People can get pretty tied up in their ascending systems, climbers, cavers, and professionals that have to scale trees and buildings. A lot has been said over the years about the Black Diamond Index Ascenders. We have put the newest version through the wringer to see just how they do.
In the rock climbing world ascenders are typically only used when aid climbing. The Black Diamond Index Ascenders are the culmination of the decades of experience that Black Diamond product designers have with personal and athlete use. It is clear that thought was put into each and every aspect of these ascenders when they were updated last year. The first thing you notice is the light weight. Although made of fairly thick aluminum each ascender only weighs 200 g (7 oz), making a pair of them just under a pound. The ergonomic shape of the handle is simple but comfortable. The thumb trigger for releasing the ascender from the rope is large enough to use easily without having to have monster thumbs, but not so big that it’s going to stick out and catch on things. The one thing we don’t like or understand is the semi-large round hole on the bottom of the ascender next to a tiny hole. The tiny hole must be for weight savings because we haven’t been able to find a carabiner that fits through it. We would like to see one large oval hole there to give options. You can kind of squeeze two carabiners in the large hole, but they fit in there awkwardly and tend to shift and bite, making it hard to move something under load. The hole at the top of the ascender is large enough to accommodate any size carabiner.
We tested these on some nearby testing grounds in Rock Canyon, Provo, UT, then took them on a fun aid climbing adventure up the Colorado Northeast Ridge (5.8, C2) of the Kingfisher tower. Not a tough aid climb, but it gives a good variety of everything including tight chimneys, overhanging ledges, slabby walls, etc. All of it with lots and lots of gritty sand in and on everything, a true test of equipment. The Black Diamond Index Ascenders performed just as expected on the typical ascending movements. The grips were comfortable and fit the various shapes and sizes of the testers hands. With the rope taught they slid up the rope well, always grabbing the rope without any slipping when downward pressure was applied. The true test of an ascender seems to be its ability to easily slide up a rope when there isn’t much weight on the end of the rope, either just starting out from a belay, or just above a safety knot. Pretty much every ascender needs to be thumbed open to slide up the rope when in these situations. It’s impossible to make it safe to ascend and not grab a little in these situations. We were pleasantly surprised as just how smoothly the bottom ascender slid up the rope without needing to be thumbed open when there was still relatively little weight on the rope. Our testers all seemed to agree that the new Black Diamond Index Ascenders were probably the smoothest ascenders they had ever used. Kudos to Black Diamond. Although it isn’t needed very often, we tested down ascending for those times when you need to back down a rope a little because of any number of reasons that seem to crop up when aid climbing. I also found out that they don’t need much room to move when you accidentally run them into a knot (oops). We tested these mostly on 10.2mm ropes, but they seemed to perform just as well on ropes down to 9.5mm. We don’t expect them to lose any performance on larger 10.5mm ropes.
Black Diamond Index Ascenders are a solid buy for anyone that needs to ascend some ropes. Anyone that has been aid climbing can attest to the need to keep the rack light, because it never is. So, the light weight and great performance of the Index ascenders is really nice to have when you need them. I can confidently say that the Black Diamond Index Ascenders are going to perform well for years to come. Although we’ve only given them a small taste of the abuses of aid climbing and ascending ropes we are very impressed with their functionality and ease of use. It’s always nice to have something work right when everything else seems to be a giant junk show.
MSRP – $79.95 each
More information at – blackdiamondequipment.com