Beal Sport Ropes

Belaying with the thin Beal Joker 9.1mm, 134 kb
Belaying with the thin Beal Joker 9.1mm
© Jack Geldard / UKC

Beal Top Gun 10.5mm, 175 kb
Beal Top Gun 10.5mm
© Jack Geldard / UKC
Two ropes. One route. One day. Four arms. Eleven falls. One power scream. Two cold bacon sandwiches. One successful redpoint. Innumerable smiles. Two cold beers. Get in! :-)

I've been testing two ropes from Beal, the Top Gun II 10.5mm and the Joker 9.1mm. I have used them both for sport climbing and I have also paired the Joker up with a normal half rope for trad climbing.

I'm reviewing them both together as, although they are both single ropes, they are quite different and are suitable for different purposes and comparing the two products gives a good indication of their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Basically, one is a 'fat rope' the other is a 'thin rope'. Fat ropes are, in general, easier to belay with, tougher, more wear resistant and longer lasting. Thin ropes are lighter but not as hard wearing. This specific thin rope is designed so it can also be used as one of a pair of half ropes, meaning you don't have to buy a pair of ropes for trad climbing, you can just buy one... result!

Both ropes came in a free rope-bag (pictured right). This was okay for free, but I found the rope mat a little small and the bag to be not that useful. I quickly swapped to my own larger and more usable rope-bag (pictured below). For those on a tight budget a free rope-bag is not to be sniffed at though!

Beal Joker 9.1mm, 187 kb
Beal Joker 9.1mm
© Jack Geldard / UKC

Jim 'Big Guns' McCormack climbing on the Beal Top Gun 10.5mm at LPT, North Wales, 153 kb
Jim 'Big Guns' McCormack climbing on the Beal Top Gun 10.5mm at LPT, North Wales
© Jack Geldard / UKC

Comparative Statistics:

Top Gun 10.5mm Joker 9.1mm
Impact Force: 7.4kn Impact Force (as a single rope): 8.2kn
Number of falls: 11 Number of falls: 5
Sheath percentage: 40% Sheath percentage: 35%
Weight per metre: 68g Weight per metre: 53g

Beal's explanation of sheath percentage:

The durability of a rope depends above all on the way it is used, but also on numerous technical factors : The quality of yarn used ; the compactness of the rope ; its suppleness ; the braiding of the filaments of the sheath ; their twist ; their number ; the number of braids. One other factor plays a particularly important role : the thickness of the sheath [Sheath percentage]”

What I didn't understand was how in the above table, a thinner rope has a higher impact force rating than a fatter rope. Surely thin ropes are more stretchy? I asked Lyon Equipment for their answer to this:

"It's not correct to compare just diameters, ropes are not all made the same way.

Firstly skinny ropes, like all ropes, can be and are engineered to different parameters for the user benefit, so yes a single half rope such as an 8.1mm ice line has a greater elongation than the Joker, but it is not possible to compare directly elongation or as you say 'stretch' to impact force absorption - there is some correlation but it's not direct in all cases. Ropes are getting very clever now and more so in the future.

The Joker, Stinger and Booster have 8.2, 8.2 and 7.3 respectively as impact force figures with 80 kilo test mass.

Secondly it has to be born in mind that at 9.1 the Joker is engineered to the various single, double and twin standards, (the mass is different on the tests 80 compared to 55). In order to have that amazing performance the rope construction was fine tuned and engineered to achieve that, it is maybe interesting to compare the Joker at 55 kilo test mass to Verdon 9mm with the same test mass thus we get 6 and 5.3."

The test

My plan was to use the Top Gun for 'dogging' up routes, top roping, working moves and generally smashing my way around the crag in a rope intensive manner. I would also use the thicker rope for easier routes. The relative ease of belaying the fatter rope would make life easier on my partners whilst I attempted routes that were far too hard for me.

Then I could save the super light Joker for my hard redpoints, keeping it in good condition and giving myself maximum chance of success.

Did it work? Sort of!

Top Gun – handling, feel, usage:

The first thing I noticed about this rope was its suppleness. It is extremely 'knotable', being soft and flexible. The second was how it felt slick in a belay plate despite its relatively large diameter. It certainly didn't handle like a fat work-horse rope.

The rope came fully dry treated and this may have added to the 'slickness' that the rope exhibited. I have experienced very little reduction in this slickness and also after several weeks, when the rope got dropped in to the sea water at the base of Lower Pen Trwyn (again - DOH!) it dried very quickly and was evidently still well 'dry treated'. See photo at the base of this article.

The rope has shown a small amount of wear in the six weeks I have used it. I would estimate I have used it for 16 days of sport climbing. I did have some initial concerns over durability when I felt the softness of the sheath, but the wear seems to be fairly standard. One thing in the favour of the Top Gun in this regard is the high sheath percentage.

Joker – handling, feel, usage:

The first thing I noticed about this rope was... the colour. Now affectionately known as the banana rope, the bright yellow Joker is impossible to miss!

The Joker felt like a tough rope. Not super stiff, but slightly stiffer in feel than the Top Gun, and also with a nice knotability.

One thing I definitely found with this rope was that a slick belay plate was not grippy enough. I also wouldn't use this rope with a standard Grigri. I know that thin ropes are not recommended for use with Grigris, but out on the crag many people ignore this advice. After some 'on the floor' tests, I have confirmed that a Grigri doesn't grab this Joker.

Wear-wise, the Joker has surpassed my expectations, taking a considerable amount of hammer and standing up to it very well, considering the lightweight nature of the rope.

When paired with another trad rope the joker performed really well, and seemed as light as the normal half rope. A real money saver.

The author belaying with the thin Beal Joker 9.1mm
© Jim Big Guns

In Brief:

Top Gun - a slick handling rope that is wearing reasonably well. Not the super-tough fat work-horse rope I was expecting. I would happily use this rope for my hardest route attempts. A fatter, tougher rope might be better for all out dogging and pairing up with a super-light redpoint rope such as the Joker.

Joker – a super thin and light rope. Fantastic in that it can also be used as a trad rope. Pretty hard wearing given the thin and lightweight nature of the rope. Needs a suitable belay device. Not for all out redpointing sessions if you want it to last.

PRICE: 50m Dry Cover: £144.50 for Top Gun II 10.5mm; £135.50 for Joker 9.1mm

FOR MORE INFO: visit Beal Ropes

Blair Fyffe tied in to the Beal Top Gun 10.5mm at LPT, North Wales, 188 kb
Blair Fyffe tied in to the Beal Top Gun 10.5mm at LPT, North Wales
© Jack Geldard / UKC
Chucking the Beal Top Gun 10.5mm in the sea! Good job its dry treated., 185 kb
Chucking the Beal Top Gun 10.5mm in the sea! Good job its dry treated.
© Jack Geldard / UKC

For more information visit Beal
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