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Gear Review - Beal Joker 9.1mm Rope
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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Jun 10, 2007
Artist Tears P3

Beal Joker 9.1mm x 60m (Dry Cover). Price: 179.00. Triple Rating: Single, Double and Twin.



Joker
Joker


After a few subtle hints from friends and the mp.com community the first gear review for 07 has finally arrived at the press. Until recently a shoulder injury has kept me off rock since October putting a stop to the the testing process. Now that I'm on the road to recovery, I have no excuse.

I purchased my first rope from Oscar Cobergers, in Christchurch, New Zealand, back in 1979. It was a super fat 11mm Elderid rope that lasted one summer until I rappelled down a waterfall, off route on the way down from Cinerama Col. It was raining hard at the time, as it does in NZ, whenever you are heading out of the Alps in a Norwester, and as ropes tend to do during these moments it got caught up. After heaving on it several times, it suddenly broke free and down it came. Unfortunately, several rocks also came with it and once the dust settled my favorite rope was no longer 45m long, and I learnt the first rule of Murphy's law with regards to rope:

Your favorite rope will last 3 to 6 months until you either lose it or have to retire it. On the other hand, a rope that is as stiff as a wire, with terrible handling properties, will last forever!

My first experience with Beal ropes was about 10 years ago and it was a nightmare. I swore I would never buy another Beal again. It would tie it's own knots, get caught up on every rappel and (thankfully), was worn out in a couple months. Never again....

Last year, I needed a new lightweight rope that didn't break the bank, so I headed out to Bentgate to buy one of the super thin ropes. I wanted a rope that was really versatile, so that I could use it as a single but also not too heavy so I could use it as a double from time to time.... If you are new to climbing, sometimes terms can be confusing, so please check out the "rope jargon" section at the end of the review.

Back to Bentgate ... after looking at all the options, the Joker seemed to stand out from the crowd and although I had said I would never buy another Beal rope, I ended up purchasing it. The Joker was the first rope to come out with the triple rating. It is quite likely that other rope manufacturers had already been producing the same ďtypeĒ of rope but hadnít bothered with the certification process which is relatively expensive and complicated.

The Joker is an interesting name for a rope and I wondered whether the joke was going be on me after the first few times using it. No matter how careful I was, how patient in uncoiling the rope, it would end up in a birdís nest.

A few weeks later I started to notice some subtle changes. The rope flowed through gear and belay devices with ease and it became easy to coil and uncoil without kinking. Knots seated nicely and with confidence. However, most noticeable was the lack of rope drag and how easy it was to clip. Pulling the rope up and clip overhead was a breeze.

The middle mark lasted only a couple of weeks before it had worn off. I reapplied this mark and also also added 5m end markers with a Blue Water Rope marker.

Belaying with it was a matter of on the job learning. My BD ATC Guide worked pretty well but extra diligence was required and I used it in high friction mode. Gloves are essential. Assisted belay devices such as a GriGri (9.5 to 11mm) and the Trango Cinch (9.4 to 11mm) are not designed for ultra thin ropes such as the Joker. The Elderid Eddy is one device which is certified for ropes down to from 9mm, but I havenít ever used one, so I canít confirm how it works in the real world.

After a summer of casual use the sheath is starting to look a little furry as you would expect. Iíve also jugged on it half a dozen times and the rope has stood up to this well. There is no doubt that you have to be very mindful of this being a specialized rope rather than a all rounded and hence I only use it on special occasions when I want to save weight or need a second rope. Itís not an everyday rope.

Pro/Cons

Pro
Versatility
This is really what it's all about - the Joker is a do anything, go anywhere rope for those days when the planets are in alignment, you have mutant finger strength and when every ounce counts.

Price
You canít beat the price for either the 60m or the 70m version. Itís a great bang for the buck.

Handling
After the initial break period it handles very well. It is soft and supple and flows through gear.

Cons
Durability
it is not going to last as long as a full single.

Belaying
It takes special care when belaying as it can get away on you if youíre not paying full on attention. Iím not saying that you donít have to pay full attention to any other rope, but with these really skinny ropes you have to really watch it and wear gloves. Yes, tie a knot in the end.

Conclusion
For red-pointing your current project or for a quick trip in the Park, I highly recommend the Joker as an ultra lightweight line that is extremely versatile and handles well.

Please support our sponsors.

Black Diamond is the importer and distributor of Beal ropes.

Specifications
Joker is in effect at the same time a single rope, a half rope and a twin rope. This rope will be loved by extreme climbers, seeking lightness and easy running, as much as by more traditional climbers seeking a multi-purpose rope for ridge routes or classic face routes, mixed ice and snow. Used as a Ďsingleí this rope may not be grippable by all hands, and in all devices: its fineness makes it a rope which demands expert holding and controlling.

ĎClassicí devices, designed for higher diameter ropes, will give reduced braking, and some self-locking auto-brakes may simply not work

  • Single rope - UIAA - CE
  • Number of bobbins - 48
  • Weight per metre - 53 g
  • Impact force Bťal Guarantee - 8,2 kN (with 80 kg) 6 kN (with 55 kg/1 strand) 9,5 kN (with 80 kg/2 strands)
  • Number of falls factor 1.77 - Bťal Guarantee 5 (with 80 kg) 20(with 55 kg/1 strand) >25 (with 80 kg/2 strands)
  • Sheath slippage - 0 mm
  • Extension during the first fall - 37 % 32 % 29 %
  • Static elongation 80 kg - 8% 8%/1 strand 7%/2 strands
  • Resistance to a factor 1.77 fall over an edge of radius 0.75mm - Single
  • Available in various colors subject to availability.
  • Multi use.
  • Ultra light.
  • Ultra smooth.

Rope Jargon

Sheath
This is the external layer of the climbing ropes. The mantle or sheath is designed to protect the kern or 'core' of the rope.

Core
The core or kern of a climbing rope is a series of strands inside the climbing rope that provide the majority of the rope's strength and dynamic characteristics.

Impact Force
This is the amount of force a rope is able to absorb. High numbers indicate more force is transferred to the climber. Low numbers indicate better performance. The highest acceptable impact force is 8 kN for the half rope test and 12 kN for a single rope test.

Elongation
This defines the dynamic qualities of the rope. Elongation is the length a rope will stretch. Important because you need to take this into account more so with thinner ropes.

Number of Falls
This test is performed by attaching an 80 kilogram object to a rope. The rope is 2.8 meters long. The object is dropped 5 meters. This test is repeated until the rope breaks. Ropes must survive 5 falls to pass the test.

Single Ropes

single
single


Single Ropes are the most commonly used rope system in the world, not because this is the best system, but because it is a simple system and very popular in the USA. Best suited for routes where the bolts and/or protection is placed in a relatively straight line.

If the protection is not in a straight line, then there will be more "rope drag". Rope drag is the amount of friction the rope causes when running through the quickdraws and runners. This friction can be so large that upward movement can be very difficult. Rope drag whilst using single ropes can be minimized by using longer extenders as these will make the line "straighter". Using a single rope is cheaper than double or twin rope system.

All rope manufacturers are obliged by the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme) to indicate if the rope is suitable for use as a single, double or twin. Single roles are usually in the 10 to 11mm range.

Double Ropes
double
double


Double ropes is also often used (probably not as much as it should be), because it is a more flexible system than using a single rope. With double ropes, one can reduce or entirely cut out any rope drag. This is a major advantage as it contributes to the safety of the system.

Double ropes are often used for mountaineering and ice climbing, as well as trad rock climbing, particular in the UK and down under. Another advantage of using two ropes is if you need to rap, you can abseil the full rope length as opposed to a half rope length if using single ropes.

Compared to single ropes, double ropes are safer and more durable but more costly and complex to use. They are usually between 8-9 mm.

Twin Ropes
twin
twin


Twin ropes are not used very as widely as the other systems, but it can work very well for longer multi-pitch routes. With twin ropes, one uses two ropes as you would if using a single rope. This means that the two twin ropes will both go through each point of protection. Unless you are careful rope drag can be an issue even more than a single rope.

Since you are using twins a full rope length rappel can be made possible by tying the two twin ropes together. Twin Ropes are typically between 7-8 mm. This is a more expensive option than single ropes, but generally less than double.


Footnote
If you would like something reviewed or would like to review an item, please post it up on the site. It's a community website, so don't wait on me!

The reveiwer paid full price for the rope.

Also if anyone has a set of Metolius hybrid TCUs that they would be willing to lend me for a couple months, please let contact me. If I break or lose them, I'll replace them. Thanks.


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Jun 10, 2007
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

Hmm.. I've been 'testing' my Beal Joker for a year or so.
Disadvantage: No bicolor option. I prefer bicolor ropes to that you don't have to find the middle to know what end you are on. I suspect that the sheath weave pattern change would not behave well on this rope. The black version has no middle mark at all. And not much will mark it well.
Disadvantage: Lack of margin. The rope will cut though more easily than fatter ropes. It sure scuffs easily, and I'll be quick to retire it.
Advantage: Weight. This is great for those 1 hour slog approaches in the Flatirons when your partner says "I'll bring the rack, you bring the rope."
Advantage: Space- you can fit this and a rack into a ropebag.
Advantage: Belay- you can use the best-ever belay device with this thing, the DMM Buggette. It's like a 1 Oz. ATC for thin ropes.


