Before Otto Herzog, nicknamed "Rambo," emerged on the climbing scene, early 1900s climbers relied on tying and untying slings around the rope and protection, typically pitons or rock horns. Rambo, the resourceful German, drew inspiration from a tool used by Munich firefighters. Replicating the device, he crafted the inaugural climbing carabiner—a straightforward steel loop with a spring-loaded gate. Since its inception, the evolution of carabiners over the past century has given rise to the modern and cherished versions we use today. The introduction of the quickdraw marked a departure from the practice of linking one carabiner into another and then into a bolt, a method the Stonemasters dubbed "carabiner climbing," criticized by Colorado legend Jim Erickson as cumbersome. In 1972, he ingeniously fastened nine inches of 5/8" webbing to two carabiners, naming his creation "UrQuickdraws."
Contemporary quickdraws are transformative tools, but the plethora of options in gear shops can be overwhelming. The variations encompass everything from the carabiner's shape, nose type, and angle to the gate style. Should you opt for a robust sling or a slender one? A wire gate or a solid one? And what exactly is a Screamer!?
While quickdraws from reputable sources are all sufficiently strong to secure your falls, substantial differences exist in terms of functionality and intended use.
A quickdraw comprises two carabiners, with the climber attaching one carabiner (top) to the bolt hanger on the wall and the other carabiner (bottom) to the rope. The carabiner connected to the bolt hanger is more prone to damage, such as scratches and cuts, resulting from metal-to-metal contact. In contrast, the carabiner where the rope is clipped remains relatively unscathed. Therefore, it is crucial not to interchange these carabiners. The carabiner designated for clipping the rope should always be smooth and free of scratches to prevent damage to the rope during falls.
It's imperative to use different types of carabiners for the bolt end and the rope end, differing not only in nose design but also in color. Carabiners with a traditional notch nose design pose a risk of getting caught on the bolt hanger, causing the gate to remain open and significantly reducing the carabiner's strength. Carabiners featuring a keylock design, however, do not encounter such issues.
The sling, commonly referred to as the "dogbone," is the webbing that connects the two carabiners in a quickdraw. When climbing outdoors, it becomes essential to have quickdraws of varying lengths. The choice of quickdraw length depends on the specific route and the positioning of bolts. Instances arise where climbers encounter rope drag, particularly with short dogbones. Utilizing quickdraws with a longer dogbone or an extended sling proves effective in significantly reducing rope drag.
Diversity in quickdraw lengths provides climbers with more flexibility to ensure optimal placement. In certain scenarios, the carabiner at the rope end of the quickdraw may rest on a sharp edge, posing a risk of breakage in the event of a fall. The use of quickdraws with different lengths can help minimize such risks and enhance safety during climbs.
How to Make Extendable Quickdraws
To create an extendable quickdraw, simply affix both carabiners to the sling and then thread one carabiner through the center of the other, securing the extra two loops of the sling through it at the opposite end. This assembled extendable quickdraw can be conveniently stored on your harness, similar to any standard quickdraw.
When selecting carabiners and slings for your extendable draws, it's important to consider a few factors. Just like with regular quickdraws, you should designate a gear carabiner and a rope carabiner. To facilitate easy identification, opt for differently colored carabiners. Consistency across all your draws is beneficial—consider silver for the gear end and a vibrant color of your choice for the rope end. While marking with tape is an option, it might be challenging to discern, especially in precarious situations, and could wear off easily.
We recommend using thinner dyneema slings (6 or 8mm) for making extendable draws as they fold up more compactly than thicker dyneema or nylon, minimizing bulk on your harness. It's worth noting that they may wear out faster than their thicker counterparts, so be prepared to replace them more frequently.
When configuring quickdraws, several considerations come into play. The sling typically has two loop ends – one larger with ample space for the carabiner to move, and the other tighter and narrower, sometimes featuring a rubber keeper. The larger loop end is intended for the bolt carabiner, while the tight loop end is designated for the rope carabiner.
After securing the top carabiner to the bolt hanger, it's crucial to maintain its position, irrespective of the quickdraw's movement. If the top carabiner is on the snug end of the sling, any shift in the quickdraw's motion may displace the top carabiner from its optimal position near the spine, consequently reducing its strength.
The bottom carabiner, used to clip the rope, it should be placed on the snug end of the sling. Some quickdraws come equipped with a rubber keeper at the rope end carabiner, serving to prevent rotation and ensure a secure setup. This meticulous arrangement ensures optimal strength and reliability in the quickdraw configuration.
Quickdraw carabiners can be arranged in two possible orientations: (1) Both the top and bottom carabiners facing the same direction or (2) the top and bottom carabiners facing the opposite direction.
While the quickdraw can function effectively with carabiners facing either orientation, the recommended practice is to have both carabiners facing the same direction. This recommendation holds particular importance for traverse climbs. In this setup, the gate of the bottom carabiner should face the opposite direction of the traverse to eliminate any chance of unintentional unclipping during a fall.
When both the top and bottom carabiners face the same direction, climbers should orientate the gates to face away from the direction of the traverse. This ensures that the top carabiner is loaded on the spine, the strongest part of the carabiner, preventing any potential unclipping from the bolt during a fall. This careful arrangement enhances safety and stability during climbs, especially in traverse scenarios.
The reason to orient the biners in the same direction is that it can make it slightly easier to configure the draw correctly about the direction of travel to prevent accidental unclipping in the event of a fall. To prevent this accidental unclipping, you want to make sure that the gate of the bottom carabiner is facing away from the direction of travel, and it is arguably a little bit easier to figure that out in the heat of the moment when both carabiners on the quickdraw face the same direction.
Quickdraws play a crucial role in outdoor climbing, and a thorough understanding of each component's functionality is essential. Familiarizing yourself with how to set up quickdraws and being aware of potential equipment failures can significantly enhance the safety of your outdoor climbs. Recognizing various types of equipment failures is key to mitigating risks during your climbing adventures.
Different types of quickdraws serve specific purposes and functions, highlighting the importance of having a diverse set to cater to various climbing scenarios. By being well-versed in the intricacies of quickdraws and their potential failure modes, you can make more informed decisions and take proactive measures to ensure a safer and more enjoyable climbing experience.