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That high clip just out of reach? You need a “stiffie”!

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Struggle to Clip No More…

It’s a frustration older than time: Sometimes when you’re hanging draws, a bolt may be just out of reach, especially if you’re a shorter climber. While the caveman approach is to tape a quickdraw to a short stick to make a “stiffie” (a rigid, supported quickdraw you ootch high to extend your reach), there is a better solution, one that won’t become a spear in a fall.  The Veteran Colorado climber Tod Anderson, who climbs often with his son, Gordie, devised this draw so that when Gordie was still a kid (he’s since become a double-digit-sending adult), he wouldn’t stress on reachy clips. All it requires is a few items you can find at your local climbing shop and hardware store.

  1. Procure a carabiner that uses a gate-latch system to stay open until it is clipped, such as the Mad Rock Trigger Wire. This will be your stiffie’s top (bolt-side) biner.
  1. Cut either supertape or one-inch tubular webbing in a strand long enough that, when looped and tied off in a water knot, it becomes standard dogbone length (about four to six inches). If you’re up for carrying a longer stiffie, you can make the dogbone up to two feet long.
  1. Use malleable wire to stiffen the dogbone. Anderson recommends home electrical wiring, specifically three-wire Romex NM-B W/G yellow cable; this jacketed copper wire is stiff enough to support your draw but also bends well, and the insulation adds protection between wire and webbing.
  1. Snip off a section of wire about a half inch shorter than the looped webbing, and then tape its ends to prevent it from poking through the webbing.

5. Insert the wire into the looped webbing, and then complete your water knot so that the loop still runs slightly longer than the wire. Use duct or athletic tape to  burrito both the dogbone and wire together, leaving adequate clipping eyes on either end of the tape wrap.

  1. Slap your Trigger Wire on one end of the dogbone, and tape a short circlet of wire around the base of the biner, where it meets the draw.
  1. Clip your bent-gate (rope-side) biner onto the other end of the dobgone, and use a rubber band to secure it. Now you too have a stiffie of grand proportions!
  1. Cock the top biner with one hand, and press it up to your target bolt. The gate will automatically snap shut as it connects with the hanger. Be careful when cocking the Trigger Wire, as it’s a hungry mouth that will happily grab the rope or that clip you just passed—wait until you really need it. After using it and then reaching that bolt placed by the six-foot-five-inch first-ascent party, swap it out for a regular draw, and save the stiffie for the next stretcher clip. The easiest way to remove the stiffie from the bolt hanger is usually to push the replacement draw up from below.

Commercial Options

A commercially available quickdraw called the Kong Frog also lets you push a connector up to bolt hangers and extend your reach. Or you can slap a Mad Rock Trigger Wire on the rope-side (rubberized, tight-looped) end of a draw to similarly gain a few inches.

Crag Survival Handbook

© 2013. Reprinted with permission of the publisher from Crag Survival Handbook by Matt Samet, Mountaineers Books, Seattle.