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By Jim Matt
From Indianapolis, IN
Jun 11, 2007
Jim at the Boneyard TRing a route

Tony Bubb wrote:
Hmm.. I've been 'testing' my Beal Joker for a year or so. Disatvantage: No bicolor option. I prefer bicolor ropes to that you don't have to find the middle to know what end you are on.I suspect that the sheath weave pattern change would not behave will on this rope. The black version has no middle mark at all. And not much will mark it well. Disadvantage: Lack of margin. The rope will cut though more easily than fatter ropes. It sure scuffs easily, and I'll be quick to retire it. Advantage: Weight. This is great for those 1 hour slog approaches in the flatirons when your partner says "I'll bring the rack, you bring the rope." Advantage: Space- you can fit this and a rack into a ropebag. Advantage: Belay- you can use the best-ever belay device with this thing, the DMM Buggette. It's like a 1 Oz. ATC for thin ropes.


I saw Tony bring this rope along for the Flatiron jaunt on June 1. His is a 70M...really nice light long rope! And that Bugette is a nice device for thin ropes like the Joker.


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By Rob Dillon
Jun 11, 2007

I loved my Joker until I core-shot it rapping off the N Face of Castleton. IMHO the sheath is a bit underfed.

Now it's my favorite 55m rope.


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By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From Phoenix, AZ
Jun 11, 2007
Belay

One other nice thing about double ropes: If you happen to fall while clipping a piece with an armload of slack above your head it's not nearly as big of a fall as it would be with a single rope.


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By Ron Olsen
From Boulder, CO
Jun 11, 2007
In the cow pasture below the Tre Cime de Lavaredo, after climbing Spitagoras, a 12-pitch 10a route. <br /> <br />Photo by <a href='/u/bruce-hildenbrand//11057'>Bruce Hildenbrand</a>

A 70m Mammut Infinity 9.5mm rope weighs just 12.3 oz more than a 70m Beal Joker (58g/m vs. 53g/m).

Advantages of the Infinity over the Joker:

  • Duodess pattern change at midpoint
  • Also marked about 5m from each end
  • 9.5mm diameter works with Trango Cinch
  • Usable with Petzl GriGri (although the GriGri is speced for 10mm-11mm ropes only)
  • Great Mammut handling and durability
  • Adequate friction with standard belay/rap devices like BD ATC Guide
  • Less dynamic elongation in single-rope mode (29% vs 37%)

Disadvantages:

  • Cost
  • Slightly greater weight


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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Jun 12, 2007
Artist Tears P3

The Mammut Infinity is a great rope and has some of the benefits that the Beal doesn't.

The thing that atracts me to the Beal Joker is the cost, weight and versatility. Sure, it's not going to be as durable as other ropes since it's a specialized rope only.

Right now the Joker is on sale at Wilderness Exchange.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback.


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By brenta
From Boulder, CO
Jun 12, 2007
Cima Margherita and Cima Tosa in the Dolomiti di Brenta.  October 1977.

In comparing Mammut Infinity to Beal Joker one should also mention that the Joker has the lower impact force (8.2 kN vs. 9.1 kN) and the Infinity is only certified as single rope.


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By Ron Olsen
From Boulder, CO
Jun 13, 2007
In the cow pasture below the Tre Cime de Lavaredo, after climbing Spitagoras, a 12-pitch 10a route. <br /> <br />Photo by <a href='/u/bruce-hildenbrand//11057'>Bruce Hildenbrand</a>

Having owned one Beal rope in the past, I would never buy another. The dynamic elongation of their single ropes, all in the 37%-38% range, is simply too much for my tastes. I saw (and experienced) too many toprope falls where the climber fell 10 feet or more just due to rope stretch.

The discussion of Mike McGlynn's fatal groundfall, in which rope stretch was a possible factor, also leads me to prefer less stretchy ropes made by manufacturers other than Beal.


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By brenta
From Boulder, CO
Jun 13, 2007
Cima Margherita and Cima Tosa in the Dolomiti di Brenta.  October 1977.

I don't argue your preference for a somewhat stiffer rope, but in fairness one should also mention that less elongation comes at the price of higher impact force.

