Sport Climbing — As you start to climb on sport routes you will get a feel for how to rack your draws (how you hang them on your harness), gates in or out, the easiest way to clip the rope, how much slack to pull up when clipping and how to fall safely. Little tricks like ‘one stop shopping’ which is clipping the draw to the rope and then to the bolt in one smooth motion saves time and energy.
Make sure you seek qualified instruction before you head out to the cliffs. There are some potential safety risks that you will want to learn about before casting off. Ask about clipping draws safely. Back clipping and Z-Clipping are high up on the list of mistakes that the beginning sport climber will want to avoid making.
You will also want to learn how to safely “thread” the chains at the top of a route before lowering off. Make sure you have enough draws for the number of bolts on the climb before starting up. Is your rope long enough for the climb you have in mind? Lowering off your first sport route is nerve-wracking enough without having to worry about all the things you should have learned. All of these things should be taught to you by a qualified instructor—not simply read about in a book or on the internet.
What if I can’t reach the first bolt?
When the first bolt is higher than you feel comfortable climbing up to, you can use a stick clip. A stick clip is a device on the end of an extendable pole, sometimes like painters use, or even a tent pole. With the device on the end of the pole, a quickdraw on the device, and your rope clipped into the quickdraw, you can then reach up and clip the draw on the first bolt. With the rope clipped to the first bolt, you can safely climb up to the first bolt protected from the ground up.
Not your first rodeo?
Better than a stick clip is the ‘rodeo clip.’ A climber makes a loop with the rope and in essence lassos the draw if it is already attached to the first bolt.
Eventually you’ll gain confidence and skill as you progress through the grades and each route can be graded based on a rating system. For an understanding of the Yosemite Decimal Rating System, which is common to nearly all sport climbing areas in the United States, see the beginning climber’s articles.
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