While developing as a rope climber—experiencing various climbing environments, styles, and belaying situations—you quickly begin to recognize the difference between a good rope and a, ahem, shitty one.
Now given that the style of climbing heavily dictates the type of rope features you might deem valuable, your choice will and should vary based on your own type and level of use. As someone who enjoys testing my limits in sport climbing as much as pursuing long, multi-pitch trad routes— the qualities I look for may differ for those whose primary uses differ.
What makes a climbing rope a good rope?
The key indicators I use to measure Dope Climbing Rope Quality (scientific terminology, of course) and the questions I consider, manifest in the following:
- Am I willing to haul this rope across many miles, through sometimes gnarly terrain?
- Will it feel as though I’m carrying up a bus behind me on a longer pitch?
- Does coiling the rope leave my neck and shoulders in complete disarray?
2. Durability / Safety
- Am I willing to take at least a few (inevitably) massive whippers on this rope?
- Am I confident in its ability to endure some draggage on rock for rappels?
- Does it have a defined midpoint to make rappelling safer and more efficient?
- Can the sheath treatment handle an occasional downpour?
3. Performance / Handling
- Does feeding the rope through the belay device require more strength than the crux of a climb?
- Can I easily feed out slack for my partner as I’m belaying or am I short-roping at every moment?
- Does flaking and coiling this rope stimulate a strange cathartic enjoyment?
4. Affordability / Price
- Am I willing to forego at least 12 chipotle burritos and multiple cold beverages in exchange for this rope?
Related: Essential Guide to Buying A Rope
How does Trango’s Diamond 9.4 climbing rope stack up?
With a chance to test out Trango’s Diamond 9.4 climbing rope, just as we were headed to the sport climbing mecca of Lander, Wyoming this summer, I was thoroughly eager to put this rope through the wringer. I take gear testing seriously (as evinced in the photo to the right), which meant that just because this rope came in a bright shiny lime green color, did not mean it earned any stars in my book just yet. Although, I will say, I do appreciate a pretty rope.
Over the course of the next two months, through a plethora of both sport and alpine trad climbing endeavors across Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, I measured every component of my Dope Rope Quality index with Trango’s 70-meter Diamond 9.4.
Then, using a scientific algorithm created by lab rats in the deep confines of Google’s headquarters after submission of my reporting, this rope earned a proud 3.5 out of 4 dope stars. Here’s why:
Starting with the great weight debate,
it’s hard to be disappointed with a 9.4mm rope. It retains significant integrity, without every meter feeling like you’re carrying up a small child, while still having the considerable lightness for redpoint performance days. At 70 meters—what I consider the optimal length for convenience and long multi-pitch efficiency—this rope weighs in at a manageable weight of 9.1 pounds. Most 9.8-10mm ropes are in the 62-65g/m range, while this one is 59g/m; definitely a sizable benefit. It’s not the lightest on the block for its diameter, but it certainly offers a noticeable upgrade from any thicker ropes.
Weight dope level:
When it comes to rope durability and safety,
I’ve felt nothing short of confident on the Diamond 9.4. Not only have I taken plenty of falls on this rope already, but I’ve also dragged it into alpine terrain where the sheath has held up well against sharper rock. Also, thanks to its dry treatment coating, it has also endured at least five unexpected afternoon storms without any noticeable effects to the rope. And, compared to other 9.4s I’ve seen, its sheath has a recognizable integrity that seems to help keep the rope’s diameter from expanding after use.
The one apparent flaw in the rope’s durability in testing was that once you remove the plastic strips from the ends of the rope, they tended to fray easily. Perhaps its best to keep these plastic ends on (not the typical rubber covering); otherwise, you may consider adding your own tape on the ends to keep them in tact (as we did).
On another note, one of my favorite parts of this rope is definitely the well-defined midpoint. Too many times have I been stuck on a multi-pitch spending way too much time trying to find the midpoint for safe rappelling. While I’m definitely a bigger fan of bi-color/bi-pattern ropes for the added level of assurance they provide, the Diamond definitely pleased me on this point.
Durability / safety dope level:
This rope’s performance can’t be denied.
It’s probably the only rope I’ve used that has made me thoroughly enjoy the process of belaying. It feeds easily through my ATC on multi-pitch climbs and has even endured the sub-optimal conditions of a tremendously crusty and dirty GriGri. When it comes to actually climbing, clipping bolts and gear with the Diamond has felt pretty damn pleasant—especially given that this rope has a somewhat stiffer sheath, which I personally prefer the feel of.
On the handling side, my one qualm was the kink-age occurring in its first several times of use. We did, however, fail to read the user guide instructions (oops), which give specific instructions that can help you avoid twists and kinks in your Trango rope. As long as the rope is uncoiled correctly, kinking should never be an issue. If you make a mistake, however, pulling the rope through on each end several times should resolve any kinking issue.
That aside, I truly get strangely excited to flake and coil this rope back up every time we use it.
Performance / handling dope level:
And like most of us hoping to keep our gear costs low,
you can’t be too discouraged to become the owner of a thin, high-performance rope that costs you around $200. At $194.95 for the 60-meter and $224.95 for the 70, the Diamond 9.4 offers a fair price for a great rope.
Affordability / price dope level:
Overall, this rope earned a 3.5 out of 4 on the Rope Dope Scale.
Aside from a few minor (and perhaps avoidable) flaws, I couldn’t recommend this rope enough to sport climbers and alpine or multi-pitch trad enthusiasts. Want more details? Adam from Trango shares what makes this rope great in this video:
Related: Gear Review: Trango Crag Pack
Have specific questions in regards to Trango’s Diamond 9.4 Dope Rope Quality Rating? Leave them in the comments below!