Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (4): Clipping (EASY)


The most efficient clipping stances aren’t always obvious!

Bobbling the clip wastes precious energy for the climber trying to onsight or redpoint a sport climb, yet it’s not an unusual sight. Such a waste of energy often leads to failure, you can easily torch yourself in the process of fumbling with the clip, rendering you unable to continue rock climbing for long afterward. Learn to avoid this energy-sapping experience by practicing clipping efficiently until it becomes second nature.

How to Clip Quickdraws

Strive to find the best clipping position quickly — ideally, one that enables you to keep the non-clipping arm straight, allowing you to hang skeletally with as much weight as possible in your feet. Note that this more relaxed clipping position won’t always be possible. Another efficient option (as shown in the accompanying photo) is to integrate the clip into a hand movement to the next hold, clipping the draw as you make the climbing move. Though you will find making certain specific clips to be awkward and strenuous with no ideal position for your strength or size, this tends to be the exception on most sport routes rather than the rule.

The way you clip the rope into a quickdraw depends on which way the bottom gate of the quickdraw faces. As a general rule, face the gate away from the anticipated direction of travel. Attempt to clip when the quickdraw is comfortably within reach from a decent handhold. Try to avoid pulling up the rope way over your head, or missing the good clipping stance and clipping at your knees or feet.

Hold onto the climbing hold with one hand. With the other hand, pull up the rope to reach the quickdraw, holding it between your thumb and pointer finger. If the gate is facing you, place your middle finger in the bottom of the bent-gate carabiner, and snap the rope through the gate. If the gate is facing away from you, pin the rope to your hand with your pinky, keeping it resting on your pointer finger. Grasp the closed side of the carabiner with your thumb, and press the rope through the gate with your pointer finger. (Please note that there are variations to these methods; the most important aspect of clipping is to develop an efficient and effective ability to clip quickdraws without dropping the rope or bobbling the clip.)

If you pull up the rope and put it in your mouth, but cannot make the clip without moving, drop the rope from your mouth while you reposition your body. Do not climb with the rope in your mouth unless you want to risk losing some of your teeth in a dramatic and rather unpleasant fashion. Also, be sure not to back-clip or z-clip quickdraws.

Practicing Clipping Quickdraws

The best place to practice clipping quickdraws is at home, not when you’re climbing outside and trying to send. Knowing how to clip before you go sport climbing can make for a much safer and more rewarding climbing outing. To practice, hang a quickdraw in a door frame, or simply hold it up with one hand. Then, take the climbing rope, and practice snapping the rope through the bent-gate carabiner repeatedly. Try to do this 25 times a day for each hand in each gate orientation until you don’t have to think about it anymore.

Quick Clips for Better Rock Climbing Performance

Improve your sport climbing performance right away by practicing clipping quickdraws at home until clipping quickly and efficiently becomes second nature. Then, take your practice outside and test yourself on a safe rock climb well below your ability with a patient and trusted belayer, making sure you find the best stances for every clip. Every sport climber should take the time to learn how to clip quickdraws efficiently and automatically. This will allow you focus on, enjoy and succeed at rock climbing much more regularly.

This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. My designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!

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