stretching pitches in the mountains, don't underestimate the weight of a rope, as the whole thing will be hanging from your harness, and combined with potential rope drag, can make a large difference in how hard the moves feel.
While the Volta is rated as a single, half, and twin line, we think it only has a practical use as a single rope. There are much thinner and lighter half and twin ropes available for similar prices, and when carrying two ropes, you really want to emphasize weight as a critical attribute.
The Volta is a springy and stretchy rope that provides an excellent catch when taking lead falls. Its 8.6kN fall force and 33% dynamic elongation figures are right in line with our favorite thicker ropes that we often take countless sport falls on at the crag.
That said, the 7.5% static elongation figure means that you should expect this cord to stretch a fair bit if you weight it while seconding or top-roping. This can be frustrating or even a bit frightening, depending on the situation or the experience level of the second climber. Stretch like this is unavoidable in a climbing rope though, a necessary downside of using a dynamic rope. This one won't stretch nearly as far as the bungee cord-esque ropes in the review that are in the 9% range for this statistic.
This rope is right around an average price for a high end, dry treated climbing rope. In general, thinner ropes are a bit more expensive, and of course dry treatment also adds to the expense. As we have mentioned before, the value you get out of this rope will likely be dependent on how you use it. Thrash it at the sport cliff and you will feel ripped off — do yourself a favor and just buy a 9.5 or thicker instead. Use it sparingly while sport climbing and take care to avoid potential core-shotting situations in the alpine, and there is no reason this rope won't last for many great adventures, providing excellent value. Since we feel it is worthy of our Top Pick award, we clearly think it's worth spending the money on.
The Petzl Volta is a high-end, skinny single rope designed for use while alpine climbing. Its Duratec dry treatment works to protect the sheath and the core, and served us great on rainy days and wet glaciers in the Bugaboos. Its most remarkable feature is its incredible handle; you will be hard-pressed to ever find a rope as soft and as supple and easy to manipulate. If you are looking to shave some weight for routes on large peaks or with large approaches, but want one that passes the durability test, we highly recommend the Volta.
— Andy Wellman