By Mark Postle, a professional climbing guide and itinerant climber based out of Bishop, CA. Through the typical calendar year he will log work days on the glaciated slopes of Denali, in the craggy alpine rock of the Tetons, and in the thin air of Aconcagua in the Andes. The off-seasons are spent trail running and ski touring but always rock climbing in an effort to get ‘back in shape.’
The Beal Joker 9.1 is rated as a single, double, and twin rope. This triple rating combined with its lightweight 52 grams/meter makes it a versatile rope for trad, sport, or alpine climbing needs. The rope I tested is an 80 meter and my first time using a rope of that length as my day-to-day cord. For reference, other similar ropes I’ve been using in the past year include Edelrid Swift 8.9, Sterling Nano 9.2 and Mammut Serenity 8.9.
Initial impressions of this rope for me center around its knot-ability, handling, and performance in various belay devices. I use a Petzl GriGri 2 as my standard cragging belay device and a Black Diamond guide ATC for most multi-pitch climbing. The Joker seemed about average to slightly-stiff for ropes in this class. It handled well and took knots and hitches easily. After a couple days of use, the sheath softened up just slightly and was right about where I like it.
Ropes that are too stiff are always annoying and cumbersome to work with, and ones with a super soft hand never seem to last as long. The GriGri 2 was perfect with the Joker, feeding rope easily when the leader needed it, but also locked up the GriGri to catch falls securely. I used the Joker on several longer routes as both a single rope, and occasionally as a double rope, with the Guide ATC in auto-locking guide mode. Again, the 9.1mm diameter was great in the belay device, easy to reel in slack even when the second was climbing quickly in alpine terrain, but locking to catch a fall without issue.
As mentioned above, this was my first time using an 80 meter rope as my daily driver. I spent about an equal amount of time single pitch climbing as I did doing longer routes of various styles. While certainly a bit more bulk than the standard 60 or 70 meter rope I’m used to carrying the extra length went largely unnoticed in my pack mostly due to its svelte 9.1mm thickness. While probably too much rope for certain objectives the extra length was perfect for others as it allowed me to leave behind a second line for rappelling and permitted a blending of single and double rope techniques with just one rope.
I think this rope is a great option for someone looking for a light single line that has the versatility to work in a double rope system as well. It really shines for high-level sport climbs and long pitches where you want to keep weight and rope drag to a minimum.
-Versatile triple rating
-Super-light, yet durable
-Not ideal for extending dogging or jumaring