The Magic Dust: Black Diamond’s Black Gold

Twice the absorption, no additives. Black Diamond’s Black Gold and the secret to its success.


Sponsored by Black Diamond

MgCO3. Magnesium carbonate. Chalk. That white stuff that always gets on your burrito when you’re chowing down after your gym sesh. Most of us use it every time we climb, or at least every time we’re climbing at our limit. But for many climbers, not a lot of thought goes into the product itself. Chalk is just chalk. It’s all the same. Except when it’s not.

Enter Black Diamond’s Black Gold. A hybrid, Black Gold consists of 90% standard White Gold and 10% Pure Gold, Black Diamond’s concentrated “chalk supplement booster.” Pure Gold, which can be bought individually and added to any chalk to improve performance, is refined Upsalite, a substance Black Diamond’s Climbing Director Kolin Powick referred to as “the magic sauce.”

Initially discovered after scientists in Uppsala, Sweden, unintentionally let a mixture react while out of the lab during a weekend, Upsalite isn’t a drying agent like normal chalk. It’s a chemically refined form of magnesium carbonate. While standard magnesium carbonate is produced by mining and refining limestone, Upsalite is made in a lab. In comparison to the crystalline form of standard magnesium carbonate, Upsalite’s amorphous (formless) nature gives it the ability to trap 10 times more moisture. It’s also incredibly porous. This means that it’s surface area is utterly massive (no, seriously: 800 meters per gram). As The Guardian put it, “that is like taking the floor space of a respectable house and crumpling it up until it is tiny enough to be picked up with tweezers.”

Don’t worry, Upsalite isn’t just used to soak the sweat off of people who like climbing rocks. Since its discovery, the most absorbent material known to man has found a host of applications, from toxic waste cleanup to use as a surgical desiccant. If surgeons trust it during high-stakes surgeries, it’s more than good enough for your grubby little 5.11 fingers, and a home in that custom Pikachu chalk bag your roommate made for you, right?

Bottom line: the addition of Upsalite (in the form of Pure Gold) gives Black Diamond’s Black Gold chalk a moisture uptake double that of standard chalks, reducing the intensity of sweat and increasing the duration of the chalk’s holding power. It also gives it an edge that can’t be found in any other chalk, because Black Diamond holds exclusive rights to use Upsalite.

“People have been using basic chalk for years,” Powick said. “This is a premium chalk, for those that want a higher performing chalk, or just those that find they sweat more than others and want to chalk less.” He described applying a base layer of Pure Gold at the gym, climbing all day, “and then at night you still have chalk on your hands. It stays.”

All well and good, I’m only mad it took them this long to come up with the stuff. Where was Black Gold when I was holding hands with girls back in high school? If it had been around, maybe I wouldn’t have had to invent so many far-fetched reasons for my sweaty hands on dates.


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  • Owen Clarke, 22, is freelance writer and former intern with Rock & Ice and Gym Climber. He has been climbing for 11 years.

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