First Look: Black Diamond’s Beefy Mid-Range Rope For All Climbers

Black Diamond’s new ropes cover the full spectrum for rock, alpine and mountain climbers. Falling in the middle of the lineup, the FullDry 9.6 70m is both heavier and burlier than average, making it an excellent all-around cord.

Black Diamond’s Mid-Range Rope 9.6 mm 70 m Fulldry review
The author puts the Black Diamond 9.6mm FullDry Rope to the test: Photos by Steve Fassbinder

Optimal climbing ropes balance durability and light weight. Alpine, ice, and mountain climbers eschew heavy cords; sport climbers and top ropers seek durability for hefty use. Black Diamond almost achieves the perfect balance with its latest mid-range rope.

I tested BD’s 9.6mm 70m FullDry “workhorse” over two months, soloing a wall in Zion and putting up first ascents in the Utah desert. It’s awesome in every way, except that it’s heavier than most similar ropes in the 9.5-9.7mm range by 7-17 ounces.

According to Kolin Powick, Black Diamond climbing category director, this is because BD’s “Endurance Sheath” has slightly more nylon in it. The added nylon and the weave make the rope sturdier and more abrasion resistant than most.

I can vouch for its beefiness. I’ll continue to carry my sub-9.2mm ropes on alpine adventures, but I welcome a cord that holds up after nine-12 months of heavy use.

Black Diamond 9.6mm FullDry Rope: Fast Facts

Black Diamond’s Mid-Range Rope 9.6 mm 70 m Fulldry review
The 9.6 in 60 meter

Price: $239 (60m) $269 (70m). You’ll find cheaper ropes, but these are priced similarly to most high-end, dry-treated ropes. Buy Now!

Where To Test: BD says to take this rope “from the crag to a backcountry ice flow.” However, being the ultralight nerd that I am, I’ll use this rope for short-approach climbing of all styles.

Availability: Though limited numbers of rope were released in January, they quickly sold out. Because it’s a spring/summer product, full inventory will be available early April.

Interesting: These ropes come in a series of solid colors and are named simply for their attributes. According to John Dicuollo, Senior PR Account Manager at Backbone media, “The single-color rope is a design element that BD will likely not change; it fits the company’s style—minimalist and clean.”

Tech Specs

  • Rope Type: Single
  • UIAA Factor Falls: 9
  • Lengths: 60 and 70 meter
  • Weight Per Meter: 65 g (2.3 oz)
  • Static Elongation: 6.5%
  • Dynamic Elongation: 34%
  • Impact Force: 8.1 kN
  • Sheath: Endurance
  • Sheath Slippage: 0
  • Manufacturer Warranty: 1 year

Flaw: The middle marker of the rope has faded almost completely after only two months of use. It’s heavier than average.

First Impressions: Supple, no kinks right out of the box.

Who Should Buy It: Rock, ice, and alpine climbers.

Materials & Performance

Black Diamond’s Mid-Range Rope 9.6 mm 70 m Fulldry review

Black Diamond nailed the “feel” of the 9.6mm 70m FullDry rope with its tight, smooth 1X1 weave construction; it handles beautifully, is supple without being slippery (so knots don’t loosen), and it feeds cleanly without kinks right out of the box through Gri-Gris and guide-style belay devices. Love it.

Black Diamond’s Mid-Range Rope 9.6 mm 70 m Fulldry review

None of this is surprising considering Black Diamond collaborated with the 125-year old Spanish company, Roca, to make this run of ropes. Though I’ve never used a Roca cord, reviews consistently give their ropes high marks for flexibility, durability, and handling. In fact, a 2016 review of the Roca Endurance 9.6mm on SplitterChoss.com nearly mirrors my review of BD’s new rope.

I couldn’t find any specific information on the core construction, but core strands typically give a rope most of its fall-holding capabilities. Thus, the core of this rope must be stronger than average as most comparable ropes are rated for seven falls, while the BD 9.6mm FullDry is rated for nine.

The only other rope that comes close is Edelrid’s Anniversary Pro Dry 9.7mm 70m.

Dry Treatment

Both the sheath and core of this rope are dry treated. Though the non-dry version of this same rope is $60 cheaper and 7 ounces lighter, I’d go with the added longevity a dry-treated rope offers; dry treatment repels dirt and decreases the friction on the rope, which reduces wear and tear and rope drag.

Black Diamond’s Mid-Range Rope 9.6 mm 70 m Fulldry review

Elongation

The rope has a slightly lower “static elongation” than other ropes in the same range (i.e. how much a rope stretches when weighted with 80kgs) and average “dynamic elongation” (i.e. the distance the rope stretches during a fall). In other words, it has a nice balance between being not too stretchy that you might hit the ground at the start of the climb, yet not too bouncy when you jug 1,000 feet on it.

Durability & Longevity

Because I’ve tested this rope for only two months, I can’t vouch for its long-term viability. However, I put it through the paces on at least 40 routes of varying lengths. I’ve taken numerous sizable whippers, and I jugged 900 feet on it.

Black Diamond’s Mid-Range Rope 9.6 mm 70 m Fulldry review

There are a few softer spots (not fully blown out by any means), but there is zero fuzziness. I’m guessing I’ll get at least a full year (or more if I cut the ends off) of hard use out of this rope, which is more than I have gotten out of my last three ropes (8.9, 9.2 and 9.4, respectively).

Conclusion

I wish I had tested BD’s 9.2mm 70m FullDry rope instead, as it’s nearly 15 ounces lighter. But, I am stoked on the 9.6 for all types of climbing except adventures requiring significant hiking. I’m confident that I won’t have to buy another rope for over a year.

Buy now at REI.com.

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