Beta Climbing Designs Clip Stick
If you're not sure what a clip stick is I'll give you a brief intro. It's a portable sport climbing aid which allows you to pre-clip your rope into the lower bolts of a sport climb before leaving the ground. The first five metres or so of climbing on a sport route are arguably the most dangerous simply because the chance of hitting the ground is so much higher. There are countless tales of people slipping off before clipping the first bolt, and hitting the deck. It is perfectly acceptable to use an aid to not only place the quickdraw in the lower bolts before you set off, but also to pre-clip the rope through these bolts. And that’s where the Beta Stick Evo comes in.
There are numerous models on the market, but the Beta is the most well known. Developed on the sport crags of the Peak District and distributed by Beta Climbing Designs out of Sheffield, it's a great success story.
There are three Evo models which essentially all do the same thing, but are different lengths. The basic principle is a cleverly designed green head on the end of an extendable pole. The extendable pole is where the different lengths come in. There are seven sections to the stick, each a fraction smaller in diameter than the next. By releasing the six plastic clamps you can easily slide the sections out to their maximum length (there is a stop to make sure you don't disconnect them). This is where the three different length models differ.
Ultra Compact 55 - 238cm
Super Standard 74 - 374cm
Ultra Long 113 - 648cm
This review is testing the Super Standard.
Retailing at £54.99 you could argue that it's hardly worth paying money to clip a bolt that you are about to clip as you climb past, but that would be entirely missing the point. The price tag reflects the design that has gone into this bit of kit. It exudes quality.
The sliding sections are hardly ground breaking technology, with similar versions seen in walking poles, tripods and many other extendable items. I do like the fact that the sections are not round; there is a longitudinal groove down each one which means that it's impossible for any uncontrolled twisting to occur. The clamps work well - easy to open and close, but never accidentally opening.
The real trickery comes in the head itself. If you were to look at it out of context you'd assume it was simply the component part of something else entirely. It is essentially a cradle which houses a karibiner, with a folding metal bar that looks like an oversized paper clip, to hold open the gate of the said karibiner. Once the karibiner is in the cradle it's simply a case of reaching up to the required bolt, poking the open end through, and pulling sharply down. The karibiner snaps shut onto the bolt. This can be done with or without the rope threaded through the lower karibiner of your quickdraw.
To put that in to context, I am just shy of 2m tall, and can reach a bit higher than that. The Super Standard stick has a reach of 374cm so I can reach a bolt well in excess of 5m off the deck. The Ultra Long will go out to a whopping 648cm so you are talking over 8m! That said, things do get trickier the further up you go, as the end becomes more difficult to control, and also to actually see in enough detail to make the clip.
I find that it's definitely a too handed job to hold it steady enough, with my lower hand holding the rope tight against the stick and feeding it up as the stick is extended.
Whilst the above clipping is the most useful feature of the stick, it is by no means the only thing you can do with it. For starters it has a clippable hole which means you can carry it with you and literally clip-stick your way up a route, reaching up and clipping quickdraws and your rope as you go - very useful if you are working a hard route, or are out by yourself and need to put a top rope into place without easy access to the belay.
It also has a shallow hook shape to it which is useful for pulling down the rope between clips 1 and 2 so that when a rope is pulled from a belay, it doesn't fall all the way to the ground requiring it to be clipped back into a now already in-situ quickdraw in bolt 1.
This latter action is actually possible with the stick, but it is a fairly fiddly affair and takes a good deal of practice to do it effectively. It essentially means threading a loop of rope through the cradle, with the gate closed, passing the loop around the karibiner you want to clip, and pulling one end of the loop slowly to open the gate of the karibiner enough to clip it. It requires clear space around the karibiner so doesn't really work on slabs. I'd suggest watching a video.
There us one final feature that the stick has up its sleeve but it's another tricky one. By placing a single karabiner in the cradle, and threading a loop of rope as in the previous paragraph, it is possible to remove a quickdraw from a bolt, but again, it's super tricky and doesn't work on slabs so I'd recommend watching a video to master it at home rather than at the crag.
I guess the last thing to mention is that the Ultra Compact, whilst it doesn't have the reach of its bigger cousins, is designed to fit inside a rucksack or bag whereas the others poke out and thus don't travel so well.
A cracking piece of kit, designed at one of the homes of sport climbing, by climbers who climb. Can't recommend it enough.
More info here.