Since the Joker is definitely not a top-roping rope, the following is slightly off-topic, but it may be interesting to note that 10 feet of stretch in top roping can be achieved by slowly weighing 150 feet of most Mammut dynamic single ropes. (The Supersafe is the exception. It takes 175 feet to achieve that elongation.) This analysis is a bit too simplified because it ignores friction through the top anchor, but, on the other hand, sudden weighing, even with 0 fall factor, will cause twice the stretch than slow weighing for an ideal spring.

Concerning that accident, while I agree that the rope may have stretched almost 15 feet, I don't think that a rope manufactured 8 years ago would have stretched 5 feet in the same conditions.


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By Buff Johnson
Jun 13, 2007
smiley face

Is it all that necessary or useful that a strand achieves all 3 certifications?


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By k. riemondy
From Boulder, Co
Jun 13, 2007

My joker rope was originally a 70m and now is a 60m. After its first use on a two pitch route on sandstone it was frayed so much that it looked like a 3 month old rope. On its second use it held two 20 foot falls (less than factor one) on a granite route, but got two coreshots near the knot. Granted that desert sandstone and granite will eat up ropes, but not this quickly. I've used it two other times, both of which involved alpine style climbing with a low chance of falling. It worked great for these situations but I would not recommend using this rope on any route that you could fall on.


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By brenta
From Boulder, CO
Jun 13, 2007
Cima Margherita and Cima Tosa in the Dolomiti di Brenta.  October 1977.

It is certainly not necessary to have triple certification, but it may be convenient, especially with a team of three. Recently we did Flying Dutchman and we used a doubled up 70 m Joker, with the leader tied in at the mid point, to protect the ice crux. We got to choose whether to use half rope or twin rope technique, which was nice.


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By Ron Olsen
From Boulder, CO
Jun 13, 2007
In the cow pasture below the Tre Cime de Lavaredo, after climbing Spitagoras, a 12-pitch 10a route. <br /> <br />Photo by <a href='/u/bruce-hildenbrand//11057'>Bruce Hildenbrand</a>

brenta wrote:
I don't argue your preference for a somewhat stiffer rope, but in fairness one should also mention that less elongation comes at the price of higher impact force. Since the Joker is definitely not a top-roping rope, the following is slightly off-topic, but it may be interesting to note that 10 feet of stretch in top roping can be achieved by slowly weighing 150 feet of most Mammut dynamic single ropes.

Perhaps my use of the term "toprope falls" wasn't clear. The long falls experienced with the Beal rope were by people following a long pitch (150'-180'), belayed from above, falling near the start of the pitch, with most of the rope between the belayer and climber. Beal ropes are simply too much like bungee cords for my tastes.

Regardless of how far one would fall on a Mammut rope under those circumstances, one would fall farther on a Beal.


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By Buff Johnson
Jun 13, 2007
smiley face

To me, the Joker signifies what the Half strand should really measure up to.


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By brenta
From Boulder, CO
Jun 13, 2007
Cima Margherita and Cima Tosa in the Dolomiti di Brenta.  October 1977.

Ron Olsen wrote:
Perhaps my use of the term "toprope falls" wasn't clear.

Maybe it was just me who was thinking of a time we set up a top rope with two joined 60 m ropes and I was concerned with too much stretch. Neither was a Beal, but elongation is still proportional to length at rest. In any case, you are right: It is a relevant scenario for a thin rope.
Ron Olsen wrote:
Regardless of how far one would fall on a Mammut rope under those circumstances, one would fall farther on a Beal.

True. Under the circumstances, one would fall a couple extra feet before coming to a stop.


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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Jun 13, 2007

Ron Olsen wrote:
Perhaps my use of the term "toprope falls" wasn't clear. The long falls experienced with the Beal rope were by people following a long pitch (150'-180'), belayed from above, falling near the start of the pitch, with most of the rope between the belayer and climber. Beal ropes are simply too much like bungee cords for my tastes. Regardless of how far one would fall on a Mammut rope under those circumstances, one would fall farther on a Beal.


This is all true, but I would posit that it doesn't really matter on a follow whether you fall 10 or 15 feet. It's all going to be a very slow fall anyway as the rope stretches, I don't think you'd break/sprain anything if you touched down.

One way to avoid this (although annoying) is just to have a really tight belay at the beginning of long pitches to try to draw some of the stretch out of the line. I generally only do this if it's a low crux with a long pitch, and we've communicated about it.


