Climbing ropes have changed over the years. They’ve gone from 11mm ropes good for hip belays to ropes that meet single rope UIAA requirements. Ropes so skinny that belay devices had to be redesigned! Fat, old-school ropes are being left for top-roping school groups while skinny single lines are becoming lighter and more durable with better handling, all dramatically helping you to send that next project. The Beal Joker 9.1 is the first thin rope on the market to meet the requirements for all three standards of dynamic ropes. At sport crags you will see almost everyone using some kind of brake-assist device with the sub 9.4mm ropes and taking numerous falls while working routes… the Joker is definitely a high end rope that performs well, just don’t expect to jug the Captain and have much rope left when done.
The Joker 9.1 has UNICORE tech, which is a thin membrane placed between the core and the sheath. This membrane bonds the sheath and the core together, while still allowing for the rope to stretch under load. This basically means that should the sheath become damaged, the rope will still function as designed instead of potentially breaking! Cool, right? Of course this doesn’t mean you should continue to climb on a damaged rope… More information can be found on Beal’s website.
The Beal Joker 9.1 is a skinny performance climbing rope that won’t weigh you down. The Joker comes in two models: Joker 9.1 and Joker 9.1 Soft. The difference is like comparing supermodels, you’re gonna be happy no matter what you pick.
Who should buy the Beal Joker 9.1 ropes?
These two ropes really shine as high end ropes for those looking to save grams as they climb close to their limit. I used them for high end sport multi-pitching but would also use them to head out running ridges and mountaineering. I would not recommend these ropes for top-roping, heavy usage areas or if it’s your first rope! The Joker helps give soft catches and climb hard, so if you are a couple that crushes with a big weight difference this would be a strong contender for a rope of choice.
Specs for both the Beal Joker 9.1 and Joker 9.1 Soft are the same.
- Weight: 53 g/m
- Impact force: Single 8.2kN, Half 6kN, Twin 9.5kN
- UIAA falls: Single 5, Half 20, Twin 25
- UIAA Certified Water Repellent – Golden Dry
- Unicore Process
- Black middle mark
- CE and UIAA Certified Single- Half -Twin
We tested both ropes with many days of sport climbing, multi-pitching, rappelling, to work routes, for redpoint burns and occasional days of traditional climbing.
The Jokers both feed beautifully through a GriGri while lead belaying or through an auto-locking multi-pitch device, like the DMM Pivot, while belaying from above. Both ropes are relatively soft and skinny so using a tube device would require a skilled belayer with gloves.
The clipping on both was smooth and easy while leading. I did however have to reduce the tail in my figure eight knot as the diameter meant the knot size became noticeably smaller.
The overall weight of these two ropes is one of their main advantages, I could easily feel the difference between my regular 9.5mm and the 9.1mm Joker.
The standard Joker 9.1 has a stiffer sheath that took longer to show wear after numerous days falling on projects.
The Joker 9.1 soft started to wear faster than the regular Joker, showing signs after a few falls.
Both however are built for handling, weight saving and performance. These ropes are not built to take abuse. Expect greater performance but a shorter life compared to a fatter, stiffer rope.
Both the Joker 9.1 and its Soft version handle extremely well, however the testers actually preferred the regular version of the Joker for two reasons. Firstly, the Soft version was so soft it curled occasionally when feeding into the GriGri, causing it to jam while belaying. Secondly, when flaking the rope over a hand to throw, the slightly stiffer rope kept the loops separate and were less likely to bind when thrown. These however are very minor points.
The Final Word:
Pros: Light weight, easy clipping, dry-treated, mid-marker, amazing handling, dynamic elongation
Cons: Use with a braking assisted device, it’s a specialty tool, quick to show wear and tear
Overall: I loved the Beal Joker, both versions. I’ll use them again, especially for sport climbing. Double especially if you like soft catches. As I have said, it is a high end tool and the price you pay for that performance is durability. It’s very durable for a skinny rope but just like that supermodel you picked, don’t expect it to be around five years from now.
That being said, we know it can be overwhelming to pick the right rope. If you need a bit of advice, we have an article that goes into just that. Take a read of Picking the right rope.
Black Sheep Adventure Sports was supplied with ropes for testing but of course this didn’t influence our review in any way.