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REVIEW: Beal Booster III 9.7mm Unicore Single Rope

The Beal Booster is part of the Intensive line - a series that's aimed at high performance climbers, while offering added durability. The Booster itself has been part of the range since the original version produced in the mid-90s. The Booster III was introduced in 2003 so the basic rope is well-established and a tried and tested member of the Beal range.

Beal Booster III 9.7mm rope in use, 199 kb

This latest version, introduced in 2015, is constructed with the Unicore process. This involves bonding the sheath to the core of the rope, a process which makes the rope stronger in the event of a sheath getting cut (from a sharp rock edge for example) since ropes can unravel when this happens; but not so with Unicore ropes. Why this seemingly major change hasn't bumped the version number to the Booster IV is a mystery, but I am sure they must have their reasons.

The Intensive line all have Beal Dry Cover treatment which Beal say is:

"A process whereby every individual sheath strand receives a chemical treatment before the rope is manufactured. The treatment is hydrophobic, increases abrasion resistance and is polymerised at high temperatures. The polymerisation process together with every strand being coated individually increases the life of the treatment. This treatment makes ropes more resistant against abrasion, repeated falls, heat, dust, moisture and vastly increases their durability."

The practice of making ropes water resistant was originally designed for ropes which tended to get used in an Alpine environment but nowadays many of the manufacturers have found that it actually increases durability, although sometimes this does come at the slight expense of handling.

Basically the Booster is a more waterproof and longer lasting rope than the Beal Active Line but at a higher cost. It comes in four lengths: 50m, 60m, 70m and 80m.

As an aside at this point, I'd suggest you consider buying as long a rope as you can afford. When sport climbing you will seldom regret having a long rope, especially with more and more sport routes being put up or extended to around 35m or 40m pitches.

Handling

The rope feels very stiff out of the packaging. It is certainly a long way from being the sort of super-soft skinny which have become popular in recent years, and consequently feels thicker than the claimed 9.7mm. However use in a Click-up belay device reveals it to run smoothly as you would expect of a sub 10mm rope (10mm can get a bit grabby in the Click-up, and very grabby in a Gri-gri 2). After uncoiling it softened up a little and was easy to flake-out initially without getting too twisted.

Beal Booster III 9.7mm rope belaying with a Click-up, 143 kb

When climbing the rope feels solid without being supple. It stiffens up a little after lowering a few times but tends to soften again after a break. As mentioned, it is more chunky and less soft than some of the skinny ropes available and doesn't handle very smoothly. The Unicore process is said to not compromise the rope's suppleness - I am not convinced about this, I think that it does make the rope a bit stiffer.

It appears to be very resistant to kinking. I am not sure if this is due to the Unicore process or just the fact that it is a solid well-made rope. Often the procedure of threading double U-bolts to lower off can twist a rope badly, even causing serious long-lasting kinking if the sheath and core get so twisted that they slip around each other. Usually when this happens a rope is as good as finished. The Unicore process makes this impossible though and after a week of constant use, including a few twin bolt lower-offs, I can't recall a single occasion where the rope got annoyingly kinked.

Durability

The rope has shown could durability. It has discoloured and tends to turn your hands black but there is little furring or softening of the sheath. If anything though it has become slightly stiffer in use.

Beal Booster III 9.7mm rope furring, 108 kb

The Unicore process is said to add to the strength of a rope in the event of a cut sheath. With this rope's usage most likely being single pitch sport climbing such rope-cutting incidents are likely to be at a minimum.

Conclusion

This is a very solid rope which is suitable as a sport climbing workhorse for those who want extra reassurance. You may want to go for something lighter and more supple if saving grams on the ultimate redpoint, but if you are after a single rope which you want to last for a long time, then this is a reasonable choice.

Beal Booster III 9.7mm Unicore Single Rope, 67 kb
What Beal Say:

Compact, easy-running and ultra-light, this, the pioneer of thin ropes slides in everywhere. It offers excellent performance for very experienced climbers.

This rope, despite not being the thinnest in the range, is still not for the beginner. Take account of the need for careful choice of belaying technique.

Key features

  • A good compromise between weight, free-running, grip and strength.
  • Low impact force.
  • Increased number of falls held.

PRICE:

  • 50m - £115
  • 60m - £135
  • 70m - £160
  • 80m - £180

MORE INFO: Beal Website

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