Top Tips


Have you ever taken a good look at the state of wear and tear of the quick draws you use on your runners...?

TOP TIP: Quickdraws

Have you ever taken a good look at the state of wear and tear of the quick draws you use on your runners? Not just whether or not the gate closes with a pleasing snick, but also the state of repair of the parts of the karabiner where the rope actually runs?

The majority of the bolt hangers that are found in place on both indoor climbing walls and outdoors on the crags are manufactured from very robust stainless steel and many of the designs have sharp tight-radius corners where karabiners sit when clipped into the eye of the hanger (DMM Eco-bolts being an exception). This sharp edge can damage the softer aluminium alloy from which most karabiners are made, particularly when sports routes are ‘worked’ and when a lot of ‘hanging on the rope’ is taking place. In these situations in particular the krab is twisted back and forth resulting in cuts and grooves on the inside corner of the krab – exactly where the rope would also run in the krab.
The BMC’s Technical Committee has researched this problem in the past and found that these scars on karabiners can result in significant rope damage in the event of a fall taking place with the rope running through a scarred krab.

In order to avoid this possibility many climbers have their quick draws set up with a straight gate krab at one end and a bent gate at the other. The straight gate end is always clipped into the bolt hanger (or other runner for that matter) and the climbing rope is clipped to the bent gate end; thus ensuring the krab with potential scars is kept away from the rope that could be damaged. Using bent gate krabs anywhere other than for clipping the climbing rope is a waste of their value.

If you have quick draws with a wire-gate krab at both ends, think about colour coding the krabs so that the rope is always clipped into the same krab, and the runner, bolts or not, is always clipped into the other end.

Having set up your quick draws it is important that you then stick with using them the correct way round, which means racking them with a little care each time and maybe reminding climbing partners who might borrow them. It’s not an end of the world scenario, but it will help to keep your rope in as good a condition as possible.

2: Karabiners for belaying

Have you ever get fed up with the karabiner on your belay device turning around so that the active climbing ropes are then running over the back bar of the krab, or worse still the gate itself...? Do you ever get fed up with the karabiner on your belay device turning around so that the active climbing ropes are then running over the back bar of the krab, or worse still the gate itself? We seem to have been fed the idea that we must use HMS or ‘pear-shaped’ karabiners in virtually every situation in climbing – particularly in conjunction with belay devices – yet in practice they do not actually work very well in this particular role.

2: Karabiners for belaying

The idea of having a karabiner with a large radius turn at the end is so that the karabiner does not get too close to the actual ‘plate’ section of the belay device and is held away from it by the circular (DMM Bug, for example) or square (Black Diamond ATC, for example) ‘tube’. This stops the device locking up at vital moments such as when leaders are desperately pulling up rope to clip a vital runner. An HMS karabiner obviously provides the large radius turn, but for some reason often swivels and ends up with the ropes running over the side bar, or even the gate.

Despite this common problem, we often still persevere with this arrangement, while often not really knowing why we do. ‘D’ shaped karabiners combined with belay devices are not the best solution either as they let the sharper corner of the krab enter further into a tubular belay device and this can cause unwanted extra friction and even jamming with some rope diameters.

One solution to this problem is the Belay Master (DMM) karabiner and black plastic locking clip. This holds the rope and belay device at the desired end of an HMS shaped karabiner and stops any swivelling into an undesirable geometry. While working well with students, the plastic clip can feel a little pedestrian in experienced hands and some climbers find it downright irritating to the point of spectacular loss of temper!

Maybe a better all-round answer is to return to the classic oval karabiner; rather unfashionable though it has been outside of caving and aid-climbing circles for many years. Not quite as strong a shape inherently as the ‘D’, it is nevertheless stronger than an HMS or ‘pear-shaped’ krab, particularly in a gate open situation. (Gate closed; none of them are ever likely to break in normal circumstances anyway).

The semi-circular end profile stops the krab from entering tubular devices and in use belaying there is negligible swivelling. Petzl make a fine version, the ‘OK’, that has a red band that appears as a warning when the gate is unscrewed. Rated strength is 24kN end-to-end and 7kN with the gate open. Camp also market a very suitable version. Give an oval screwgate a try and you might find yourself wondering how we all succumbed to the irritating and just plainly incorrect ‘HMS is best for everything’ idea in the first place.

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