/ Cordelette vs long sling

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mcawle 23 Mar 2020

Hi all,

I keep seeing references to cordelette, especially for equalising/creating a master/power point between multiple piece trad anchors.

I take a cordelette to be a long length (how long?) of 7mm static cord joined into a loop with a double fisherman's knot.

What's the advantage of this over a 120 or 240cm sling?

Cheers,

Michael

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Garethza 23 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

The advantage is: Americans wont argue with you over why you use a sling instead of a cordelette at a belay.. ! 

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Wil Treasure 23 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

A Cordelette will usually be longer, meaning you can equalise more pieces of gear or gear that is further apart. You can buy regular slings this length too.

Advantages of one made from cord: It's got a little bit of give, so can absorb some shock on the belay (although you should still treat it as static). It can be tied with a figure 8 on the bight at either end instead of a loop to get a longer useable length with less cord. It can also be cut up and retied to use as abseil anchors.

Personally I very rarely use one in the UK, just occasionally when I'm guiding someone on a multipitch route. Even then I'm more likely to just use slings for the belay, or one of the ropes and then swap ends.

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henwardian 23 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

I use a 400cm dyneema sling. It's almost always enough to make a belay on its own. You could argue that it's lighter and stronger than a cordalette made from cord but I don't think there is any meaningful difference that you would notice when you get used to things.

Maybe the stretch in the cord would be better if factor 2ing the belay but I'd argue that if that is one of your main concerns something very dubious and inadvisable is going on!

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Dan Arkle 23 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

In reply to mcawle:

Americans love them.  They are useful for powerpoints, multipitch where you swap leads, guiding.

Sings will do the same job, and are lighter, more compact and versatile. Dyneema is much weaker when knotted.

Most people I climb with mainly use rope for the belay. Its dynamic, equalises loads far better, and you have 60m of it.
 

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mcawle 23 Mar 2020
In reply to Garethza:

> The advantage is: Americans wont argue with you over why you use a sling instead of a cordelette at a belay.. ! 

Hah, most important!

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mcawle 23 Mar 2020
In reply to Wil Treasure:

> A Cordelette will usually be longer, meaning you can equalise more pieces of gear or gear that is further apart. You can buy regular slings this length too.

> Advantages of one made from cord: It's got a little bit of give, so can absorb some shock on the belay (although you should still treat it as static). It can be tied with a figure 8 on the bight at either end instead of a loop to get a longer useable length with less cord. It can also be cut up and retied to use as abseil anchors.

> Personally I very rarely use one in the UK, just occasionally when I'm guiding someone on a multipitch route. Even then I'm more likely to just use slings for the belay, or one of the ropes and then swap ends.

Thanks. So you're thinking a 7-8m cord joined to make a 3.5-4m loop right? And so comparable to a 4m sling. What are you using for the cordelette material? Just 7mm accessory cord?

Good point re: fig 8 on a bight option and role as spare tat.

As an aside, do you ever use guide mode when bringing up a second, and if so do you ever do it without a power point (whether sling or cordelette)?

I'm familiar with a method of guide mode using the rope assuming double ropes and a two piece belay (clove hitch one rope to each piece of gear, then overhand knot in both ropes and clip the belay plate into that), but obviously that doesn't work if you need more than two pieces for a solid belay. (I generally just tie into all pieces with the rope and belay from the harness, but experimenting with guide mode a bit.)

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deacondeacon 23 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

Serious question. Why not just use your rope? I suppose if you're leading every pitch then fair enough but if youre on single pitch or swapping leads on multipitch is it not easier to use your rope? 

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David Coley 23 Mar 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

It is easier to offer a direct belay

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mcawle 23 Mar 2020
In reply to henwardian:

> I use a 400cm dyneema sling. It's almost always enough to make a belay on its own. You could argue that it's lighter and stronger than a cordalette made from cord but I don't think there is any meaningful difference that you would notice when you get used to things.

> Maybe the stretch in the cord would be better if factor 2ing the belay but I'd argue that if that is one of your main concerns something very dubious and inadvisable is going on!

Understood, thanks. I see DMM do a 400cm 8mm sling, which looks handy.

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mcawle 23 Mar 2020
In reply to Dan Arkle:

> In reply to mcawle:

> Americans love them.  They are useful for powerpoints, multipitch where you swap leads, guiding.

> Sings will do the same job, and are lighter, more compact and versatile. Dyneema is much weaker when knotted.

> Most people I climb with mainly use rope for the belay. Its dynamic, equalises loads far better, and you have 60m of it.

Yes understood. I have mainly been using the rope to date as well. Main advantages of the powerpoint I see are (1) ease of getting the second clipped in if climbing with someone newer; (2) ease of guide mode if more than two pieces in the belay.

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David Coley 23 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

A 120 would be way too short for anything but a bolted anchor.

7m of 7mm is the norm.

Many think this better than a sling for the following reasons

1. if you are doing alpine, you need a have a bunch of ab tat. Your cordelette is this tat.

2. cheaper

3. in windy conditions a 4m sling is more of a pain to coil up

4. by forming it into a open sling (i.e. leave as one long length with a figure 8 on a bite on each end) you can use it as a closed sling (both 8's on the same carabiner) or open, each end on a different piece (with the obvious reduction in strength). This can be useful when you have 4+ pieces, or if one piece is a long way away.

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mcawle 23 Mar 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

> Serious question. Why not just use your rope? I suppose if you're leading every pitch then fair enough but if youre on single pitch or swapping leads on multipitch is it not easier to use your rope? 

Yes it's a good point and this has been my practice up to now. Mostly motivated by simplicity with a multipiece belay (especially when second arrives) and potential for guide mode. Do you tend to just belay from the harness?

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Wil Treasure 23 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

I have used 7mm, 8mm is usually going to be stronger though. In reality you'll be using multiple strands though. And yes, a 4m loop.

I use guide mode lots when bringing up seconds, both sport and trad routes (multipitch ones, rarely on single pitch). On multipitch I'll usually only use one rope to equalise the belay, using it like a cordelette. If you clove hitch the first runner (with slack so you can move) then you have an isolated central point to attach the belay plate and yourself.

As I said, I rarely use a cordelette because I find the other, lighter options on my harness much better to use. That might be different if I'm climbing as a 3 or hauling a bag.

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mcawle 23 Mar 2020
In reply to David Coley:

> A 120 would be way too short for anything but a bolted anchor.

> 7m of 7mm is the norm.

> Many think this better than a sling for the following reasons

> 1. if you are doing alpine, you need a have a bunch of ab tat. Your cordelette is this tat.

> 2. cheaper

> 3. in windy conditions a 4m sling is more of a pain to coil up

> 4. by forming it into a open sling (i.e. leave as one long length with a figure 8 on a bite on each end) you can use it as a closed sling (both 8's on the same carabiner) or open, each end on a different piece (with the obvious reduction in strength). This can be useful when you have 4+ pieces, or if one piece is a long way away.

Understood. Thanks. I like the fig 8 on a bight option, especially noting your point about joining them into a loop with a carabiner.

How do you tend to carry it on your harness? I haven't carried a sling longer than 240cm before and just twist it up on the carabiner. 

And would you carry one and the second carry one too, on assumption you'd potentially want one for each belay on multipitch?

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mcawle 23 Mar 2020
In reply to Wil Treasure:

> I use guide mode lots when bringing up seconds, both sport and trad routes (multipitch ones, rarely on single pitch). On multipitch I'll usually only use one rope to equalise the belay, using it like a cordelette. If you clove hitch the first runner (with slack so you can move) then you have an isolated central point to attach the belay plate and yourself.

Thanks - can you please elaborate on this point? I can't visualise it. Say you're at a belay and have got 2-3 pieces of gear in. How would you use the rope to equalise and for guide mode?

(Understood your other points, thanks.)

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C Witter 23 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

> Thanks - can you please elaborate on this point? I can't visualise it. Say you're at a belay and have got 2-3 pieces of gear in. How would you use the rope to equalise and for guide mode?

> (Understood your other points, thanks.)

I think the system Wil describes is:

You clove hitch yourself to a piece of gear (A1) with plenty of slack, then add more gear (A2 and A3). You are only attached to A1, but isolated from the system you are about to create.

You take the live rope and run it through crabs on A2 and A3, drawing all the rope together here into a "big f*cking knot", which is the "master point" at which the system is equalised. Ideally, you would tie a knot which gives two or three loops. You need to make sure to close off the system on A3, probably by incorporating the live rope (running from A3 to your second) into your BFK, or else with a clove hitch or other appropriate knot.

You now have a big double V shape of rope, which is a closed off system with several loops for attaching yourself, guideplate and seconds to, in an equalised manner. The big advantage of this system over normal systems incorporating a rope, is that you can very easily escape the system, whilst leaving everything more or less in place.

Hope that's clear and helpful.

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Jasonic 23 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

Made one from 5m of 7mm, so once knotted is about 240cm- sometimes use a 240cm sling which is lighter less bulky. Mostly use 60cm slings as extendable runners, then couple 120cms- one of these naturally extends the range.

Useful in certain situations- around big blocks- for equalising/extending gear. 

Also if leading all the pitches its useful to be able to equalise the belay without the rope.

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Wil Treasure 23 Mar 2020
In reply to C Witter:

Yes, that's right.

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C Witter 23 Mar 2020
In reply to Wil Treasure:

> Yes, that's right.

The question I have, thinking about it, is how do you lead off again, after using this system?

Do you just build this system so you can use your guide plate despite distant anchors, bring up your second(s), attach them directly to the anchors, then dismantle the initial set-up so you can flake the ropes and lead off? Or do you swap rope ends?

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Wil Treasure 23 Mar 2020
In reply to C Witter:

I would swap rope ends. I'd only do it this way if I really wanted to use guide mode for some reason.

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David Coley 23 Mar 2020

An alternative, and possibly easier, way to create a direct belay with the rope is to:

1. tie a small loop in the rope 18inch from your harness (alpine butterfly, fig 8 or overhand).

2. treat this loop as a replacement for your belay loop, i.e. put a screw gate on it and clove etc. to the pieces as normal.

3. belay in direct mode from the same loop.

This is termed a direct isolation loop or DIL belay.

Useful images here:

https://people.bath.ac.uk/dac33/high/6TheBelay.htm#dil

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olddirtydoggy 23 Mar 2020
In reply to henwardian:

I've been using this for a couple of years and find it really nice to use on guide mode for shakey seconds. It's become my go to piece when I top out.

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rgold 24 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

I think maybe it has been something of a passing fad in the US.  Some books were written promoting them and virtually all the guides adopted them, taught them to their students, and other climbers saw this and thought it must be the right way to do things.  It is also the true that the US seems to have settled on three trad pieces as a standard anchor, whereas the rest of the world is content with two.  The 20 ft cordelette is sized for three pieces and a figure-eight power point knot.

There's certainly no need for cordelettes for anchoring at the top of single-pitch routes.  On multipitch routes where the climbers alternate leading, there is also no real point, as one can do more and better with just the rope---if one knows how...

The situations in which cordelettes make some sense are ones in which the same person leads some or all pitches consecutively, i.e. guiding or taking out beginners or leading in blocks.  In this case, cordelettes are more efficient than having the second redo the anchor rigging with their rope, although the proponents of cordelettes-for-everything overstate how much time and effort this takes, especially if the second is carrying the carabiners needed.

Cordelettes are useful as tat and can facilitate self-rescue, but then one might just carry them coiled up and not deploy them on every anchor.  Some people claim belay escapes are much harder if the anchor has been constructed with the rope, but this may be a consequence of a lack of knowledge stemming from exclusive cordelette use!

As bolted belay anchors proliferate on trad routes and big walls, more and more people are carrying some type of pre-rigged sling to speed up the belay set-up.  American guides are fond of the "quad," and many European climbers seem to like a double-length sling with a small loop at one end for what David Coley on his site calls a "banshee belay."

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SenzuBean 24 Mar 2020
In reply to David Coley:

> 4. by forming it into a open sling (i.e. leave as one long length with a figure 8 on a bite on each end) you can use it as a closed sling (both 8's on the same carabiner) or open, each end on a different piece (with the obvious reduction in strength). This can be useful when you have 4+ pieces, or if one piece is a long way away.

This is sometimes called a 'snake cord' (I know you know, but for other people to look it up). E.g. here's what Andy K has to say on the matter: https://www.andy-kirkpatrick.com/articles/view/the_snake_cord

It's also useful for augmenting rescue haul systems as well (it's difficult to untie a well-used cordelette, and I wouldn't want to do it under duress). E.g. https://www.alpinesavvy.com/blog/the-alpine-block-and-tackle

I used this system for the last year or so and converted to it - I give it full marks.

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David Coley 24 Mar 2020

My take on all these things is always the same.

Some people like tea, some coffee. Just suck it and see.

But for heavens sake give stuff a go. (In a safe environment.)

Here's an example. If you belay directly at the top of a route, you can coil the rope at the same time, and change into your descent shoes. Then when the second arrives, do the final few coils and walk off. It is kind of strange that UK climbers wait for 20 min at the top of the crag belaying with not a lot else to do, and don't spend the time coiling the ropes!

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nikoid 24 Mar 2020
In reply to David Coley:

I'll still be waiting for my mate, no matter what I do to speed things up!😁

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David Coley 24 Mar 2020
In reply to nikoid:

Sounds like he/she needs a good book on the topic

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matthew 26 Mar 2020
In reply to henwardian:

Dyneema does have its drawbacks. The possiblity of a high factor fall shouldn't be dismissed.

- gear rips or leader slips whilst fiddling in first runner above belay and falls past belayer.

- worse still leader forgets to unclip then falls past belay whilst still clipped in?:>(

Inadvisable for sure, but could happen all too easily.

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L kylelouo9 30 Mar 2020

Do you simply build this system so that you can use your guide plate in spite of distant anchors, deliver up your 2nd(s), attach them directly to find the best nespresso machin from https://topbestnespresso.com to the anchors, then dismantle the initial set-up so you can flake the ropes and lead off? Or do you switch rope ends?

Post edited at 23:06
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barry donovan 30 Mar 2020
In reply to kylelouo9:

Nailed it

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Misha 31 Mar 2020
In reply to David Coley:

Not heard of anyone I know using cordelettes in the Alps. On popular routes there are usually in situ belays, you might need to add a piece or back up the tat but generally a cordelette or long sling isn’t necessary. Two 120cm slings for each person are normally sufficient. You’re right that you would carry some tat but that stays coiled in the sack or in your harness until it’s required to rig an abseil anchor.

I often carry a 240cm sling for UK trad and especially winter but depends on the route / likely anchors / how many 120cm slings I’ve got. A 400cm sling is useful in winter for huge chockstones. Think I’ve only ever take and used it once (the guide book specifically mentioned a huge chock).

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Misha 31 Mar 2020
In reply to kylelouo9:

If you’re leading again, the second would just attach to the powerpoint and then undo it once ready to climb. Obviously that doesn’t work with distant anchors, you’d tie in with the rope, as would your second. Unless you’re referring to Will’s system. That does sound like a faff unless the second is leading through. Coffee would be nice either way though. 

Post edited at 00:49
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Misha 31 Mar 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

Nice to do a direct belay with a guide plate - especially if your second is heavy and falls off! Also don’t need to escape the system I’m a self rescue scenario but that’s obviously something to avoid anyway...

Post edited at 00:53
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rgold 31 Mar 2020
In reply to Misha:

> Not heard of anyone I know using cordelettes in the Alps.

Have a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkx02ANJiDY&feature=youtu.be

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David Coley 31 Mar 2020
In reply to Misha:

Indeed, if the anchor is bolted, a 120 will be fine or even a 60. But most I would suggest would be a building power point using it, rather than tying in with the ropes, which I think was what we were distinguishing.

Also alpine covers a lot more than the popular parts of the European alps. 

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SteveD 31 Mar 2020
In reply to rgold:

Interesting, first time I've seen someone use a girth hitch at the Power point,  I've had training from guides etc from France, Germany and Austria and they all use different methods, I just choose the ones that best suit what I am doing at the time. 

In trad my go to is to use the rope for the anchor but the bulk of my climbing at home is single pitch sea cliffs so leading through isn't an issue.

In the Alps it depends what I am climbing, how many ropes I am using and if I am doing all the leading.

Cheers

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Gareth 31 Mar 2020
In reply to rgold:

I used that system in the Dolomites last year and worked well there with a mix of pegs, bolts and my own gear, but not at every stance.  Sometimes I would be using my ropes, and sometime a 120 sling.  It has probably been said above, having lots of tools in the box means you can adapt to whatever you find / have to hand.  Being flexible in your approach keeps you safe, comfortable a quick

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mcawle 31 Mar 2020
In reply to mcawle:

Thanks everyone for feedback. Playing around with some of this stuff at home in lieu of going outside; it's very helpful.

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Misha 31 Mar 2020
In reply to David Coley:

Whether the anchor consists of bolts, pegs, random fixed gear or a spike, on popular routes in the Alps (especially ones you abseil down) there’s usually reasonably new tat already formed into a power point (or wrapped round a spike), so you just use that, unless of course you judge the tat to be past its sell by date. In my experience it’s fairly rare to have to build your own belay on popular routes. Not unusual to have to add a sling or do a quick power point with one or two 120cm slings if the tat is old and then replace the tat if abbing back down but again you don’t need to do that regularly on the popular routes. So I’ve never felt the need to carry a long sling or cordelette. Even on less popular routes where in situ belays might not be in a good state you can get away with a couple of 120cm slings. If that’s insufficient, you’d just use the rope - either Will’s method or the traditional British approach and give up on using a guide plate. As you say, could be different in other areas.

The thing with long slings and cordelettes is they’re one trick ponies, so given the choice I’d rather carry two 120s rather than a 240. A 120 can be used as a runner, which still leaves the other 120 for the belay, which may well be sufficient. A 240 or a cordelette could well end up being dead weight, depending on the route.

Post edited at 17:38
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Misha 31 Mar 2020
In reply to rgold:

That’s in the Dolomites, not got round to climbing there yet but can imagine that a long sling or a cordelette would be handy there (gear more spread out / less reliable, thus requiring more points / further apart). 

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rgold 31 Mar 2020
In reply to Misha:

Yes, one of the interesting things about the Dolomite usage is tying together a host of presumably sketchy in-situ stuff by threading the cordelette directly and so making use of every piece at the stance without sacrificing a load of carabiners.  I've never seen such situations in the US but can see the utility of the technique "when in Rome..."

The girth-hitched power point demonstrated in the video seems to be working its way across the ocean from the Eastern Alps.  It's been tested and is as secure if one arm breaks.  If you have multiple strands, it is considerably easier to girth hitch rather than clove hitch, and it is easier to get the knot where you want it on the first try.  A substantial advantage is not having a tightened power-point knot to have to loosen after the belayer has been hanging off it for half an hour. (Some people put a carabiner through the power point knot to make it easier to undo, but that sacrifices more gear and you really need a smooth-nosed carabiner if you actually want to save time.)  A potentially drawback for those who have ingrained tied power-point habits is that the "shelf" and anything clipped to it disappears when the knot is undone---best to ditch the "shelf" concept entirely (which in my opinion is no loss at all).

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