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By Ron Olsen
From Boulder, CO
Jun 13, 2007
In the cow pasture below the Tre Cime de Lavaredo, after climbing Spitagoras, a 12-pitch 10a route. <br /> <br />Photo by <a href='/u/bruce-hildenbrand//11057'>Bruce Hildenbrand</a>

caughtinside wrote:
This is all true, but I would posit that it doesn't really matter on a follow whether you fall 10 or 15 feet. It's all going to be a very slow fall anyway as the rope stretches, I don't think you'd break/sprain anything if you touched down.

Sometimes it does matter how far you fall on a follow. If the pitch has a traverse near the start, you can fall below the traverse into an off-route area. You'd better have prusiks or be able to climb back on route.

This happened to me on Directissima at the Gunks. My partner ran the second and third pitches together. The second pitch starts with a traverse, then has a crux move straight up at the end of the traverse. I fell off at the crux, and wound up well below the traverse. Love that Beal rope (not)! Fortunately, I was able to climb back on route and finish the pitch.

caughtinside wrote:
One way to avoid this (although annoying) is just to have a really tight belay at the beginning of long pitches to try to draw some of the stretch out of the line. I generally only do this if it's a low crux with a long pitch, and we've communicated about it.

Good point. One of the reasons I no longer climb with this partner is that he just didn't think about things like this.


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By Dirk
From QUEENS NEW YORK
Oct 14, 2007

been climbing on my joker for two years now. great for multi-pitch, and a joke at the crags. primarily i want to point out that it works well with both my gri-gri and ATC (both are relatively ancient and grooved) the only thing i wouldnt do with this rope is el cap...


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By Zappatista
Nov 12, 2007
Book me, officer.

I took one up on Levitation 29 with a crazy Austrian...it got dipped in human shit at the first belay (no time to rap one more pitch, guy?), went quickly but not lightning fast on the descent, and generally didn't freak me out too much. I usually prefer around 10.2 for singles, my favorite rope in the world is two Bluewater Excellence ropes at 8.6 as long as I'm not having to hang/repeatedly fall, in which case two Bluewater Dominator 9.4s are real nice.

After climbing on the Joker I thought that the handling was good, but it does seem that it's on an accelerated lifespan on sandstone (it got retired after 2 months at Red Rock)...it's not too pricey, check it out and see if you like it. I've heard that old Beals were the dog's bollocks, but in my experience they work out fine, and I like the smooth handling and low impact force for those hard trad leads-you can't replace those HB offsets any more, so try not to break 'em!


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Nov 12, 2007
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

My Joker is not looking too great considering it's low mileage. It is very fuzzy in particular spots, not a nice even fuzz. Seems a little abrasion goes a long way. Not a rope for you if you pull them across edges... and NOT for J-tree or Vedauvoo!


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By harpo-the-climber
Apr 11, 2013

Any updated opinions on the Joker since 2007?


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By The Stoned Master
Administrator
From Pennsylvania
Apr 11, 2013
Day Lily.

Between me and my friends we have 3 of them. We have had nothing but positive results (good against abrasion, supple, little to no kinking, etc) with them. We like the option of leading on a single or we can double it up. Makes for a convienent and sometimes time saving system. We have the 70m. Ours are the non-unicore, get the unicore and this rope is even better. Unicores good stuff. Enjoy!


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By NYClimber
From New York
Apr 13, 2013
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.

I had a Beal rope years ago and liked it - tho I admit I have not used one of their ropes lately.

I am sold on Mammut ropes. I prefer ropes being at least 10mm for the added durability and resistance to being cut more easily perhaps (maybe it's just a mental thing on my part), I got a 60m rope for a mere $139 with a rope bag/tarp (it's nothing super fancy but works), and my Mammut's have always handled well, don't kink on me, knot and untie easily and seem to wear very well. It's all I use now.

I tried 2 Sterling Sharma 9.8's I think and I hate their ropes. All those ropes did for me was constantly tangle, kink no matter what I tried flaking them out. I even called Sterling about it - and was told this was a common complaint sometimes b/c of their method of factory coiling of the ropes. Well guys - why not switch to a diff method of coiling if you are aware it creates a problem?
I wasn't impressed and got rid of both of those ropes in a hurry. I spent more time unkinking those tangled messes, hanging them off of crags to try and straighten out as the factory suggested, etc. - to no avail. Now that's MY experience per se - I am sure perhaps others have not had any issues with their Sterlings - dunno.

But now all I buy are Mammut ropes.


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By NYClimber
From New York
Apr 13, 2013
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.

PS I don't know that I could ever consider buying any rope that is named The Joker anyway! LOL.


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