December 7, 2020

Climbing Cordelette Tips: The Complete Guide

by Jullie

Table of Contents

Cordelette is considered key rappelling equipment by many climbers. Two or more protection points are connected quickly by this piece of rappelling gear. It becomes a well-distributed but redundant anchor that can not be extended. There are different lengths and diameters of cord available in a cordelette.

The cordelette can be used in several crafty ways. For example, bunny ear, overhand knot, or even without a knot. We will discuss them in other tips. As of now, we will learn about textbook rigging, a tide loop, and a larger one.

What is a Cordelette?

The cordelette is a circular accessory cord about 6mm in diameter. Its main purpose in climbing is setting up anchors and rappels, as it is more lightweight than webbing when the climber is hanging on a harness. For most circumstances, 20-25ft of the accessory cord should be sufficient.

What are Some of the Advantages of Using Cordelette in Climbing?

The cordelette has several advantages over other types of accessory cords in climbing.

  • It provides more friction on the rope when you pull up on it.
  • It provides more friction on the rope when you are rappelling down.

General Tips About the Use of Cordelette

The cordelette is a critical gear for climbing. But, people do not give enough importance to it. The reason is that a highly dependable anchor can be made from an ordinary cordelette. 

You only have to join two or more points. Many climbers use it in place of natural anchors. Most climbers can do that quickly. Still, some tips about cordelettes are not that famous. I will share some of those less popular tips here. Before that, we need to understand what a cordelette is.

You should know the difference between a standard climbing rope and a cordelette. Generally, it comes in 7 mm dia and 20 feet in length. There can be minor variations. Usually, it is tied with a 5.5 or 6 mm high-tech cord as a thumb rule. Climbers mostly use it in a big loop with a double or triple fisherman’s knot.

Hence, a cordelette can be differentiated from a rope quickly. It is comparatively short and thin and made of cords. If you want to collect more information about how to rappel with just a rope or climbing ropes, please refer to the comprehensive guide written by me.

Besides using it as an anchor for rock climbing, a cordelette can also be used in other ways. Your climbing experience will be made safer and more enjoyable by it. There are some tips on cordelette which I want to share. I wish I had known these quick tips earlier when I started my climbing hobby.

1) The bunny ears method – the best loop alternative

After using the cordelette in the traditional loop style, I quickly understood one fact. The conventional style is much less flexible. So, I started seeking alternatives. Fortunately, I came across the bunny ears method. Basically, the style includes tying a small loop at the ends.

How is it useful? In this form, the cordelette could reach gear placements, which could be too far apart otherwise. Furthermore, you have the option to pass separate blocks or other natural anchors like trees around the rock block.

2) Choose the length and thickness of the cordelette based on your climbing situation

While it may seem a no-brainer, you don’t need to use the same cordelette again and again from different climbing sessions. For example, if you’re climbing in snowy areas, go for a thinner cord.

A 6 mm thick cord with 14 to 16 feet of length would suffice the situation. On the flip side, a thicker cord makes the best choice for climbing in rocky areas. 

A 7 mm thick cord with a 20-feet length should work in such places. In simple words, it’s best to check your surrounding conditions before selecting the type of cord.

3) Let the double fisherman’s knot rest in a fixed position

Many users feel uncomfortable keeping the double fisherman’s knot in the right position. If you face a similar challenge, you may want to keep track of the knot’s position. So, how exactly can you do that?

Here’s a solution. A clove hitch can fix the knot just next to the highest piece of the gear when you’re busy building the anchor. Such an arrangement also ensures that the main knot is not even close to your master point. That brings peace of mind.

4) Rack your cordelette

Racking a cordelette might appear too intimidating. However, I employ a simple and straightforward approach to racking my cordelette. I just fold it in half three times until it gets shrunk to a decent size. Then I twist it upwards to keep it fixed in place.

Here, you should be aware of one point. Never allow the tails to go while folding. Plus, once you twist the cord upwards, fasten it to a big carabiner. By this point, it’s ready to go on the climbing rack.

5) How to get the perfect length every time

There could be times when you may finish up with a shorter or longer cordelette. If so, you may take specific steps to ensure the right length every time. For example, if your cord is too short, add a new sling to the gear piece that’s the farthest away.

With a longer cord, you might be inclined to pin the loop to your gear. However, you’re better off passing your loop through the carabiner’s one end. That results in four strands of cord coming out of the gear piece as opposed to the traditional two strands. So, you can have an elevated anchor master point.

6) If you have an extra cord, tie figure 8 to the master point

You may wonder why tie figure 8 in place of the overhand knot to the master point. Well, figure 8 is known for absorbing more fall force than the overhand knot.

That makes it better as it sends out less fall force to the piece of the gear itself. However, as mentioned above, be sure you have an adequate cord for proper tying. If not, opt for the regular overhand.


