Clipstick, Stick Clip, Cheat Stick… whatever you like to call them, clipping devices have been around in sport climbing for quite a few years now. In fact, climbing legends such as Steve McClure have been using home-made versions since the mid 1990’s. Love them or hate them, clipping devices have become an essential piece of kit for a lot of sport climbers and are common place on the crags across the world.
Clipping devices have a multitude of benefits for sport climbers of all abilities; clipping a high first bolt or above dodgy terrain, clipping above a crux to work harder moves, clipping a rope into a quickdraw, or even retrieving a quickdraw with some devices. Even the pro-climbers have to get a rope up on a project somehow. Let’s face it, leading a route can be a daunting prospect for some climbers. If they are new to the sport or suffer from ‘The Fear’, then having a clipping device to hand can really help build confidence and allow people to push through their mental and physical blocks.
Despite the benefits, it’s funny how clipping devices seem to be like Marmite; you either love them or hate them. Some climbers won’t be seen dead with them and for others they clip the first bolt as standard on every route. For a long time, they were viewed as cheat sticks, and you still see comments like that on forums and social media, but it’s much more socially acceptable to have a clipping device as a standard piece of gear now. Many climbers now clip the first bolt as standard, sometimes even the second bolt, before they start an onsight or redpoint attempt. There is lively debate about whether this is cheating or not and how many you are allowed to pre-clip, but does it really matter? Everyone has their own opinion on that. Either way, climbing is about personal enjoyment and staying safe, isn’t it?
Essentially, there’s no accounting for a foot slipping, a hand or foot hold snapping or a wrong move before you’ve clipped the first bolt. Surely most of us have had that happen at some point. Horror stories are abundant on the internet of climbers that have come a cropper in this way that really challenge old school views on pre-clipping. There’s the couple who had to be airlifted from Portland beach when the leader slipped off before the first clip, fell down between the rocks and pulled their belayer on top of them. Probably the most high-profile story was of experienced climber Toby Dunn whose foot slipped before clipping the first bolt on a route he’d climbed hundreds of times at Malham Cove and he ended up with a fractured skull, months in hospital and having to learn to function again. All horror stories, yes, but sadly accidents do happen and it’s easy for all of us to become complacent. Now, it’s not to say clipping devices solve all these problems or account for other safety measures climbers can take to protect themselves, but they sure do help!
Obviously, as you know we manufacture and sell our own Pongoose clipsticks, so of course we are biased, but you’ll never see us out on the crag without ours (unless we’ve accidentally left it in the van of course, which annoyingly does happen!). As a couple we have very different climbing histories and experience but we both find that we benefit from using a clipping device and can try routes we might otherwise get shot down on. Whether you’re a clipstick lover like us, or a purist who thinks they’re cheating by using one, it’s a great world to be in when there’s so much available to us as climbers to help us enjoy our sport safely.
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