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The Beal Opera: An 8.5mm rope that is as strong and waterproof as it is light
Posted on: August 21, 2020
MSRP: $200 (for 60m length)
I must admit that I was skeptical when I took the Beal Opera 8.5mm rope out of the bag and flaked it for the first time. It was thin and I was hesitant. I am used to using ropes that are at least 9mm in diameter for cragging and climbing in the mountains. When grainy rock can eat your ropes for breakfast and all-night rappels over sharp and loose terrain can cause justified anxiety, I tend to want a big, burly rope to get the job done. When I roped up with the Beal Opera, however, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it performed. Yes, it is skinny but in no way did its dimensions appear to affect its longevity, durable sheath or toughness while I was using it.
One aspect that sets the Beal Opera apart from other ropes is that it is certified for use as a single, double or twin rope. This gives you incredible versatility when alpine climbing, especially if you use two Opera lines as twin or half-ropes.
After testing the Opera at the crags of Index, Washington, I embarked on a seven-week road trip in the Cascades, the Sawtooths and the Wind River Range. Before I took the rope into the mountains to try some technical and difficult alpine routes, I had my partner yank out the slack from the Grigri to simulate a lead fall, just to make sure the device locked up well enough on the thin rope. It passed the test. With a newfound confidence, we then hiked up to cast away on a sea of alpine granite. The rope was whipped on, rappelled on, and saw action on hundreds of difficult pitches, all the while showing little to no wear.
Whitney Clark traversing out from one of the "supercaves" while climbing The Tiger on Washington Pass with the Beal Opera rope. [Photo] Will Stanhope
The rope is light, with the distinction of being the first rope to weigh less than 50 grams per meter, according to the company's website. The Opera weighs 48g/m, and Beal reports that it's "the lightest and thinnest single rope on the market."
As mentioned earlier, the rope is triple-rated, meaning it's certified as a single, twin or half rope. The rope has 37% percent elongation, which translates to a softer catch and less force placed on your gear, but this is also means that you will fall a longer distance because of rope stretch—something to keep in mind if you are climbing above a ledge or the ground. I wouldn't be taking this rope to the crag everyday to try my project but I think the Opera is a great choice for alpine routes when saving weight is key.
As with most of Beal's high performance ropes, the Opera utilizes Unicore technology, which means that the core of the rope is bonded to the sheath and is safer to use. If your rope gets a core shot, the sheath won't slide down. On ropes that do not have the Unicore feature, the sheath can slide down after a core shot, exposing additional segments of the core to future damage, and the sheath can also get bunched up in your belay/rappel device. The rope is also Golden Dry treated, which means that both the sheath and the core have been treated to resist soaking up water. The treatment seems effective. When my partners and I got stuck in a few summer squalls, the rope didn't get wet and it passed through my rappel device with ease.
One of the only issues I had with the Beal Opera is that it seemed to get tangled easily and it was difficult to untie knots that had been weighted (i.e. if your partner rappels first on a Grigri after fixing the line with a clove hitch or overhand knot). Before using your rope, I would recommend flaking it out multiple times to get the kinks out from the factory coil.
The skinny line also takes some getting used to—make sure you are using the most appropriate belay device for the 8.5mm rope diameter, and pay extra attention to your rope management skills while you become familiar with it.
In my opinion, the Beal Opera is one of the most versatile ropes on the market. It seems to be strong, will get the job done and it appears to be a perfect choice for alpine ridges or long technical rock routes where you need to cover lots of ground and want to save weight.
Clark enjoying the exposure on Jaded Lady, Mt. Hooker, Wind River Range. [Photo] Will Stanhope
Whitney Clark is frequently traveling the globe in search of first ascents. In 2018 she received a Grit and Rock First Ascent Award and an American Alpine Club Cutting Edge Grant to attempt a new route on the west face of Arjuna (6230m), India.
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