Review by: maculated, 2005-04-17
Stick clips . . . normally I would be completely against the idea of them. I mean, if a route is so bold that you don't want to lead to the first bolt, then leave it for someone who will. But, there is a place for stick clips out there, too. A great example of this is Pinnacles National Monument in Calfornia. There is one formation, known as the Monolith that features a starting block at least fifteen feet off the deck. Most of the routes require a start out and away before you get to the first bolt. What does this mean? You take a fall before the first clip, you and your partner are in for an ugly fall into the ditch below. Stick clip? Yes please. Yes, even for the 5.6 route.
So when RockIndustry asked me to review the "Grappler," I was happy to oblige, having made do with a stick and some tape for those routes that I just wasn't bold enough to lead. I guess it comes down to ethics for some - but sometimes you just want to do a route without danger. And personally, the survival instinct in me that I constantly battle just to keep climbing likes the idea of the stick clip.
The concept is simple. This one-piece yellow plastic goody screws onto a painter's pole and easily attaches and removes draws for you. Right?
I should have known when I saw the following tip on their website: "It is recommended that you practice with a quick draw hanging from your finger or a low, easily accessible hanger in order to understand the mechanics of how it works." Low. Start LOW.
Unfortunately, the local sport climbing I enjoy rarely has low bolts for practice. So, I decided to simply go out and do what I could to make the stick clip work on routes I'd have no problem leading and cleaning.
There aren't too many routes in J Tree that qualify as "sport climbs" but in Indian Creek there are a few. The first test? Use without reading the instructions. A good piece of equipment to a climber is one that is easily figured out. I tried a few configurations to load the draw and clip, but was COMPLETELY SHUT DOWN. I handed it to both of my other partners, and neither was successful.Okay, so I toted this clip along a few trips to Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Pinnacles after thoroughly reading the instructions and then watching the videos hosted on Rock Industry's site. The first try was in my town, my partner Carrie holding me steady as I leaned way out to clip the hanger. No problem. Removal? Hmm . . .
We spend about fifteen minutes tittering hysterically at the futility of the removal of the draw. Nearby parties are staring at us with wide eyes. Hee hee hee, "snap!" We go silent, it appears to finally have been loaded properly. I gently pull at it as per instructions, and WOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH, the Grappler hurtles my draw about 30 feet. (In later trials, it finds its way into many locations that are not convienent . . . such as on top of my partner's shoes.) <img src="http://photos.rockclimbing.com/photos//525/52506.jpg">Note to self: do not remove draws in hard-to-get-to locations.
I repeat the experiment in Santa Barbara, twice. This time I have my partner Dan give it the college try as well, because by now I am feeling terribly stupid at my inability to make this thing work.<img src="http://photos.rockclimbing.com/photos//525/52507.jpg">
Finally I get up close and personal in Pinnacles, sport climbing Mecca for the central coast of California. I'm laughing maniacally as I think I'll finally conquer the Grappler and have a positive review to write, "Oh, you know, I turn out to be an uncoordinated moron."<img src="http://photos.rockclimbing.com/photos//525/52505.jpg">
The Grappler will not load or unload when it's a thick Fixe hanger, it does not hold the draw steady and in position for any amount of time, and it makes me feel like a grade A moron. Sometimes you just gotta cut your losses.
I feel really bad for the guy that invented this. It's obviously a start up company, but as his website suggests on the welcome page, I had an ample opportunity to experienc fear, chance, and uncertainty. Thumbs down.