Saturday, 8 December 2012

Gear Reviews - Beal Diablo 9.8mm Rope with Unicore

Happy memories - my first rope serving me
well on my first E1, Long Tall Sally
at Burbage North

I remember buying my first rope. It was blue and yellow, and a massive 50 meters long. I loved it more than any other piece of kit I had ever bought. The possibilities it held in its complex weave seemed endless, and I felt like it marked the start of me becoming a proper climber. The day it got chopped into bits after finally giving in and agreeing it was no longer even good for top ropes was a sad day indeed.

A fair few ropes have been and gone since then, and between running a university club and later a climbing wall, many ropes of wildly varying qualities have passed through my hands. Ever the gear geek, I have always been interested in how they are made and what would be the rope for the job in any situation, and at one time I owned somewhere around ten different ropes all for different things.

I have done much experimentation with half ropes, twins, skinny singles, long ropes and short ropes, and also done a bit of travelling with limited cargo space. I have come round to thinking now that I need a rope that will perform well on the things I do most but be versatile enough to work in all situations. For me there are three major considerations.

A short pitch by today's standards....
Firstly, the length. More and more I come across 35m+ single pitch routes, making an 80m rope the obvious choice, but I have also found this often allows for hassle free rappels on multipitch routes too, and can work as two ropes for the odd trad pitch or belaying two seconders.

Next the diameter. For me, I want to know it's going to work smoothly in a Gri Gri 2, since pretty much everyone uses them these days and I am no exception. Lightweight is always nice, but I would rather carry a touch more weight in exchange for durability, and want enough diameter to be able to grip the rope if a spot of hauling or ascending is required. The sweet spot for all these factors seems to be about 9.8mm, with much more than 0.3mm either side becoming too much or too little.

Resistance to sharp edges
is always a bonus!
Lastly, but by no means least important, is the build and treatments of the rope. I have long been an advocate of just getting as many treatments as you can afford. There is no doubt that fully treated ropes handle better and last longer, and though no-one actually chooses to climb in the rain it is inevitable that one day you will get caught in bad weather and a good dry treatment on your rope will make so much difference to the misery of belaying and rappelling in the wet.

When it comes to the build, I try to take a keen interest in all the processes and materials involved, but at the end of the day rope building is a very complex science and at a certain level I have to just have faith that the things they are doing that are beyond my realm of understanding are as good as they can be. To ensure this I always buy rope from a company I trust.

Click here for more info about Unicore
Beal have brought out a new technology which I am very interested in at the moment called Unicore. What they have done is bonded the rope's core to the outer sheath, meaning that if the dreaded situation occurs where a sharp edge slices through the sheath, it will remain strong enough to allow safe lowering where no other rope would. This has also brought a few more advantages - the sheath slippage is obsolete so the length of time the rope will continue to handle well is greatly extended, and also if you ever need to cut the rope it can be done without needing to use a heat knife to re-seal. All of these benefits make this technology a great choice for a rope you want to use on the rock every day, and and also if you are looking to head somewhere remote.

The Beal Diablo 9.8mm
There is currently only one dynamic rope on the market with this technology, the Beal Diablo. Available in 10.2mm or my preferred diameter 9.8mm, and in lengths up to 80m. This is quite simply my perfect rope and one I would recommend to anyone who spends a lot of time on the rock. It also has a really nicely textured finish, making it easier to lock off and to haul on but without losing any speed when paying out. 

The Diablo was my rope of choice for the Petzl Roctrip (more on that here) and I found it to be the best all round rope I have tried so far. On the trip, I used it in dusty conditions, on single and multipitch, on sport and trad, and with every different belay device I came across in a week of climbing with people from all around the world. I would definitely say it has been thoroughly tested and has passed with flying colours!

If there is one weakness, it is that the impact force is a touch higher than some of the other ropes on the market. This means it is not quite as stretchy so a 'soft catch' requires a little more attention on the part of the belayer. A small price to pay for such a trustworthy workhorse in my opinion but not everyone will agree, especially if climbing on ice or particularly sketchy trad where half a newton of extra force might rip a piece out.

A safe detergent
for ropes
Rope Brush -
seriously, this is a
good deal quicker
and more efficient
than anything
else I have used!
With any rope you buy, the lifespan and handling can be hugely increased by looking after it properly. Most people know to store it dry and out of sunlight, but very few people I have ever met wash their rope. For something so important to your safety and which constitutes such a large chunk of your kit costs, a little bit of time spent cleaning it now and then seems pretty obvious when you think about it. I guarantee the first time you clean a well used rope you will see straight away the difference it makes, and removing all those abrasive particles from inside the weave is good not just for your rope but also your belay plate. Whichever rope you go for, invest a bit of time learning how to wash it and you will extend its working life dramatically. A decent rope-friendly soap and brush make the job a lot easier too.

It is also pretty standard practice to use a rope bag these days, it makes setting up and packing away quicker and helps to keep your rope clean and dry at the crag. Personally, I like to have one that can be used on its own with space for my shoes and harness but will also fit into a bigger pack for when I have a bit more to carry.

The Beal Folio
The bag I currently use the most does this very neatly.  I can get my 80m rope, draws, harness, chalkbag and shoes in it and even squeeze in a water bottle at a push, but when I want to carry more it rolls up to a very easy-to-pack shape and slides easily into my 35L rucksack. It even has a soft and comfy carry strap and burly hard-wearing fabric. Whichever one you choose, avoid the ones with only one rope attachment loop or tiny hard to spot ones as that is just plain annoying!

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