How to Clip a Quickdraw: Rock Climbing Basics

When you're lead climbing, clipping the rope into your quickdraw can be a bit of a blur. You're trying to secure yourself to the wall as quickly as possible, with only one hand and hopefully some decent foot holds to keep you in place while you do so. Technique isn't always the first thing on your mind, but it should be right up there with "breathe" and "stay calm."

Knowing how to correctly clip a quickdraw is a simple — but vital — skill that all lead climbers need to know when rock climbing. The method you use to clip your quickdraw is dependent on which hand you are best positioned to use and which direction the quickdraw is facing. Take a look at these basic clipping methods so you can be confident as you lead climbing routes like a pro.

Grabbing the Rope

Clip a Quickdraw

Before getting into any clipping methods, let's quickly go through how to get that rope up to the quickdraw in the first place. Sometimes this seems to be a bigger struggle than it should be. To smoothly bring the rope up to your quickdraw, grip it loosely with your ring and pinky finger and use your palm, index and middle finger to guide the rope up to where you are clipping. Keep your palm facing up and your grip loose during the process. It's helpful to bring the rope past the quickdraw and then back down to ensure you have enough rope to clip comfortably.

Thumb-Index Pinch and Push

Clip a Quickdraw

If the carabiner on your quickdraw is facing away from the hand you are using to clip the rope, you can use this clipping method. Grip the rope between your thumb and index finger. Set the tip of your middle finger lightly on the carabiner to stabilize it, making sure that your finger does not go through the carabiner past any knuckles. Push the rope through the carabiner with your thumb and index finger. All fingers should stay clear of the gate in this process. Lead climbing can be nerve-wracking, so it's easy to forget about protecting your fingers. But falling with fingers in the carabiner or gate of your quickdraw can result in broken digits.

Index-Middle Finger Twist

Clip a Quickdraw

If the carabiner is facing the hand you are using to clip the rope into your quickdraw, you should try this twisting method. Grip the rope between your index and middle fingers. Gently rest the tip of your thumb on the carabiner to prevent it from moving, being sure not to grab the carabiner with your thumb. Make a twisting motion with your wrist to move the rope through the gate without passing any of your fingers through the gate. Your fingers should end up behind the carabiner when you twist your wrist. Again, we're trying to prevent broken fingers, here, so watch where you put them!

Whichever method you use, be sure to keep in mind how the rope is feeding through the caribiner to prevent back clipping. (Take a look at this video for a back clipping refresher.) You should also never grip the quickdraw using any fingers once it is attached to the wall. Fingers should only be used to stabilize a quickdraw, never to grasp it.

Need a demonstration? Watch the video below.

Have any clipping advice to share? What is your go-to method?
posted by
Lauren Seidl
Blogger at Sierra Trading Post
Lauren enjoys hiking, camping, climbing and exploring the outdoors. She's always up for trying something new, especially if it involves getting outside. When Lauren isn't out finding adventures in her home state of Colorado, she can be found writing as Sierra Trading Post's blogger.
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