By Dave Westlake
Commercial clip sticks have been around since the early 2000s and the original Beta Clip Stick was one of the first. It quickly became the market leader, and before long the Beta Stick could be seen in action at sport crags around the world. Beta Climbing Designs - a small British company based in Sheffield - have recently released a new and improved version known as the Beta Stick Evo. I’ve been giving this a whirl over the last few months, and found it to be a significant improvement on the original.
But before we get into that, some of you may be wondering what the hell a clip stick is…
Why would you need a clip stick? They look a bit weird, don’t they? It’s true to say that at first the clip stick can seem a fringe concern, and occasional sport climbers might consider it an unnecessary luxury. But for climbers who hit the bolted climbs on a regular basis, or those who climb at the many crags which have unnervingly high first bolts, it doesn’t take long to see how useful they are.
It is well accepted that using a telescopic pole to attach a quickdraw, and the rope, to the first or second bolt is a smart and safe way to reduce the risk of slipping off at the foot of the climb and hurting yourself. It also gives you a little less to think about, meaning you can focus on the climbing and getting off to a good start on your route. It can also be useful when working a route, because having the rope above you can help enormously, and stick clipping bolts from below is by far the least strenuous way of getting it there.
The Beta Stick Evo, as the name suggests, is an evolved version of the original, which itself represented a step forward from the DIY approach many pre-early millennium climbers will be familiar with. The original Beta Stick meant that gone were the days when a high first bolt left you scrabbling around at the foot of the cliff, looking for a suitably shaped stick and a small twig or stone to lodge between the gate of the carabiner. My main recollection of this process (which I was reminded of recently when I left my beta stick in the car) was the frustration of some part of the makeshift system failing. Either the twig snaps, the quickdraw falls out, or the stick is too bendy. With a bit of perseverance this usually worked in the end, but not everyone wants a Robinson Crusoe experience every time they embark on a sport climb!
The Evo features several improvements over the original, through changes to both the head unit and the pole. Here’s a run down of the key advances:
Better stability and durability
The Evo pole is less prone to twisting than its predecessor, thanks to a grooved design and external clips. The older model used a twist lock system with an internal spring. This was less durable (mine broke eventually) and not so easy to adjust with gloves. The new clips feel solid and I found them much easier to use. Another small change to the head unit also helps with stability. The deeper cradle means carabiners of pretty much all shapes and sizes are held more securely, and they are less likely to slip out when (inevitably) you knock the rock or the bolt before getting it hooked into the bolt hanger.
Improved functionality – more clipping and retrieval options
Beta have made retrieving the rope and quickdraws much easier. Often, you need to drag the rope down in a way that leaves you with the first bolt clipped, and the new hook at the base of the head unit makes this a doddle. It is also pretty easy to clip the rope into a quickdraw that is in situ – using a bight of rope placed into the silver gate catch. This is known as ‘lasso’ or ‘rodeo’ clipping, though using the Beta Stick to do this is much less visually impressive than the cowboy party trick version you may see at the crag! (watch Magnus Midtbø give a tutorial here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1eCTAma4mY). With a bit of skill, this can also be used to retrieve a quickdraw, though this isn’t super easy.
Since the original was released in 2002 carabiner technology has advanced, and now smaller carabiners are more common. The revised shape of the Evo goes some way to accommodating this, and the new size adjuster does the rest. Sliding the gate catch between the two size positions is easy and means you’ll be able to use the Evo with pretty much any quickdraw. I tried it with several brands, large and small, solid and wire gate, and found it worked perfectly every time.
The balance of reach and portability is important, and there are also a few length options:
I tested the longest one, which is great if you want the biggest reach, and especially good for clipping far up the route. There is a weight and bulk penalty with this though, and I think I’d opt for the Ultra-compact model as a rule. This is short and light enough to clip to your harness, using the handy eyelet that keeps the heavy end low. This still has decent extension and would suit most climbers – especially if you want to take it on flights without baggage hassle.
Its often tempting not to change a tried and tested classic, but Beta Climbing Designs have made some significant improvements in the Beta Stick Evo. These bring this invaluable device up to modern standards and keep it at the cutting edge of sport climbing paraphernalia. If you’ve never used a clip stick, and sport climb regularly, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Evo. And if you’re a seasoned clip-sticker you’ll no doubt appreciate the performance and durability improvements seen in this new and improved model.