Climbing Quickdraws - How to Use Them Properly

Published: 28th July 2010
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When it comes to rock climbing, being safe is a big issue. If you are a frequent climber, you know what I mean. It is imperative to have the correct equipment and, more importantly, to use it correctly. Even people who have been climbing and lead-climbing for years have been known to use quickdraws wrong. This is a huge safety concern.

What is a quickdraw?
For those of you who aren't sure what climbing quickdraws are, let me explain: imagine two carabiners attached by webbing. The webbing is stitched with three to four layers and tested to withstand 17,000 pounds of pressure. Given the fact that they are there to catch you if you fall, this fact should be comforting. Climbing quickdraws are used by putting one of the carabiners in the bolt that is sticking out of the rock, and the other attaches to the rope, thus holding you into the rock.

Sport climbing routes are full of protection to use with your quickdraws. Depending on the difficulty of the climb, the bolts are generally placed ten to fifteen feet apart. The idea is to clip into the protection while lead-climbing, and if you fall, you only fall to the previous bolt (plus the length of the rope beyond the bolt). The force of your fall will be upheld by the quickdraw.

Proper use of quickdraws
It is very common for someone to use climbing quickdraws incorrectly, and very easy as well. First of all, you need to make sure that the correct end is in the bolt. There are different types of carabiners for quickdraws. Some have a solid gate and some have wire gates. The ones on which both sides have a solid gate, one of the gates will be bent. This side needs to be clipped into the rope. The bend in the gate usually makes it a bit easier to clip, and the solid gate in the bolt, prevents it from coming unclipped. Then there are the examples that have one side with a solid gate and the other with a wire gate. In these situations, the wire gate should be clipped into the rope. The wire gate usually has less resistance, and is therefore easier to clip into the rope. For quickdraws that have two carabiners with wire gates, either side can clip either into the bolt or the rope.

The other common problem is the worst; it is the placement of the quickdraw. When climbing, it can be hard sometimes to know whether or not you are pointing the quickdraw in the right direction. I'm not saying that the gates on the carabiners need to be facing inside or anything like that, but be careful to notice which direction it is facing when you clip into the rock, it should be facing the same way when clipped on the rope when the rope is leading back down to the ground. One way to test this is, if when the quickdraw is loose and laying against the rock, the rope should come from under the carabiner and come up through the center, then over the upper side of the carabiner. If the rope goes over the carabiner and then down through the center and under the upper side, you have done it wrong. Another way to test is when you continue climbing upward, the webbing on the quickdraw should not twist, if it does, you have it wrong. The danger is, in a fall, the webbing will probably untwist, and the rope might come from underneath the gate of the carabiner, loop around it, and use your weight to unclip the rope.

Now that we see how dangerous this can be, it is imperative that we practice the utmost caution when clipping into the rock. There should be no rushing or carelessness when it comes to safety. Be sure to double-check whenever using climbing quickdraws while lead-climbing.

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