6

When learning to sport climb, I was taught not to pass any of my fingers through the gate of the carabiner when clipping into a quickdraw. Lest any of my fingers get stuck and degloved in the case of a fall while clipping. Has this ever happened? Is this a realistic concern?


In an effort to lead climb more efficiently, I was researching different methods of clipping quickdraws. During my search, I found that one often recommendation when clipping with (eg) one's right hand into a quickdraw whose gate is facing right is

Pinch Clip Technique

  • Starting from your tie-in knot at your harness, slide your hand down the rope to grab a length of rope.
  • As you bring the rope up to the quickdraw, let it run over your pointer finger.
  • Use your thumb on the spine of the rope-end carabiner to stabilize the carabiner.
  • Push the rope and your pointer finger into and through the gate of the carabiner to clip the rope.

Source: REI, emphasis: mine.


Some sources warn against putting fingers through the gate while using the pinch clip technique:

Quick safety tips when clipping quickdraws

Keep your fingers out of the carabiner

Push the rope into the carabiner gate, rather than your fingers. You don’t want to lose them if the event of a fall!

Source: Moja Gear

  • 3
    Not quite the same, but years ago I observed an accident where the leader attempted to grab the quick draw during a fall. Managed to pierce his hand between his thumb and index finger and hang himself off his hand. Still makes me queasy when see people grabbing gear. – StrongBad Aug 28 at 19:08
4

In short: Yes this has happened, and so it is a realistic concern.

It's not common, but I have heard of it happening (usually resulting in a small finger scrape, not degloving). People in this reddit thread say they've seen it happen.

To illustrate the danger, try it. Put your pointer finger in between the gate and edge of a carabiner at home and pull it out very slowly. Now imagine doing it very fast. Not so fun.

More thoughts:

I think there's a bit more to this--yes, many climbers do pinch clip with no problem. This is partly because with lots of practice, the clip happens quick enough that the finger barely goes through the gate, relying on the stiffness of the rope to push through. Does that mean it's safe? No, but people do it.

You were probably told not to put your finger through the gate as a well-intended effort to make you nervous around carabiners. You were also probably told not to grab onto quick-draws (or carabiners) with your whole hand, because instead of scraping off a finger, you could get a biner through your palm--much worse. This is probably a good attitude to have, as climbing is of course dangerous.

Citation for impaling yourself on draws: https://rockandice.com/climbing-accidents/impaled-by-a-quickdraw/

  • This is the first time I heard this in a longish time climbing. And holding onto quickdraws in my experience is common practice if you don't feel comfortable clipping. Now obviously this doesn't mean it's save, but I don't understand how I get the biner through my hand doing that. Even if I fully slip, and can't hold on, how am I not just slipping past the quickdraw but ramming my palm through the biner. Ah and this technique (pulling on draws), is even considered as "first grade aid"/"french-freeing" (yes, that's incorrect, I know), and I have never even heard anyone mention that danger. – imsodin Aug 28 at 21:06
  • 1
    Imagine grabbing with your right hand a right facing draw. Since the force is mostly between your thumb and first finger, as you slide down the draw the gate opens and lets your hand rotate so that the bottom of the draw is pointing straight into your palm. Now that's 60kg of person moving at a few m/s being supported by less than 1 square cm of metal... bad news. Again, you can try this at home (slowly) and see how it will sometimes catch the skin of your palm. Added a citation to my answer that's relevant. – jhch Aug 28 at 21:21
  • @JohnHughes you should add the intsagram photo from the link to the answer. – StrongBad Aug 28 at 21:51
  • Sorry, I am all for in question take the save way. However using this citation as argument to not hold onto draws is ridiculous. That guy was above the draw when falling, and doesn't remember what he did, but probably grabbed while falling. So if your recommendation is to not grab a quickdraw (or by that matter anything) when falling, then 100% agree. I stand by my statement that it's common practice to hold onto quickdraws statically and that I see no reason not to do so. The linked article has even a section in the end about "how to grab draws". – imsodin Aug 29 at 9:35
  • Yeah, I mean, the reason not to do so is explained above, in that in very similar situations it has happened, and so it seems possible it could happen here. Do I do it sometimes? Yes, but that's an informed decision I (and the OP, and you) get to make. – jhch Aug 29 at 14:30
3

As there's ample anecdotal evidence, bad things can happen when doing this. There's also ample anecdotal evidence, that bad things will likely not happen. When bad things happen, scratches and even more rarely degloving is mentioned. I can reproduce scratches with placing my finger really badly below the opened gate. And sure, if I can avoid scratches, I'd rather do. Then again, scratches are a permanent companion of mine when climbing. So to put i perspective: It happens rarely and the outcome isn't particularly dramatic.

In addition I consider this a non-issue, due to: Rule 1: You don't fall while clipping.
While clipping you are at the highest possible point above the last protection. You may also be exhausted and need a rest. So before you decide to clip, you must judge the situation whether you have a position you can maintain during clipping. If not, adjust it, or if you are too exhausted, descend or make a controlled fall into the lower protection. Anything is better than an uncontrolled fall while clipping. And you don't want to fumble that draw, maybe even get panicky and then fall while clipping. So train clipping until it's second nature and really fast.
(As pointed out in comments: As every good rule this isn't absolute and has exceptions, e.g. when trying to send a hard project on your limit (in which case you anticipate the fall and know the rock and falling/"impact" zone and the associated risk.)

About some scary evidence of impaling your hand with a quickdraw: The case documented in John Hughes answer was from grabbing a quickdraw in a fall. Now if no-one ever told you that, let me do it for you: Rule 2: Do not grab anything to try and stop your fall. You are on belay (hopefully), so there's no reason to do so. Even if you don't injure yourself (remember, impaled quickdraw *urgh*), you will likely make the fall worse (instead of just falling, you might turn and twist and hit the wall side-ways or whatever). Do fall training, so it's in muscle memory how to behave when falling.

  • 3
    I think your rule 1 is too extreme. Maybe something like never take an unexpected fall while clipping. When pushing your limits, especially onsight limits, on a steep sport route it is perfectly reasonable to risk a fall during clipping. – StrongBad Aug 29 at 15:41
  • 1
    @StrongBad True, edited that in (don't instead of never) - thanks for the remark. – imsodin Aug 29 at 16:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.