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Learn This: Strategic Clipping

Improve redpointing efficiency with these simple clipping tricks

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This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of our print edition. 

When working a sport route at your limit, getting the quickdraws clipped and the rope hanging through the draws can be a stressful and frustrating obstacle. You need to focus on figuring out the crux instead of stressing about a big fall, and when it comes to putting more time and effort into climbing and less into setting up the route, every little bit helps. That’s why we’ve gathered these experience-driven clipping techniques to streamline the process and give you the confidence you need to try hard and send. These useful tricks will help both first-time projectors and seasoned senders take their redpointing skills to the next level.


This is particularly helpful for the first bolt, or even the second bolt if it’s low enough to the ground. For a detailed explanation on how to do it, check out this video: How to Stick-Clip. You can also apply this to higher bolts. Let’s say you’re hanging at the fourth bolt and want to get the fifth bolt clipped. First, you’ll need to retrieve the stick-clip if you don’t already have it with you. To do that, go in direct to the fourth bolt by clipping a quickdraw to your belay loop and to the bolt. Have the belayer feed out several feet of slack, and with that slack, drop a loop so your belayer can attach the stick-clip to the rope and you can haul it back up. (Keep in mind you will be off belay and only clipped into ONE bolt, so make sure it’s a bomber bolt and move calmly but efficiently to lessen the time you’re off belay.) Once you have the stick-clip in hand, clip that loop of rope through another draw and stick-clip the next bolt, or the highest bolt you can reach, making sure it’s not back-clipped.Have the belayer take in as much slack as possible, and then he should have you back on belay. At this point you can remove the quickdraw that’s connecting you to the bolt. With the bolt above you clipped, you’re on top-rope, so try hard!

Rodeo Clipping

This method can prove to be difficult and might seem more like a circus trick than a straightforward technique, but some climbers have become masters of the rodeo clip. One important thing to note is that the rope-side biner on the intended draw must be free-hanging and not resting on the rock. Form a bight in the rope that’s a bit longer than one of your arms. Stand underneath the first draw, close to the base of the rock, and begin swinging the bight around like a propeller, parallel to the rock. Pay attention to which way the biner’s gate is facing and swing into the gate. Having a bent-gate biner for the rope will help it catch. As you’re swinging, add a little bit of rope at a time to make slightly larger circles. Once you’ve put out enough rope and are ready to go for it, extend your arm just enough so the bight hits the gate sharply, which should pop the rope into the biner. Again, this isn’t as easy as it sounds, but with some practice, you’ll become a rodeo champion.

Strategic Unclipping

This method only works when the draws and rope are up already, but it’s an easy and fast way to ensure the rope stays clipped where you want it when you lower off. Pick the draw that you want to keep clipped, and when lowering, unclip the rope from two or three draws above the chosen draw—more if the chosen draw is higher off the ground. When back on the ground, pull the rope that’s running through the draws slowly until the end starts to reach where you’ve unclipped. Now you can stop pulling, and with gravity, the rope should fall through with enough slack from the unclipped draws to reach the ground. This puts the climber’s side of the rope clipped through the chosen draw (and the ones below) with the end in your hand. 

Clip and Lower

Sport Climbing Clip and Lower Diagram

The draws and rope must already be up for this technique, which is excellent for keeping a chosen draw clipped, and you won’t have to worry about the rope getting caught on anything as it falls or having enough length for the end to reach the ground. Basically, it guarantees that the chosen draw will stay clipped by bringing the rope down with you to the ground. When lowering, take a quickdraw and clip it to your belay loop and to the rope running through the draws ,just above the draw you want to keep clipped (see right). Lower down, and once you’re on the ground and completely off belay, untie your knot and pull the rope from the quickdraw that’s clipped to you through the top anchors. This method will put more friction in the system for the belayer when he’s lowering. 

Warning: This technique puts a huge loop of slack in the rope, so you absolutely cannot unclip the quickdraw connecting you to the rope until you’re safely on the ground. If you do unclip it, that loop of slack could lead to a ground-fall. 

Homemade Stiffie Draw

Gain extra inches for clipping just-out-of-reach protection

If you’re on the short end of the height spectrum, you’ve probably cruxed out a few feet below a bolt and thought to yourself, “Damn these tall route equippers!” or “Damn my T-rex arms!” Well, those days are over. Here is a simple solution that might just make the difference between sending and chickening out: the stiffie quickdraw. It’s a stiffer, more rigid quickdraw that allows you to clip bolts and fixed gear higher above your head than a standard draw that flexes in the middle. Whether you’re red-pointing your hardest route to date or aiding your way up a bolt ladder on a big wall, this makeshift stick-clip can add up to a foot to your reach, depending on the length of the draw. All you need is a long quickdraw with wide webbing, a stiffener of sorts that will provide a spine, and a roll of climbing tape. You can use a small stick, pen, pencil, or even break off a piece of a plastic clothes hanger for the stiffener (that’s what we did). If you don’t have the support-giving spine on hand and you need the homemade stiffie right away, you can gain extra rigidity with several additional wraps of tape—and you can always add the spine later. Prepare at home by doing this incredibly simple and effective makeover on a few longer draws with wide dog-bones, so they’re always ready to go in your quiver for reachy clips. 

Use these for Stiffener Options

  • Twig or small branch
  • Part of a plastic clothes hanger
  • Pencil or pen

How to Make The Stiffie Draw

Step 1

Pick the longest draw you own that has a fat dogbone, the wider the better. (We used the 17cm Petzl Spirit Express because of the wide and stiff webbing, nice length, and the Petzl String biner keeper on one end.) If you can, switch carabiners around (take from other draws if you have to) so you have a bent-gate biner on both ends, which will make clipping easier for both the rope and the bolt.

Step 2

Put a rubber gasket (like the Petzl String) on both carabiners. If you don’t have this, then put a little extra tape on that side for extra rigidity. Now wrap both ends in tape by going around the webbing near the biner, through the biner and around one side, back through the biner, and around the other side. Do this three to four times on both ends (more on the side without the gasket).

Step 3

Sport Climbing Stiffie Draw Quickdraw

Place the lightweight stiffener in the middle of the dogbone, and starting from one end, wrap all the way down its length (above). Without tearing the tape, wrap back up again. This should be enough stiffness for reliable clipping, but practice clipping while standing on the ground to make sure it’s stiff enough. If not, add a few more wraps of tape, particularly at the ends where the biner meets the dogbone

Sport Climbing Stiffie Draw Quickdraw

Step 4

IMPORTANT: Once you reach a good hold, and before you climb past the stiffie draw clipped to a bolt, it’s best to replace the stiffie with a normal, flexibile quickdraw and clip your lead rope into the new draw. A stiff draw may cause a carabiner to lever against a bolt hanger or the rope as you climb, increasing the chance of accidental unclipping.

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