Mountain sports equipment company Black Diamond has manufactured top-of-the-line products dating back to the 1950s when influential climber Yvon Chouinard began Chouinard Equipment in 1957. Although Chouinard Equipment dissolved into Black Diamond in 1989, the brand never strayed from its purpose to innovate high-end climbing gear. Decades later, Black Diamond remains true to its roots with the introduction of a new line of dynamic climbing ropes, encompassing a variety of sizes and diameters to suit the needs of any climber.
The company’s vision to produce the best products on rock, ice, and snow is both tried and true, exemplified by the variety offered within this new set of equipment. Although the ropes encompass many different climbing purposes, Black Diamond retains combined quality and simplicity that allow for each to hold their own alongside top-of-the-line commercial brands highlighted by Mammut, Sterling, and BlueWater.
To see how Black Diamond’s climbing ropes compare to other popular brands, we tried them out on a few traditional multi-pitch climbs. We tested how well the 9.6 FullDry performed as a lead rope at Shortoff Mountain in Linville, North Carolina and how well the 7.8 FullDry served for light alpine travel and rappelling throughout our weekend endeavor.
Achieving that perfect feel
First observation of the brand-new, unused climbing rope rewards the eyes and hands with a simple, solid-colored weave that both appears and feels remarkably sleek. The threads are consistent and the rope feeds smoothly between your fingers, neither too stiff nor too soft. There is just the right amount of bend and play without being too dynamic for discomfort. Flaking it out results in easily organized loops and no snagging of material. The attractive 1X1 weave exhibits excellent abrasion resistance.
We tested a 60-meter 9.6 version and the 70-meter 7.8 half-rope. Both the 9.6 and 7.8 diameters exhibit Black Diamond’s trademark Endurance sheath and are FullDry, which means they are dry-treated for use in wet conditions. The 9.6 rope comes in 60-meter and 70-meter lengths, though we decided to opt for the 60 for our tests due to weight consideration. The 9.6 FullDry serves as Black Diamond’s workhorse rope, equally suitable for a day of sport climbing at the crag as well as a long alpine expedition. It also proved capable of upholding its performance in all weather conditions, making it the most versatile piece in the collection.
The 7.8 FullDry Half Climbing Rope handles well on its own as a perfect addition to a lead rope in multi-pitch scenarios that require two-rope rappels. Furthermore, it performed admirably when paired with an additional half-rope for final summit pushes.
The most outstanding characteristic of the Black Diamond climbing ropes is an extremely prominent middle marker etched darkly in black across the center of each product. This feature serves as a stand-alone innovation when compared to the fainter lines observed on similar products which tend to quickly fade. A starkly contrasted middle marker helps increase the speed of a rappel set-up, allowing for better rope management, and serves as an overall comfort to climbers especially in pursuit of multi-pitch objectives.
The 9.6 served as an efficient rope for lead climbing up a classic corner route in Linville Gorge. Even after heavy exposure to water during the grueling approach, the rope did not weigh down too heavily and (thankfully) dried rather quickly. Test falls resulted in a gentle stretch and soft catch even while wet, attributing to the product’s quality and thorough weave design. It fed easily through both an ATC and Petzl GriGri belay devices in lead and guide modes.
There is just the right amount of bend and play without being too dynamic for discomfort.
At the first belay ledge, the rope proved easy to flake up and organize in preparation for bringing up a second climber. Additionally, the middle marker proved repetitively helpful throughout the entire undertaking. The 7.8 served as a useful emergency aid, was easy to haul in a backpack, and could be effectively utilized for rappelling purposes. The small diameter of the 7.8 rope required a well-tightened Prusik knot to back up the rappel device but otherwise worked as well as the 9.6. Its light weight was a key factor in the fast pace of our expedition, serving as a superior alternative to two heavy, full-sized ropes.
Black Diamond’s climbing ropes exceed the standards of comparable market products with its simplistic design, comprehensive variety, light weight, and durability — although that factor can only be truly tested over a substantial period of time. The set offers different lengths and treatments to satisfy any kind of climber in any environment, including the gym, the crag, and the mountainside.
With prices ranging from $80 for a non-treated 35-meter 9.9 gym climbing rope to $260 for 70-meter FullDry climbing ropes, they’re comparable to other popular brands on the market. For beginning gym climbers to experienced mountaineers alike, Black Diamond offers high-quality ropes for absolute consideration. True to the roots of Chouinard Equipment and one of the world’s most renowned climbing visionaries, Black Diamond’s new ropes are sure to exceed expectations as the company continues to go above and beyond in designing the highest quality climbing gear.
- Sleek hands-on feel
- Different styles for every purpose
- Well-defined middle marker
- Full-Dry options
- Variety of lengths
- Lack fancy designs or colors
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