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Pongoose blog - main image of climber using a Pongoose clipstick / stick clip up a route at Portland

"If you need a clipstick, you shouldn't be climbing"

May 01, 2019

Since we launched our brand and flagship clipstick product in August 2017 we’ve seen all sorts of interesting comments online about the use of clipsticks. The usual comments about it being cheating or calling it a ‘cheat stick’, we were expecting and find that rather amusing. What isn’t amusing is that these comments can be taken too far on the crags and really upset people using a clipstick.

Clipsticks have been around for well over 15 years now in a few different shapes and forms and the view on their use within the climbing community has changed dramatically over that time, with them now being a standard part of most people’s kit. Climbing as an activity has also changed beyond recognition in that time and so has its accessibility to the masses, including those with sometimes severe disabilities. More and more people from all walks of life are spending their time hauling themselves up multi-coloured indoor climbing walls and feeling the pull of the outdoor crags with their beckoning mix of wonder and scariness. These days most people begin climbing indoors and making that leap from nice safe, comfortable plastic to sometimes intimidating, towering outdoor crags and cliffs can be made a lot easier by equipment such as clipsticks.

Pongoose blog - clipstick image black and white at Blacknor Portland

Photo: Lisa feeling on top of the world at Portland by Dan Verge

So why are people receiving abuse for using them on the crags? This is something that baffles me personally. As far as I see it, use a clipstick, don’t use a clipstick. Whatever, its personal choice. What does it matter to anyone else if they see someone using one on the crag? Let’s face it, clipsticks can protect you from broken ankles or skulls by clipping the first bolt or two on hard routes, or on those with chossy rock. They can also mean you can safely reach the anchor if you’ve exhausted yourself on a route and want to get back your £100 worth of quickdraws hanging teasingly above you for someone else to loot when you’ve limped off home. You can also try routes that are just beyond your reach, not to mention doing that in a reasonable time period rather than hogging a route all day when other climbers are queuing up.

Pongoose blog - image of climber using clipstick at Blacknor Portland

Photo - Mrs Pongoose working the Burning Skies crux by After the Send

Yesterday, I saw a comment on social media that said “to use a clipstick makes you fake and weak”. Interesting viewpoint. As far as I see it, clipsticks can help you achieve goals, push your grade and avoid injury. Nothing fake or weak there.

We have met a lot of people who have told us stories of how random people have come up to them, uninvited, at crags and verbally abused them for using a clipstick, one person even reduced to tears by the venom that came in their direction completely unnecessarily. In each example, the person with the unwanted opinion has often, sadly, been a ‘good’ climber who can probably climb everything in flipflops with their eyes closed. The very people that should be encouraging others, not squashing them for an ego boost.

Friend of Pongoose, Kayleigh Lincoln, recently had an upsetting experience in Kalymnos whilst climbing with her husband, Si, and posted this on her Instagram feed…

“While out at Arhi I tried a 7a and I clipsticked my way up it as it was only about 7 bolts long and it helped me understand the moves, which were pretty powerful. I then came down and stripped it rather than try again because the crag was busy and I thought others might like a go on it. hen Si spent some time working the crux of a very bouldery 7b+ and after a while of him working it out, while I was belaying a guy approached me and smiled and said "some advice from me"... great I thought, maybe he has beta he'd like to share. "If you need a clipstick... you shouldn't be climbing" he said. "You should onsight it or you shouldn't climb it. Maybe you should go bouldering to get stronger" he said. I politely (ok sarcastically) thanked him for his advice and continued to belay for Si until he walked away. This "advice" left me feeling like I didn't want to project anything as I was embarrassed. If this is your opinion please know it is not one I share and it was hurtful to me. My clipstick has enabled me to project hard s*** and in my opinion I'm a better climber for doing it. So now I'm sharing my love of my Pongoose clipstick because it can not only get me up routes, it can also strip ones that are a pain in the ass, like this one!”

Pongoose blog - image of climber using Pongoose clipstick in Kalymnos

Photo - Projecting her 7a in Kalymnos by Kayleigh Lincoln

Wow. Who on earth onsights every route they climb?! I’m sure that delightful man doesn’t! To experience that ‘advice’ would likely leave most of us with a nasty taste in our mouths and a big dent in our confidence. For someone to say you shouldn’t be climbing if you need a clipstick is simply ridiculous. Would they say that to Steve McClure who’s been using his own homemade clipstick for many, many years? The man who has ticked the hardest sport route in the UK to date? Or would they say that to the clipstick-wielding paraclimbers who put us ‘able bodied’ climbers to shame by climbing harder than a lot of us with a missing limb?

Pongoose blog - image of Steve McClure with his Pongoose clipstick

Photo - An upgrade to a Pongoose clipstick by Steve McClure

As a person who started climbing at 36 years old, I was over the moon when my soon-to-be husband showed me his then secret clipstick design, the Pongoose Climber, and I grabbed on to it as tight as my chalky paws could hold it! My leading fear was a real issue (and still is to be honest) and with the stick I could actually build my leading confidence safely and start moving up through the grades. Let’s face it, who likes feeling thoroughly terrified or like you have to sit on the side-lines just because you don’t have 20 years plus of climbing experience or can’t onsight every route you try? I certainly don’t.

Furthermore, most of us go climbing for some peace and quiet from our stressful lives. We might have experienced a death in the family, be struggling with a physical or mental health issue, or simply be at the end of our tether for one of a hundred reasons. To have someone abuse you for using a clipstick could put you off climbing for life, or worse, push you over the edge mentally if you’re already in a bad headspace. Of course, I’m biased towards the use of clipsticks but my main beef with this issue is the unkind, egotistical approach by people who feel they have to step all over climbers who are just trying to mind their own business.

Why not live and let live?

Pongoose blog - image of three happy climbers with a clipstick at Portland

Photo - Happy clipsticking climbers by Katie Rendall




Written by Katie Rendall.

Main image photo credit to - After the Send 

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