I was wondering if you are able...
I was wondering if you are able to access the
main compartment with rope on top, or do you have to take the rope off to get to the inside?
You have to take the rope off to get inside. One of my many minor gripes about this pack. Also, the rope retention system is really hard to operate with gloves on, so try to plan ahead and put what you might need in your pockets instead of in the top pouch or main compartment.
Perhaps the model has changed slightly now since this question was asked but just today I wondered the same thing about the rope being in the way. So I loaded up my pack and checked. The way the strap fastens across the top does hinder access to the top pocket given the rope lays over the top of the bag. However, you very much can access a loaded pack with the rope on top, but it has to do with how you fasten the rope strap. There is a haul loop on the front of the bag. If you web the rope strap through this, forget getting into your pack. However, if you simply wind the rope strap tightly, twice around the center of your rope and rope it back to the attachment point, omitting going through the haul loop, you very much can move the rope out of the way and access the bag. As long as you have the ends of the rope, which lay along the sides of the bags, on the inside of the compression straps, your rope isn't going to be moving around, and access to your bag is possible. That being said, there is no way (that I have discovered, that you can access your bag compartment with the helmet strap fastened. This pack is actually amazingly versatile. Just today, I loaded it up with a 70M 10.2mm (in it), 14 draws, first aid kit/fairly large survival knife, rock climbing shoes (stowed them in the crampon pouch on the exterior of the pack, a waterproof pack cover, trekker thermarest, a 2 L bladder, harness, tent footprint (used as a rope tarp), helmet, gri-gri/runners/ATC, and a second 70M 9.5mm rope (teaching others how to climb, side by side), a 11 oz rain jacket, and an arcteryx Atom LT hoody. I still had room for a few extras (small...food items I mean). Pack weight...probably at the upper limit, but it all fit. I also could have strapped a solo tent to the side. And with this weight, the pack is actually pretty comfortable. The extra rope on the sides did hinder arm swing a bit when scrambling.
P.S. I checked out the BD Speed 40, Epic 40 and Epic 35, and this. Settled with this pack. Didn't care for the overly large lid on the Epics, nor the single lid tie down....a helmet under the lid easily slides out the sides (at least the way I had it situated...perhaps incorrectly?). The Speed 40 was great for a stripped down weight (different back rest/suspension system but still flows well with your movement...but you cannot close the lid in a drybag style in which is was intended if you get higher than the upper part of the pack. Made things move way too much for my likings..though I would have gone Speed 40 over the Epics for what I needed. Just saying but I'm no expert at all.