UKC

Beal Cobra II Half Rope Review

At 8.6mm, the Beal Cobra is a durable all-round half rope that can be used for trad, winter and alpine. As such, they'd be ideal for anyone who wants just one set of ropes for a bit of everything. Beal set out to create a rope that balances weight and strength, and this they seemed to have achieved. Its construction using Beal's UNICORE technology brings a number of safety and handling benefits that are perfect for anyone climbing in adventurous locations.

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Beal Cobras
© Martin McKenna

Technical Aspects

I didn't know too much about UNICORE before trying the Cobras. I'd heard some bad stories about Unicore ropes being prone to kinking and that had put me off purchasing a pair the last time I came to buy a set of half ropes. From my experience with the Cobras I've not had any issues like this. If you're wondering what UNICORE is though, you're not alone. In simple terms it is a technology that binds the outer sheath of the rope to the inner core, effectively making them one unit. The major benefit of this is that if the sheath is cut, the rope is less likely to catastrophically fail.

The Beal Cobras on some North West ice, 171 kb
The Beal Cobras on some North West ice

This video, produced by Beal, demonstrates a possible scenario in which the sheath is cut on a UNICORE and a non-UNICORE rope. The results are quite dramatic, and this does give you a good level of confidence in the system actually working in a real world event.

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I was reading back recently an old UKC thread about UNICORE ropes, and one of the replies to the thread was from a user of the Cobras who had the sheath cut while climbing. The core apparently remained in good condition. It's an interesting thread and you can read more on that here.

The Cobra's sheath is very slick and has continued to stay slick throughout use, even after several months of use through last autumn and winter, and quite a few encounters with Cairngorm granite. This is great for handing, feeding rope through the belay plate and retrieving abseils. It's almost too slick for actually trying to organise your rope on a belay - stacking it can be a mission as it's constantly wanting to slide off things!

The best ropes at the crag? There were plenty to choose from..., 216 kb
The best ropes at the crag? There were plenty to choose from...
© Martin McKenna

The Cobras have a UIAA fall rating of 16, which for a half rope is high. This number can seem a bit arbitrary to most climbers, including myself, but it's good to know that the rope you're attached to is strong enough to take repeated high force falls. A fairly low impact force of 5.1 helps reduce the loading on your gear - something you'll appreciate whether you're sketching about on ice climbs or running it out miles above your last rock runner.

8.6mm is a solid thickness for an all-round rope, though you can of course find much thinner. With a sheath percentage of 39%, the Cobra is good and tough to help withstand abrasion. Despite its durability though, it's still a relatively lightweight rope at 48g per metre.

Martin McKenna on the initial corner pitches of Steeple on The Shelterstone, 213 kb
Martin McKenna on the initial corner pitches of Steeple on The Shelterstone
© Hugh Simons

Beal Cobras on Shelterstone, 106 kb
Beal Cobras on Shelterstone
© Hugh Simons

For all those alpine and winter climbers out there, not to mention sea cliff fans, water absorption is a real concern when it comes to selecting a rope. UIAA classify a dry treated rope as one that absorbs less than 5% of its weight during testing. With its 'Golden Dry' treatment, the Cobra surpasses this standard - indeed Beal claim the rope will only absorb 3% of its weight in water, which is really a very small amount. I use the Cobras as my main winter rope both because they are UNICORE, and because of this low level of absorption. Even on the wettest day I had over the recent winter they did not let me down, and when it's wet outside there doesn't seem to be any noticeable change in weight.

Lastly, and I don't think I'll ever understand why some ropes come like this, but there is no middle mark. It seems like such a simple thing to add in production, and yet it's such a pain to add after receiving your rope. Maybe they don't add it because ropes inevitably get cut at the ends and the middle mark is then no longer correct? I don't know, but it annoys me!

Handling and Durability

I've been using these ropes throughout the winter 2017/18 season so far and a number of days in summer, and going through them, you'd be hard pressed to find any fluffing or nicks. The Cobras are standing up incredibly well, so if you're looking for a pair of ropes that will last, I'd recommend these.

As I've said, the handling is slick and flexible, almost to the extreme degree where stacking on a belay can be hard. This seems to help reduce drag when you're way up on a long pitch with a lot of rope out below you. In the hand, they have been nice to use from day one, not like some ropes that have been factory coiled and then need a few sessions to unkink. Thanks to UNICORE, even after several months of regular use there is no bunching of the core inside the sheath.

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Iain Small leading the delicate crux pitch of Scrabble
© Martin McKenna

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Beal Cobras on Scrabble
© Martin McKenna

Summary

The Cobras are great ropes, especially if like myself you're looking for a rope that will last and be up to many different days out across the disciplines. I am totally sold on the UNICORE construction, especially for stuff like sea cliff climbing where the chance of cutting through the sheath while abseiling into a crag is something you need to consider. They handle well and over the last few months have withstood repeated days out on rock and snow. The Cobras sell at £121 for 50m and £145 for 60m, which is middle of the road in terms of price - but you'll not be replacing these anywhere near as fast as a cheaper rope, so it's money well spent in my eyes.

Beal Cobras on Sioux Wall, 215 kb
Beal Cobras on Sioux Wall
© Tim Miller

Beal say:

The great classic for adventure climbing. Light and free-running for ease of use on long routes, on the crag and in the Alps.
Technical and robust enough to sustain the most difficult loadings, it is even better today because it now benefits from all the advantages of the UNICORE technology.

  • Price: 50m £121 60m £145
  • Available in lengths: 50m and 60m
  • Weight per metre: 48g
  • Impact force: 5.1
  • Number of falls: 16
  • Sheath percentage: 39%
  • Treatment: Golden Dry

For more info see sport.beal-planet.com

Beal cobra II montage, 99 kb

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