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Academy: 4 Tips for Clipping a Quickdraw

Part of our "Toes to Knows" Climbing Academy series--covering climbing from footwork to mental preparation.

Tags: Coaching, Beginner, Intermediate

Clipping a quickdraw while leading is an essential skill that every climber needs to master. In this article, we cover four rules and three methods of clipping a quickdraw.

Missing, or “blowing” a clip when you’re lead climbing can have really bad consequences, depending on your situation. You’ll be safer and be able to send harder routes if you master the skill of clipping the rope to a quickdraw.

I have four rules and three methods for clipping.

Rules

  1. Don’t back clip
  2. Control both the rope and the carabiner with one hand
  3. Ideally, clip when the rope is between your head and chest
  4. Learn to clip with both hands and the carabiner gate facing both directions

Clipping methods

  1. Pinch grip: used when the gate is facing the same way as your thumb
  2. V-grip: alternate grip to the pinch grip
  3. Pointer grip: used when the gate is facing the opposite direction as your thumb

Rule 1: Don’t back clip

Back clipping is when the climbers rope comes out of the carabiner toward the wall and the belay side of the rope enters away from the wall. As the climber moves up, this puts a twist in the carabiner and carries some risk that the carabiner could get unclipped during a fall. Learn to orient your clipping habits to avoid a back clip.

Rule 2: Control both the rope and the carabiner with one hand

To make an efficient clip, you’ll need to have a solid grip on both the rope and the carabiner with one hand. Read the grip discussion for methods of accomplishing this. If you don’t have a solid grip on both you might end up blowing the clip.

Rule 3: Ideally, clip when the rope is between your head and chest

You’ll clip the faster if you don’t have to pull up an excess amount of rope. Pulling more rope often requires biting the rope between your teeth to pull more than once. This takes more time, fatiguing your hand that’s holding the rock. I like to try to climb high enough so that I can clip with the bolt between my head and chest to speed things up. One quick pull from my harness and I’m clipped in.

This rule is one I break on a regular basis, depending on where the best clipping holds are, but the head to chest rule of thumb is good to follow if the climb permits it.

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Rule 4: Learn to clip with both hands and the carabiner gate facing both directions

It’s critical to learn to clip the rope with either hand and the gate facing either to the right or left. Practice enough to make sure you’re solid in all four possible configurations.

Clip Method #1: Pinch grip

Clip using a pinch gripThe pinch grip is my favorite grip. Use it when the carabiner gate faces in the same direction as your thumb (gate on left when clipping with right hand).

To execute the pinch grip, pinch the rope between your index finger and your thumb, grab the carabiner with your middle finger, then push the rope through the gate with your thumb.

Clip Method #2: V-grip

Clip using a V-gripThe V-grip is another good grip to use when the carabiner gate faces in the same direction as your thumb.

To execute a v-grip, slide the rope up between your thumb and index finger with palm facing down, grab the carabiner with your whole hand and push the rope through the gate with the side of your thumb.

Clip Method #3: Pointer grip

Clip uisng a pointer gripThe pointer grip is used when the carabiner gate faces in the opposite direction as your thumb.

To execute the pointer grip, slide the rope up in your hand, laying over the side of your extended index finger. Secure the rope using your pinky and ring finger. Using your thumb and middle finger, pinch the carabiner. Last, use the side of your index finger to push the rope through the gate.

I use the pinch grip and pointer grips for my clipping. One advantage of using these two methods together is that you pull the rope off your harness the same way using both of them. Not having to choose which way to pull gives you a bit more room for error.

The Reverse Clip

A reverse clipUsing the pointer grip when the quickdraw is a long way across your body can be tricky. It’s sometimes difficult to reach across and get ahold of the carabiner. In that situation, I like to use a reverse clip. In a reverse clip, I grab the rope in the opposite direction, then clip the using a standard pinch or v-grip from behind the carabiner.

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