Technique and Sending Tips

Clipping Like a Pro

To clip overhead you’ll need to pull up slack and hold the rope in your teeth so you can haul up slack, as World Champion Jain Kim illustrates, but be careful not to fall, or you’ll be visiting your dentist. Photo Johann Groder

In climbing, that usually means not thinking at all. Being an expert means being able to execute the fundamentals in any situation or circumstance. Clipping should be second nature.

I. HOW TO CLIP

The mechanics of clipping a rope into a quickdraw are as simple as they seem; however, applying those mechanics with pumped-out forearms and Elvis legs can complicate things. Practiced, fluid and efficient technique is an absolute necessity.

First, start with the action of clipping. Although there are a few ways you might get the rope into the carabiner, the ones discussed here are the more commonly used. If these styles do not work for you, experiment with others. Ultimately, the best way is the one that is the fastest and most comfortable for you.

When you encounter a quickdraw, the gate will either face left or right. Its positioning determines how you grab and handle the rope before clipping.

MIDDLE-FINGER TECHNIQUE

Use this method when clipping a carabiner whose gate is facing away from your clipping hand (e.g., gate is facing left and you are clipping with your right hand). Pick the rope up as if you’re shaking hands with it, touch the quickdraw with the middle finger, and snap the rope in with your index finger and thumb. If the carabiner is positioned against the wall on less- than-vertical or vertical terrain, the middle finger can pull the draw away from the wall to facilitate.

PINCH TECHNIQUE

This technique is for when the carabiner gate is facing in the same direction as your clipping hand (e.g., the gate
is facing to the right and you are clipping with your right hand). Pick the rope up the same way as before, but open your thumb widely enough to grab the biner’s spine, and snap the rope through the gate with your index and middle finger. Practicing both techniques on a carabiner hanging close to the ground will help you to improve rapidly.

AVOIDING THE BACK-CLIP

There is a right and wrong way to position the rope in the draw. The correct way
to clip a rope into a carabiner is with the climbing end (attached to the climber) running up along the wall and then out through the carabiner toward the climber. An incorrectly clipped, or back-clipped, rope passes through the carabiner from the climbing side and then into the wall. Because a back clipped rope can unclip in a fall, take great care to ensure that you clip the rope correctly every single time.

Left: Correct. The rope enters the carabiner from the wall side and exits out toward the leader. Right: Incorrect. The rope enters the carabiner from the climber’s side and tracks toward the wall. This type of clip can come unclipped

Z CLIP

A Z clip occurs when a lead climber grabs the rope from below an already clipped quickdraw. The rope then travels from the belayer to the higher draw, back down to the lower draw, and then back up to the climber. When this happens, rope drag prevents the climber from moving up. To avoid Z clipping, grab the rope close to your harness tie-in point. When you reach up to clip, the end of the rope will be attached to you and not the middle section below the last draw. If a Z clip does occur, simply unclip the higher carabiner and reclip properly.

Left: Incorrect. This is a “Z clip”: when the leader is clipping the side of the rope that was below the quickdraw. Right: Correct. The climber grabs the rope above the quickdraw to clip the next bolt. Very good!

II. WHEN TO CLIP

Because clipping requires you to let go with one hand, position your body for a stable and restful stance. Let your legs take your weight and relax. Feet should be secure and the quickdraw should be within reach.

The optimal body position for clipping a draw is with the carabiner at chest or abdomen height. If you choose to clip from higher above the carabiner, you may forget to clip or be too far above the draw to reach down and clip. If you are too low, you’ll have to pull up a lot of rope, risking a longer fall.

Jessica Pilz (AUT) employs the pinch clip. Note how she is relaxed, weight on her feet and balanced. Photo Moritz Liebhaber

Rope drag is another consideration. If you have already clipped several draws, or the route changes direction or angles, rope drag can hinder you in hauling up enough rope in one pull. In this case, pull up enough rope to reach your mouth and gently hold it in your teeth. Quickly

grab another pull of rope and immediately release the bit between your teeth. Take care with this practice—a fall could pull your teeth.

If you are uncertain whether the quickdraw is close enough to clip, reach out to touch it. Once you are ready to clip, make the commitment. Be still if it’s a difficult clip. Any excess movement can throw you off balance or make you slip. Keep your eye on the draw until the rope is secured. If you rush the process, you may bobble the clip.

If you’re just getting started, stand on the ground and clip a rope into a draw until the action becomes second nature, with both hands and gate facing both directions.

The better your clipping, the safer you are, the less pumped you’ll be, and the better you’ll climb. Your belayer will also thank you for being sketch free on the sharp end.


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