Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond 9.9mm Review

A great rope for new climbers and indoor use.
Black Diamond 9.9mm rope
By: Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 11, 2017
Price:  $150 List  |  $75.99 at Amazon - 49% Off
Pros:  Good handling and catch.
Cons:  Heavy, no dry-option available.
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 10
  • Handling - 40% 7
  • Catch - 15% 8
  • Weight - 20% 4
  • Durability - 25% 7
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  • 3
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Top Pick Award

Our Verdict

Black Diamond just recently started making ropes, and we were excited to check them out in our updated review. We chose to test the 9.9 mm rope, as it was already a top seller on many outdoor retailers, but they are making a full-compliment of ropes from this one all the way down to 7.8 mm half ropes. We were happy with the handling and performance of the 9.9, and look forward to checking out the 9.6 and 9.2 mm ropes down the line as well. The 9.9 that we did test was a little heavier than some of the more performance oriented lines in this review, and as such it didn't score quite so high as them. However, we were impressed by the great balance of soft catch but not too stretchy for safe top roping, and the thicker diameter makes it a great (and safer) choice for newer climbers. It's also available at a great price point in shorter lengths specifically for indoor use, making it a clear choice for our Top Pick award for Top Roping and Gym Climbing. For a more versatile all-around rope, check out our Editors' Choice award winner, the Mammut Infinity. We also really liked the Maxim Pinnacle, and gave it a Top Pick for Sport Climbing award.

Excited about the new BD ropes but need something more performance oriented?
The Black Diamond 9.6mm has slightly more dynamic elongation (34.2%) and a slightly lower impact force rating (8.2 kN). It also comes with the Endurance 1x1 sheath, as opposed to the Regular 2x2 weave on the 9.9. This line is available in 60 and 70 m lengths, and also with a FullDry treatment (core and sheath).


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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Black Diamond 9.9mm is a — wait for it — 9.9 mm rope. Black Diamond chose to forgo names for their rope line and use their diameter instead, which is a useful means of distinguishing their ropes but doesn't help create an iconic brand. (We still remember the name of our first rope from 25 years ago, and waddya know, the Beal Booster is still in production.) Whether you love or hate the name, there's a lot to like about their ropes. This one comes in the standard 60 and 70 m lengths, and also a 35 and 40 m option for those looking for a dedicated gym rope. ($80 and $90 respectively — not a bad deal!)

Performance Comparison


Testing out the new 9.9 in Ten Sleep  WY. Whether you're new to the sport or have been at it for 40 years  climb sport or trad  and with socks or without  there's a lot to like about this line.
Testing out the new 9.9 in Ten Sleep, WY. Whether you're new to the sport or have been at it for 40 years, climb sport or trad, and with socks or without, there's a lot to like about this line.

Handling


The Black Diamond 9.9mm handles well overall and we gave it a 7/10 for this category.


It started out feeling very supple, taking knots easily and feeding through a belay device like a champ. Over the course of the 70 pitches that we put on this rope it did start to lose some of that suppleness and nice hand feel, though it didn't stiffen up or become a noodle. We generally appreciated how it worked in a variety of belay devices, and it didn't feel too thick for belaying in a GriGri 2. Even though it is rated for ropes up to 10.3 mm, we do find it difficult to lead belay quickly on a thicker rope with that device. The 9.9mm was still "thin" enough to not jam up on us.

Using this rope with a GriGri 2. The feeding action was still smooth  and we didn't notice it jamming up on us more than a thinner rope in this device.
Using this rope with a GriGri 2. The feeding action was still smooth, and we didn't notice it jamming up on us more than a thinner rope in this device.

The clipping action was also good, but compared to the Maxim Pinnacle it wasn't nearly as smooth. That rope is on the thinner side though and probably not appropriate for a new climber who is just learning how to control a rope while belaying. Note that this rope does come in a factory drum coil, meaning you'll have to take the time to carefully unwind it before use. We didn't take any points off for this, as most ropes still come in this coil, but we sure do appreciate the ropes that don't, like the Mammut Infinity and Petzl Arial. After carefully uncoiling this one and flaking it out several times to eliminate kinks we didn't have any noticeable kinking issues with it.

