Quickdraws: a guide for climbers

Posted by Dan Middleton on 25/09/2014
Main features of a typical quickdraw

Climbers use quickdraws to attach their rope to pieces of protection when lead climbing. A quickdraw consists of two karabiners connected by a textile sling. Find out about the different types and some of the key issues in this article.

Quickdraws, which are also sometimes called extenders, are a useful item of equipment for climbing and mountaineering. Their primary function is to connect the rope to protection, but other requirements which vary according to the type of climbing have led to the evolution of several distinct variations on the basic theme.

Climbs often follow a devious line. The skillful climber uses quickdraws to help keep the path of any ropes straight, avoiding sharp changes in rope direction. Doing so reduces friction, which means less rope drag and enables more fluid climbing movement.

Quickdraws for trad climbing

For trad climbing where protection is leader placed, a smooth running rope also prevents protection from being pulled upwards and out of good placements. Less well known is that a free running rope leads to lower forces on the top protection piece.  For trad climbing then,  a variety of different quickdraw lengths are useful, although the majority should be around 20cm or so in length.

For longer pitches on adventurous terrain, a large number of quickdraws may be needed, hence the modern trend has been to reduce weight by using wiregate karabiners and thin Dyneema slings. A rubber keeper which holds the bottom karabiner in position has several advantages - clipping the rope is easier, and the karabiner can't spin and become cross loaded by accident.

Slingdraws

For trad climbing, and even more so in winter and in alpinism, a few longer slings become useful to keep the rope path straight and smooth running despite a route which may weave across a face. One option is to carry slings and some spare karabiners, the other is to make up some slingdraws. These can be used as medium length quickdraws but extend to triple the length when a longer extension is needed.

Quickdraws for sport climbing

For sport climbing, the features needed for the ideal quickdraw are slightly different. Ease of clipping becomes a priority, and durability is important because there will be lots of falls and lots of lowering off on the quickdraws. Wide nylon tape for the sling is handy, as this is easier to hold when grabbing the quickdraw when working a route. The rope clipping karabiner should ideally have a bent-gate for easier clipping, and a wide radius where the rope runs in a fall will be much kinder to the rope than a thin one.

Usage tips

  1. Don't swap ends: karabiners which are used to clip protection, in particular pegs and bolts, can get small nicks and gouges in them. These marks can easily destroy the sheath of a climbing rope in a fall or when lowering off, so consistently use your quickdraws the same way around. Most quickdraws are colour coded or use different karabiners at each end to help facilitate this, if not use your own system to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
     
  2. Don't use rubber keepers on open slings: quickdraw slings are usually sewn in a closed dogbone shape, sometimes with a rubber keeper for the bottom karabiner. Longer open slings can be used for multiple purposes, but should never use these keepers because doing so can make it easy to be held only by the rubber by accident.
     
  3. Quickdraws left in place on steep sport climbs can develop dangerous sharp edges which have been known to sever ropes. Always check them carefully before using them.
     
  4. Learn to fall gracefully. Attempting to grab the quickdraw as you fall has no benefit, but can lead to accidental unclipping or a horrendous injury to the hand or fingers.
     
  5. Check your quickdraws regularly for wear and damage, and check that they are correctly assembled if they contain a rubber keeper. Make sure the gates of karabiners on sport quickdraws face the same way - this prevents the protection clipping krab rotating, snagging and then unclipping or breaking in a fall. 

READ: About the hazards of using worn permadraws

WATCH: How to check karabiners and quickdraws for damage on BMC TV

WATCH: Deadly quickdraws explained on BMC TV

WATCH: How to use quickdraws on BMC TV

 


Don't hang around

This spring, annual BMC Rock Insurance is only £95* for multi-trip policies in Europe. Time to book another adventure.

We've been insuring climbers like you for over 30 years. That's why all of our policies come with:

  • 24-hour emergency assistance helpline
  • £10 million emergency medical cover
  • £100,000 search, rescue and recovery cover
  • £10,000 personal accident cover
  • £5,000 cancellation cover
  • £2,500 baggage cover
  • No age loading until you're 70

WATCH: BMC Insurance: Get out there

Want to know more? READ: 5 reasons why you need BMC Travel Insurance

*Policy details: insurance is from £95.78 for annual multi-trip European Rock cover up to age 69. Offer ends 1 June 2017.


« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 35541 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Black Diamond announce quality audit following further product recalls
0
Black Diamond announce quality audit following further product recalls

Black Diamond have issued a recall for inspection for a number of products including Camalots, and have also announced a major quality audit of their production facilities and systems.
Read more »

Black Diamond recall carabiners and slings
0
Black Diamond recall carabiners and slings

Black Diamond have issued two voluntary recalls for select items of equipment including carabiners and nylon slings. Quickdraw sets comprising affected carabiners are also included in the recall. Find out how to check if your gear is affected and what to do below.
Read more »

DMM locking carabiner recall
0
DMM locking carabiner recall

DMM has issued a recall of some of its locking carabiners, subject to user inspection. Read on to find out which models are affected and how to return any potentially faulty carabiners.
Read more »

Post a Comment
Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
2
1) Anonymous User
14/10/2014
Interesting article. When are you going to run courses on how to fall gracefully ?
2) Dan Middleton (author comment)
14/10/2014
A climbing coach should be able to help with fall training if needed, it's an important yet often neglected skill.

RELATED ARTICLES

Black Diamond announce quality audit following further product recalls
0

Black Diamond have issued a recall for inspection for a number of products including Camalots, and have also announced a major quality audit of their production facilities and systems.
Read more »

Black Diamond recall carabiners and slings
0

Black Diamond have issued two voluntary recalls for select items of equipment including carabiners and nylon slings. Quickdraw sets comprising affected carabiners are also included in the recall. Find out how to check if your gear is affected and what to do below.
Read more »

DMM locking carabiner recall
0

DMM has issued a recall of some of its locking carabiners, subject to user inspection. Read on to find out which models are affected and how to return any potentially faulty carabiners.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 82,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £15.72.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »