Making A Cordlette

09 December 2008

Making A Cordlette

Category: Ropework

Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2021).

Making a cordlette is cheap and easy, and although you can buy ready made slings (Wild country Cordlette 135g £20), making your own has many advantages. The length varies depending on how much flexibility you want, varying between 5 to 7 metres of 7mm perlon cord (£1 / 33g per metre). 7 mm perlon is perfect as it has a high breaking strain (11kn when new!), yet is still compact enough to be clipped to the back of your harness. Perlon has a higher stretch then dyneema which means the legs of the cordlette both absorb more impact force, while allowing that force to be spread more evenly. Ideally someone like Beal or Mammut should come out with a dedicated 7mm fully dynamic cord for this role (If you don’t ask you don’t get I suppose). Tie the cord into a loop with two double fisherman’s knots, leaving 15cm of tail, and rack it by forming it into a 60cm loop, tie a knot in the middle, and clip both ends together. The beauty of making it out of inexpensive cord is that you’re more willing to use it for abseil anchors.


• Most importantly of all, in order to limit the advertised chance of loading a single leg of the cord, try and keep all strands as close as possible in length. This may mean using a sling or extender on a far away piece, rather than just using the cordlette as normal. Having very short, or very long legs (compared to the other pieces), will create higher impact forces on those strands.

• Retire your cordlette every 12 months, as perlon will degrade with age. Those with dyneema cordlettes should be aware that although stronger, dyneema has a much shorter life span, made shorter still by its high impact force. If in doubt chuck it out.

• Try and keep the angles low when setting gear in order to maximise their strength. Keep in mind you want you belay matrix to look like a closed fan not an open one.

• Tie a figure of eight rather than an overhand knot if you have enough cord as this will increase the impact absorption of the cordlette (if you have lots of cord then tie two knots).

• When tying the knot(s) don’t be sloppy. Pull down tight, maintain pressure above the where you will tie the knot. Tie the knot then pull down so that all the strands are equally loaded.

• If you’re faced with sideways loads, or an upward pull, then don’t forget to take this into account. You can either use a strand of your cordlette to pre-empt this, or the belayer may use a strand of their rope once in position.

• It is good practice to use two karabiners when clipping into the powerpoint (the main loop on the cordlette), although you can back yourself up by clipping one or both your ropes into anchors with clove hitches or figure of eights.

• If you wish to have an indirect belay when bringing up the second then you can use one of the following methods, listed in order of security.

1. Extend yourself below the powerpoint by using your rope, and run the belay rope through the powerpoint using a second karabiner.

2. If the knot in the cordlette is a sufficient distance from your harness, clip a karabiner into one or two legs of the cordlette.

3. Clip a karabiner to the strongest anchor and run the rope through this.



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Andy Kirkpatrick
Andy Kirkpatrick

Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.

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