Clips felt fast and smooth with this line  and we never short-roped our leader due to excessive kinking.
Clips felt fast and smooth with this line, and we never short-roped our leader due to excessive kinking.

Catch


This rope has an 8.4 kN impact rating, 7.6% static elongation and 32% dynamic elongation. We rated it an 8/10 for catch.


We took a lot of falls on all of the ropes that we tested, and what we noticed was that when it came to falls, the numbers on the package didn't always correlate to the "hardness" of the catch. For example, the Maxim Pinnacle should have been a harder catch than the BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro, but the opposite was true. As for this rope, the falls we took felt fine, without it feeling too stretchy for comfortable top roping.

Whipping off the crux of EKV  another Ten Sleep classic. We took some big falls on this line  and it provided a soft catch every time.
Whipping off the crux of EKV, another Ten Sleep classic. We took some big falls on this line, and it provided a soft catch every time.

Weight


This rope received a low score for weight, as it was one of the heaviest lines in this review at 64 g/m.


While a heavier gram per meter weight is to be expected in a thicker rope, the similar diameter Trango Lotus weighs a little less at 62.6 g/m. What does this difference mean in an actual full rope? Not too much! The difference in a full 60 m rope adds up to less than 3 ounces. The real difference can be seen between a lighter 9.5 mm rope, like the Petzl Arial, that weighs 58 g/m, and this one. In this instance, the difference is now almost 13 ounces, or getting close to a pound. Those are the sorts of differences you start to notice in your pack, and as you get to the top of a long route.

Durability


We gave this rope a 7/10 for durability. Here's how it compared to the other lines in this review.


As a 9.9 mm rope, this line is inherently more durable than a thinner 9.5 mm, however, it doesn't have a dry treatment, which we took into account when scoring. We didn't notice a lot of sheath fuzz, like we did on the BlueWater Ropes Lightning Pro, but there was some dirt accumulation which will eventually damage the sheath. If you climb in a particularly "dirty" place, you might want to consider a dry treated rope which generally tends to keep dirt out of the sheath for longer and helps it resist abrasion, and/or wash your rope more frequently to prolong its life.

We put a lot of pitches on this line  and it was starting to show it a bit by the end  with some generalized wear but no trouble spots.
We put a lot of pitches on this line, and it was starting to show it a bit by the end, with some generalized wear but no trouble spots.

Best Applications


The Black Diamond 9.9mm is a good choice for a variety of climbing styles but not all. It is only available in a non-dry finish, so it wouldn't be an option for any type of ice climbing, alpine climbing that involves snow, or mountaineering. It's also heavy, so you wouldn't want to be hauling it out over long distances either. What it is good for is newer climbers who should probably start out with a "thicker" rope as they learn to belay. We've given it our Top Pick for Top Roping and Gym Climbing award because its 7.6% static elongation never felt too spongy when weighting it, which can be scary for new climbers when top roping. It's a great choice for gym climbing, particularly if you have to bring your own rope to your gym but don't want to trash a more expensive line in the process, and you can buy this line specifically in shorter 35 and 40 m lengths.

This rope is a great choice for top roping kids and newer climbers. It didn't have an excessive static elongation  which can be scary for new climbers  and dangerous if someone falls off the rock close to the ground.
This rope is a great choice for top roping kids and newer climbers. It didn't have an excessive static elongation, which can be scary for new climbers, and dangerous if someone falls off the rock close to the ground.

Value


This rope retails for $150, which is a veritable deal compared to some of the $250 and up ropes out there. This is a non-dry treated, non-bi-pattern rope, though, and other manufacturers do have similar options for the same price point. The Mammut Infinity Classic is the non-dry version of the Mammut Infinity that we tested, and it also retails for $150. If you're looking for a thinner rope for sport climbing, we'd opt for the Infinity over this one. But for a solid rope for top roping or gym climbing, this is still a good bet.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond 9.9mm is a great rope and we're happy that BD finally dipped its toe in the rope manufacturing world. This is a solid rope for anyone looking for an inexpensive line, and it's a great choice for beginning climbers who have to buy a ton of gear at once. It handles well, and gives a good catch whether you are lead climbing or top roping. It's not the lightest rope, nor the most versatile, but if you're looking for your next line for gym days or TR sessions, this is a good bet.

Cam McKenzie Ring

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