Tech Tips: The Safety Stick

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Illustration by Jamie Givens

Illustration by Jamie Givens

Stick clipping, big-wall style

Many big-wall climbers see stick clips (aka cheater sticks) solely as emergency tools to use when they run across a broken rivet or missing copperhead. However, a stick clip also can greatly assist in retreating off overhanging walls like the right side of El Capitan or Leaning Tower. Some overhanging rappels may leave you dangling in space, unable to reach the next anchors. In such cases, the usual solution is down-aiding instead of rappelling—a slow and awkward task. With a stick clip, you can often simply rappel down, reach in with your stick to clip the anchors, and reel yourself in.

To make a big-wall stick clip, start with a collapsible tent pole approximately 10 feet long. Attach any lightweight sport-climbing stick-clipping head to one end. (Epic makes a $10 attachment that works great; epicsport.com.) Now, start with a piece of 9/16” webbing about twice as long as your tent pole, and tie a small overhand loop near one end, leaving a onefoot tail. This loop will be clipped through the biner on the end of the stick. Duct-tape the tail of the webbing to the end of the pole just behind the clipping head, leaving enough slack to keep the webbing from being ripped off the pole when you tension the clipping biner. Then, tie small overhand loops every one to two feet for the length of the webbing until the strand of loops is as long as the tent pole, and cut off the excess webbing.

You’re done! To use the stick, clip the webbing’s end loop into a biner and clamp the biner in the clipping head. After you clip an anchor, the webbing is your lifeline to the wall. Pull yourself in, either by hand-over-handing the loops, or by clipping them with your aiders. On very steep or diagonal rappels, you may need to use the stick to clip intermediate pieces as you descend.