Equipping the route in sport climbing
Equipping the route
When you equip a route it is worth giving it some thought as to exactly what you use and how you use it, as every mistake adds up. When on-sighting you often have only micro-seconds to think, so you should endeavour to place the quickdraw (or 'draw') the best way round for clipping in the rope.
If you made an enormous reach to the bolt and then dropped back down to a good hold, you should use a long draw. Also, make sure the rope is clipped correctly - an easy thing to get wrong if you are about to fall. If you are about to fall, do you really want to pull through two metres of slack and therefore add four metres to your fall? Either go back down and carry on in the hope of finding a better clipping hold, or grab the draw.
If you've fallen off and decided to redpoint instead, pulling on all the quickdraws is considered fair game
If you've fallen off and decided to redpoint instead, pulling on all the quickdraws is considered fair game. Check all the clipping positions - use long draws if it makes them easier, and make sure the karabiners are the right way round. In some cases it is easiest to clip the rope when you have actually moved past the bolt and it is by your knees. Skipping bolts is common practice on long crux sections - though take care, particularly watch for swinging into the rock (as well as hitting the floor)!
Getting between the bolts
So what happens when you can't get between the bolts even after a big rest? To avoid defeat you'll have to resort to aid. Try standing in a sling clipped to the same bolt as the last draw (make the sling from four or five draws), this will allow you to reach another 30cm or so. Failing that, a clip-stick may be needed. If you don't have one, then any old stick should do. Note that while pulling up a stick and pulling slack through to clip a higher bolt you will be hanging on just one bolt. However, it is possible to remain safe by tying a figure of eight at the end of the slack loop, and clipping this into your harness.
A clip-stick is a useful aid to clip the first bolt, saving you from potential sore ankles. It also inspires confidence if the first draw is 'in' (pre-clipped to the rope prior to the ascent). However, the ethics of this are very personal and, ethically-speaking, an ascent is only valid if the draws are only clipped on lead.
Sometimes it's wise to use a screwgate on the first bolt as the forces induced if you fall before the second bolt is clipped can be large. This is particularly important in Britain where some routes are only two bolts long, but not so important in France where all the routes are 25 metres with the crux at the top!
Steve is a professional climber and coach with a lifetime's experience under his belt. He is undoubtedly one of the best rock climbers in the world and has pioneered the hardest climbs in the UK including 'Overshadow' (9a+) and 'Mutation'. His climbing takes him around the world and, when back in the UK, is available for coaching - see his website
for more details.
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