Essential Skills: The Alpine Quickdraw

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Illustration by Chris Philpot

The Alpine Quickdraw
The Alpine Quickdraw

Illustration by Chris Philpot

A better way to rack your slings

You’ll often carry several full-length, 24-inch slings on long rock routes or alpine climbs, to reduce rope drag, wrap around horns for protection or belays, or rig belay anchors. But draping multiple slings over your shoulders is cumbersome. The solution? The alpine draw. Doubling up a sling makes it into a quickdraw that’s versatile to use and easy to rack on your harness gear loops. Here’s how to do it right.

First: With a carabiner on each end of the sling, thread one carabiner through the other.

Second: Clip this carabiner into both strands of the sling to make a quickdraw.

Third: To extend the draw, clip one biner to the piece of protection, unclip the other biner from the quickdraw, and then clip it back to any single strand of the sling. Pull on this biner and— presto!—the sling will extend to full length.

Six more clever ways to use slings

1. Carry a sling while working a sport route. If you can’t do a move, clip the sling to the bolt and stand in it for some improvised aid.

2. If you rack your pro on a gear sling, buy a sling rated to full strength. That way, you can clip it to your pro if you run out of normal slings.

3. On seldom-traveled climbs or alpine routes, always carry at least a couple of slings tied from nylon webbing, versus sewn slings. An untied sling is longer than a sewn sling and is easier to tie around a tree or boulder, or to replace sun-bleached or frayed slings at an anchor.

4. When sport climbing, use slings to extend hard-to-clip bolts or to keep a carabiner from bending over an edge.

5. A sling can substitute for thin perlon cord for a rappel back-up (such as a Bachmann knot) or ascending a rope with a prusik or kleimheist knot. Beware: the heat from friction can easily damage thin Spectra or Dyneema slings. Use them this way only in emergencies.

6. A long sling can be used to improvise a “diaper harness.” Loop the sling across your butt, then pull one strand up through your crotch. Clip the three loops— both hips and crotch—with a locking carabiner. This is only for emergencies!