Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond nforce Ascender Review

Black Diamond nForce Ascender
Price:  $80 List
Pros:  2 options for removal, biner hole
Cons:  could slide up rope smoother, heavy
Editors' Rating:   
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Rope Diameter:  8-13mm
Weight (1 asender):  8.3 oz/ 235 g
Warranty:  1 year
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond

Our Verdict

Discontinued - November 2016
The nForce has been replaced by the new and improved Index Ascender. Keep scrolling to see a side-by-side comparison. Also, read more details on the Index in our Ascender Roundup Review.

The Black Diamond nForce is the coolest-looking ascender on the market. It is loaded with design features never before seen on an ascender, including a tricked-out rope cam that gives multiple finger options for taking the rope on and off and a handle that moves and assists in the rope camming. But it's not just the fancy features that caught our attention. The ascender uses an oversized clip-in point that means you can push through the gate of most locking biners. Simple yet brilliant.

Overall, we prefer the Petzl Ascension because it is lighter and slides up the rope easier. However, we still like this ascender and would not hesitate to use it on a big wall. The extra features and cool look make it a great device to have on your aid rack.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ascenders for Big Walls and Rescue

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Chris McNamara

Last Updated:
Friday
November 18, 2016

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Upgraded Index Ascender vs. Old nForce Ascender


Black Diamond has confirmed that the Index is sporting a whole host of updates, most notably a redesigned trigger-finger release for hassle-free operation, a molded grip, and a lightened frame. Check out this side-by-side comparison, with the new, sleeker Index on the left and the old nForce on the right.
Black Diamond Index Ascender
Showing the difference between left and right ascenders.

Hands-On Review


Likes


First off, this device just looks cool. Half the fun in big wall climbing is collecting cool gear. This rates up there with a portaledge or a Pro Traxion hauling device for "top gear to wow your non-climbing friends." The trigger gives you two options for taking the ascender off the rope you can use your thumb as with with most other ascenders or use your index finger like you are pulling the trigger on a gun. This trigger makes it very easy to slide the ascender down the rope if you need to down jug. Usually down jugging is a jerky affair because the ascenders get caught up, but not with these. Also, if you are hauling with the "pulley and ascender" method, it makes it easy to get the bag off the hauler. The trigger does take a little while to get used to if you are used to standard ascenders, but fairly soon we found it easy to use.

The handle is very comfortable to hang on. The over-sized clip-in hole is very handy for clipping the ascenders and connecting to your harness. According to Black Diamond, one of the biggest advantages of this ascender is its performance on icy ropes. They say, "Giving you the best grip for jugging icy, muddy ropes, the nForce ascender generates more clamping force than conventional designs." We tried the nForce on icy ropes and found it works great, but not necessarily any better than the Petzl ascender.

Dislikes


Our main dislike is that this device does not slide up the rope as smoothly as we would like. When compared the Petzl or an old Jumar, we find that it has a little more resistance (not a big deal) and jams up more often before we get full extension when pushing up the top ascender (bigger deal). This could be because the clamping action on the device is more aggressive or because the bottom of the ascender seems to rub into the rope. It was not a big deal when we were jugging ropes while fresh. But when were tired (which is most of the time if we are trying to clean a pitch fast) it was hard to keep the device from locking up every fifth stroke or so.

This is not the lightest ascender. It is also not the heaviest, but if you are used to a lighter ascender, you will definitely feel it when two of these are clipped on the side of your harness.

Value


This is the same price as the Petzl and less than other ascenders. We have not seen a pair of ascenders for less than $70 that we would recommend and have seen lot of them more expensive.

Best Application


These excel on big walls and for ascending icy ropes in the mountains.
Chris McNamara


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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 18, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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 (2.0)

0% of 4 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
5 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 20%  (1)
3 star: 40%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 40%  (2)
Climber

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   May 29, 2015 - 11:37am
jackkelly00 · Climber
I registered with outdoor gear lab for the only reason to inform the general climbing public to not buy this ascender. Jumar slippage is a major concern and happened to me many times on one wall. Disconcerting to say the least. Since then it has just been gathering dust. Go with the petzl Ascension. No problems with the Petzl after many walls.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
Person Icon

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   May 11, 2015 - 03:55pm
Couchmaster · Pacific Northwet
My pair slipped on the rope. It was damned disconcerting and overrode my love for the other features. Unlike Charlie below, mine slid up fine, triggers were likeable - to me. However, that slipping issue was THE WORST! My ad to sell them was titled "Black Diamonds shitty Nforce ascenders for sale." Now that Black Diamond finally wised up and discontinued the Nforce, how does the new BD ascender they replaced the crappy Nforce with stack up? The new one, called The Index, looks like a clone of the Petzl.

I've been using the bomber CMI Ultrascenders, and the only issue I have is that if you jam the lower one up the upper asscenders ass (which I tend to do), it jams the upper asscender and makes it hard to get it started in sliding up. Otherwise, like them a lot. The triggers are easy to operate.

Really.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
top of Cathedral Peak

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   Sep 15, 2011 - 11:34pm
charlie.elverson · Climber · St. Paul, MN
They work fine and haven't slipped, but they don't slide up the rope as easily. The trigger is kind of handy, but the ascensions are just as easy.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
Climber

Jun 29, 2011 - 02:22pm
 
fattrad · Climber · GOP Convention
Wow, five reviews, all "NO". I have some grey Jumars for the right price.

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   Jun 29, 2011 - 02:20pm
Moof · Climber · Orygun
The oversized hole is great, definitely great to be able to spin a locker around to put it into the desired orientation, or even to unclip something that is on the wrong side of the gate.

However…

I find it is too easy to pull on it at funny angles and have it slide down instead of clamping down. The upper jug is especially susceptible to any forward force (toward the rope), and it only works well once you get in the habit of pulling straight down.

My hands aren't that meaty, and in the locked open position the teeth do nip at your fingers.

The trigger works OK once you are used to it, but overall I still find myself frigging with it much more than i should have to (i.e. especially during strenuous rope frigging when i just want crap to work).

Overall I'd say to stick with Petzl ascenders. I lost one of my Petzls and bought a pair of these, but wish I hadn't. Not bad, just overall not as good as Petzl.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
South Seas

Dec 6, 2009 - 03:57pm
 
matty · Climber · under the sea
There is some concern about this ascender slipping:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1028930/nForce_BD_ascenders


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