Lead climbing on Super-Direct on Dinas Mot, Llanberis Pass, North Wales

Clipping Quickdraws

There are several correct ways to clip a karabiner as a running belay and many more incorrect ways. You may be surprised how many people get it wrong or fumble every time they go to clip a rope into what can only be described as the most common piece of climbing equipment. Clipping quickdraws then is a fundamental skill for the lead climber.

Whilst I have describe a few of the more common ways to go about clipping quickdraws but there are other ways that work perfectly well. The trick is to find a method that works for both left and right handed and forehand and backhand.

Some of the more common ways of clipping quickdraws. A - Using the middle finger to stabilise the karabner and the thumb and forefinger to push the rope in. B - Pinching eh carabiner and pushing the rope in with forefingers. C - A slight alternative to the pinch is rather than using the forefinger to push in the rope, is to use you thumb to push the karabiner up ad sideways onto the rope.
Some of the more common ways of clipping quickdraws. A – Using the middle finger to stabilise the karabner and the thumb and forefinger to push the rope in. B – Pinching eh carabiner and pushing the rope in with forefingers. C – A slight alternative to the pinch is rather than using the forefinger to push in the rope, is to use you thumb to push the karabiner up ad sideways onto the rope.
A correctly clipped quickdraw. Where the rope runs up the wall and up out of the front of the karabiner to the climber. Another way to visualise this correct alignment s a little boy pissing into a pot.
A correctly clipped quickdraw. Where the rope runs up the wall and up out of the front of the karabiner to the climber. Another way to visualise this correct alignment s a little boy pissing into a pot.

WARNING don’t back clip

Back clipping is potentially very dangerous, as the rope can unclip during a fall. Always remem- ber to rst arrange the quickdraw so there are no twists, then have the rope going into the karabiner from behind and out through the front towards you. If the route traverse, consider hav- ing the rope running out across the back bar of the karabiner, so the gate is facing the opposite way to the direction of travel, this helps to en- sure that in the event of a fall the rope won’t potentially unclip as it is pulled across the gate.

Try to avoid backslapping karabiners as the rope can run across the gate in the event of a fall cause it to unclip see below.
Try to avoid backslapping karabiners as the rope can run across the gate in the event of a fall cause it to unclip see below.
A rope in the process of unclipping itself during a fall because the quickdraw was backclipped.
A rope in the process of unclipping itself during a fall because the quickdraw was backclipped.

The rope can also fall across the gate of the karabiner during a fall on traverses if the karabiner is round the wrong way. The general rule is to have the spine of the karabiner point in the direction you are expecting the route to take to the next runner or spine in line for short. This way the rope will not run across the gate.

Spine in line of the direction of travel when on a traversing route.

Remember SPINE IN LINE. On traverses try to ensure that the rope comes out over the back bar or spine of the karabiner
Remember SPINE IN LINE. On traverses try to ensure that the rope comes out over the back bar or spine of the karabiner

If it is an essential runner consider having two quickdraws in opposition or using a screwgate on the rope instead. This is only really necessary on very run-out routes so that there is absolutely no doubt in your mind that the runner cannot become unclipped from the rope.

Clipping quickdraws exercise

Whilst stood on the ground and tied into a rope try clipping a quickdraw within easy reach with your left or right hand, with the gate facing left or right. Then try clipping across your body. Be careful not to ‘back clip’.

Turn the karabiner upside down and try again. Which is easier? Hopefully, you will realise that the upside down karabiner is much harder to clip and in future will take the time to ensure the karabiner is the right way up.

Turn your quickdraw the right way up with the gate facing toward the hand you are going to clip with. Use your index nger to hook the bottom of the karabiner and your thumb to push the rope in. Practice with both hands.

Next try clipping the quickdraw with the gate facing away from the hand you are about to clip with. This time place your thumb on the back bar of the karabiner and use your index nger to push the rope into the karabiner. Practice with both hands.

Try the same two methods (index nger or thumb stabilising the karabiner) but this time clip across your body.

Repeat practicing clipping your quickdraws until you are awless, remember to add some random variety to your practice.

Try the same clipping exercises stood just off the ground on a slab from a position of balance. The exercise will feel harder because you are concen- trating on staying in balance.

Try clipping a quickdraw as high above your head as you can reach, by your head, by your shoulders, by your waist, below your waist and by your feet. Which positions feel easier and harder?

Then try you clipping excercises on a vertical wall and then an overhanging wall. How much harder is it? Did you use you teeth to help get enough rope in your hand?

Warning using your mouth to help gather the rope up has lead to some nasty injuries, from losing teeth to breaking the lower and in the worst case breaking the upper jaw. Climbers do this all the time, just be aware of the consequences if you fall at that moment.

Clipping traverse race

With a short section of rope set up a few quickdraws on a low level traverse, and have a race. Is it easier to clip when the runners are in front or behind you on the traverse, and does this change depending on what direction you traverse in? Try this over a number of weeks, does your time improve? This traversing exercise is good practice for belaying a lead climber too.

Learn-to-rock-climb

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Rock Climbing Essential Skills and Techniques