Black Diamond is now offering a full line of ropes, from 7.8mm to 9.9mm. The ropes are actually manufactured by Roca, a respectable Spanish rope company, with the BD logo slapped on the packaging. But as with people and boxes of chocolate candy, it’s what’s inside that counts when it comes to ropes. So how does the new lineup of BD cords flake out compared to other ropes I’ve used? I tested the generically named Black Diamond 9.6mm Rope to find out.
The first thing I noticed was how supple and easy the BD rope is to handle. The rope is firm enough to make clipping easy, but not so stiff that knots are hard to cinch. Right out the gate, I was comfortable using a double-bowline, my preferred tie-in knot. Feeding slack was also easy thanks to the remarkably supple hand on this cord.
Having tied into dozens, if not hundreds, of different ropes over the years, I feel as if I’ve gotten a sense of what a high-quality, well-made cord feels like. And the BD 9.6mm has that high-quality, well-made feel.
That Weave, Tho …
The sheath of the BD 9.6mm sports a 1×1 weave pattern—also sometimes called a “twill” pattern. Most of the ropes on the market use a 2×2 weave, meaning two parallel strands are braided with two other parallel strands. The 1×1 design is a single strand braided with another single strand, which results in a much tighter and therefore longer-lasting sheath.
In my experience, twill-pattern ropes are a far better investment, especially if you plan on sport climbing on any routes boasting circa-2000-era quickdraw relics with sharp carabiners. The problem with twill-pattern ropes is that they tend to get kinked up easier than their 2×2 brothers. Making a twill-pattern rope that doesn’t kink up with every pitch climbed is reportedly hard, according to at least one other rope manufacturer I interviewed once years ago.
This rope passes the test! Well done, Roca! I experienced no significant kinking issues with the BD 9.6mm, speaking once again to quality literally stitched right into this product.
More so, after a few months, my rope shows no signs of wear or abrasion, likely due to this ultra-dense rope sheath.
Dry or No Dry?
This all-around workhorse is reasonably priced at around $180 for a 60-meter version, or $240 for the same length but with dry treatment. I tested the Dry version. The question is, is the extra $60 worth it?
Unless you’re going to be climbing ice, or you like climbing slabs in the rain, I would save the $60 and just go for the non-dry version. Dry ropes are mandatory for ice climbing, and can be helpful if you’re a psycho who likes climbing in the rain. Dry ropes, however, seem to pick up and retain more dirt and metallic grime than their non-dry counterparts. You often read advice online about how dry ropes do a better job at repelling dirt/grime, which kind of makes intuitive sense so I understand where that comes from … but in my experience, the exact opposite is true!! Dry ropes get dirtier than non-dry ropes!!
This was my main complaint. After three months of moderate use, my rope is almost as black as a GOP senator’s soul.
Black Diamond 9.6mm Rope Review: Bottom Line
The BD 9.6mm rope is a super high-quality, all-around cord that will stand up to hundreds of whippers and months of abuse. This isn’t a great ultra-light redpoint cord, but it is a perfect partner for all the painful days or projecting leading up to that moment of glory.