Our Gripper Clippers top tip shares some ideas for clipping bolts when you can’t quite reach the next bolt. Surely every sport climber has been there?! We really hope you find it useful.
It’s that difficult section on a sport route and the bolt is just slightly out of reach. You could just go for it but surely you want to clip first. Here’s a few ways you can sneak the extra few inches needed to clip before you climb.
If you have a clip stick with you this scenario will never be a problem. If you don’t know what a clip stick is please check out our top gear article about the Pongoose here. You can always reach past any section to clip that elusive bolt. But lets assume this isn’t that situation and you don’t have a clip stick available. Maybe you are travelling and taking a clip stick wasn’t practical. What then?
There are commercially produced gripper clippers (sometimes known as ‘stiffies’) like the Blue Light Panic Sling. Just to mention that there are a few other commercial options available. Stiffies are like a mini clip stick and work really well. They consist of an extra stiff 30cm extender combined with a Kong carabiner. The carabiner can be set with the gate open. Then, as soon as the bolt is clipped, a slight tug on the quickdraw will release the trigger. The gate closes with a snap and you are good to go. Some companies also make 45cm stiffies.
The downside of stiffies is both their cost and weight. For example The Blue Light version mentioned above weighs over 120 grams and costs about £25. Even then, another carabiner will need to be added to the bottom end. Also, for that occasional clip you might not want to carry a specialist item.
That’s where this top tip comes in. It is simple to improvise something similar with items you will have with you. All you need is something to stiffen the quickdraw and provide the reach. Also, you will want to ensure the carabiner will stay open for clipping but close for security before climbing.
To stiffen the carabiner some people tape a stick or other rigid object to the tape of the quickdraw. The only thing to be aware of with this is whether the adhesive of the tape might affect the fabric of the quickdraw. we can’t say one way or another, but just raising the question. We don’t tend to do this as there is an alternative we can found works really well.
All we do is tape the stick (or often we use a hold cleaning brush to the carabiner). Using your hold cleaning brush will give you a reasonable amount of extra height. If you use a stick you can make it any length you want. We have found that if we just tape the stick on firmly enough to support the quickdraw it works well. Then, once the bolt is clipped, you can pull firmly on the stick and it will detach from the carabiner.
Keeping The Gate Open
The other consideration is that the commercial stiffy’s have a carabiner gate which closes when put into the bolt. You may be able to just push the gate of a closed carabiner against the bolt and it will open. However, if it is a very stiff gate it may be easier to have it held open. What if you don’t have one of these types of carabiner available? No problem, you can make something that will do the job.
We have found a small piece of stick works a treat. Use it to hold the gate of the carabiner open. Then, when the nose of the carabiner is hooked through the bolt the stick will flick out and the gate closes. The only commercial version of these we are aware of is the Whetman Equipment Krabstick.
So, if you away on a trip and trying that particular climb with the out of reach bolt and don’t have the tools for the job, get busy with your finger tape, knife and a bit if wood and you’ll have the perfect solution.
We hope you find this top tip useful. Please also check out our other climbing tips such as our tip about rope management at belays here and tying in to stakes here.
If you are keen to see a gripper clipper in action the video below is well worth a watch. We guarantee you won’t avoid sweaty palms as you see Pete Whittaker on the first ascent of Baron Greenback.