Climbing Techniques: Back Clipping and other Mistakes

Some climbers often underestimate the importance of clipping a climbing rope onto the Quickdraws in the correct way. Most of them do not even realize that the mistakes they are making can be deadly serious.

In this section, learn the right way of clipping a rope onto a Quickdraw and know the most common mistakes in Rock Climbing such as Back Clipping and Z-Clipping.

How to Clip onto a Quickdraw

  • Ensure that the Quickdraw hangs naturally and will not twist by the rope movement.
  • Always make sure that the rope runs correctly through the spine of the Carabiner. If the rope runs through in any other way, the Carabiner could be un-clipped (Back-Clipping) but also does it greatly reduced the strength of the Carabiner.
  • Always make sure the Carabiner is closed, not only because the rope can slip out of it, but also because closed Carabiners are much stronger than open ones.
  • Avoid placing the Quickdraw onto rocks as vibrations against the rock could cause the gate to open or an outcropping in the rocks could even push a gate open.

These are the main rules, but keep in mind that some climbing situations may require an exception on these rules. Keep these rules in mind and make a conscious decision.

Common Mistake No. 1: Incorrectly Clipped Quickdraw

Before you clip the rope through a Quickdraw, the Quickdraw needs to be clipped onto the protection. This can either be a bolt on a sport route or on a wire of your passive or active protection (nut or camming device). Ensure that is clipped in such a way that it hangs naturally and avoid that it will twist when the rope runs through it.

Consequences of a Wrongly Clipped Quickdraw:

  • Chance of dislodging the wire placement (especially on Traditional Rock Climbing routes)
  • Back Clipping
  • By the rotation of the quickdraw, the gate of the Carabiner could be pushed against a rock, whereby unclipping the Carabiner.

In all three cases, your fall factor will be increased substantially.

Common Mistake No. 2: Back Clipping

If the rope runs along the gate instead of the spine of the Carabiner, then the Carabiner can easily un-clip itself during a fall. This often happens with beginners as one is not aware that this can happen. In addition, Back Clipping can also occur if the Quickdraw is incorrectly clipped so that the rope’s movement will cause the Quickdraw to rotate with the possibility to Back Clipping (see section above).

The consequence of Back Clipping is: your fall factor will be increased substantially.

Common Mistake No. 3: Z-Clipping

Z-Clipping does not occur as often as the previously mentioned mistakes, but it happens. It occurs when you pull the rope from below your last clipped Quickdraw (instead of pulling the rope from the top end of the last Quickdraw) and bring it up and clip it to the new Quickdraw. It may sound strange, but it really happens. For example, when the protection is placed quite close to each other and if you do not pay attention to where you get the rope from. It can also happen on overhangs where you do not see the previous protection.

The Consequence of Z-Clipping is:

  • In case of a fall, Z-Clipping has negated the z-clipped protection. This will increase the fall factor.
  • Increased Rope Drag. In the worst case, this could cause the protection to be pulled out, increasing your fall factor.

It takes enough skills, knowledge, and common sense in order to do the different techniques properly. Learn to avoid common mistakes such as Back Clipping and Z-Clipping. In general, know and understand how to use Rock Climbing gear properly.