7) Keep the cord loops tidy when you tie the master point knot

Keeping the cord loops tidy when tying the knot could be a task. However, there’s a simple solution to ease this task. Simply fasten the belay carabiner into your cord.

You may want to do this before tying the masterpoint knot. In case you’re just like me and wish the cords to be organized neatly, foster this habit. You’ll never have to deal with messy, untidy cord loops again.

10 Uses of a Codelette in Rock Climbing

This is a list of the best 10 uses of a cordelette in rock climbing.

  1. With the 3rd hand Autoblock, create an extended rappel.
  2. Evading a belay.
  3. If constructing a gear belay, use the S.E.R.E.N.E. anchor.
  4. Tie a “quad” for top ropes and two-piece belays.
  5. Climb a rope.
  6. Cut it into bail anchors.
  7. For tandem rappels, tie a “rescue spider”.
  8. Build a hauling system.
  9. Rappel past a knot or lower a climber past a knot.
  10. Use it as an aid for that slightly too-difficult crux maneuver.

How long should my Cordelette be?

A textbook cordelette should be 20 feet long with a diameter of 7 mm. It is tied into a big loop using a proper double fisherman’s knot. Generally speaking, it can be slightly shorter or longer. The knot is secured with a high-tech cord of 6 or 5.5mm diameter.

How to Make a Cordelette?

To make a cordelette we will begin with the essential tips. First of all, get a high-quality cord, measuring about 21 feet long and 6.7 mm to 8 mm thick. In case you wish to go top-roping, a thicker cord would be recommended.

That being said, a thinner cord makes a suitable choice for multi-pitch climbing. The following are the steps that should help you make a cordelette very easily.

  • First and foremost, let the cord loop around so that the two ends overlap. As a thumb rule, overlap the cord around 30 inches. That should produce better results.
  • Pick one side of the cord. Holding this side, tie a double fisherman’s knot around the opposite side. Be sure you brush up the knots before use. In case you haven’t brushed, go through my small guide here. As well as providing useful brushing tips, it’ll let you speed up the brushing process.
  • If you choose a cord with a slippery sheath or a small diameter cord, tie a triple fisherman’s knot. That should render some kind of safety. The knot’s end should feature a 1 to 2-inch tail at the end.
  • Take another triple or double fisherman’s knot. Tie it on the other side of the cord. Be sure it carries a 1 to 2-inch tail coming out of it. I believe that there’s no need for me to inform you that both the knots should be very tight. To be sure, try to make it as tight as you can.
  • Now pull the cord such that the fisherman’s knots stay tight next to one another.
  • Seal your cordelette’s tails with tape. Taping will keep the tails from snagging. In addition to this, mark the cordelette so that it’s easier for you to identify it when you’re up there—using colored tape does the trick for easy identification of your cordelette.

How Strong is Cordelette?

When brand new, 6mm cordelette can hold about 2,000 pounds. According to the ITRS study, the same cordelette may fail at 1,200 pounds when dirty. If a 165-pound climber climbs five feet off the belay and falls onto the anchor, approximately 1,800 pounds of force will be generated.

How Thick Does Cordelette Need to be for an Anchor?

For a cordelette with a good thickness use 7mm or 8mm nylon cord or 5mm high-strength UHMW polyethylene of 18 to 20 feet tied in a loop.

How Do You Cut Cordelette?

If you want to cut a cordelette, use a serrated knife and then a lighter or stove to fuse the ends together. Masking tape should be applied to the area you will be cutting. Burn the tape with a lighter after cutting through it. The tape will prevent fraying before melting.

How Much Cordelette Do I Need for a Quad Anchor?

To build a quad anchor, either a cordelette or a quadruple-length sling of at least 14 feet in length (6mm nylon or 5.5mm tech cord) is required. Both can be carried easily on your harness. Fold your cordelette or sling into one giant loop and then double it into a smaller, two-strand loop.

How to Rack, Coil, Tie a Cordelette and Build Climbing Anchors with Cordelettes?

The best way to learn how to rack, coil, tie a cordelette and build climbing anchors with cordelettes is by watching the following cordelette videos.

  1. How to Rack Cordelette by REI, posted on Jul 1, 2019 via YouTube. The video is 3:44 minutes long.
  2. Climbing anchors: The Cordelette by Obsession Climbing, posted on Jan 31, 2018 via YouTube. The video is 0:32 minutes long.
  3. Basic & Intermediate Outdoor Climbing: 7. Top Rope Anchor by Climbing Tech Tips, posted on Feb 2, 2018 via YouTube. The video is 1:58 minutes long.

Which are the Best Cordelette Products to Buy?

Two of the best cordelette products to buy are PMI 7mm Cordelette with Lumi-Line 7 mm available on REI and Sterling Rop 7mm Cordelette available on Sterling.

Final Thoughts on the Cordelettes

Making a cordelette might appear intimidating. However, it’s easy to get away with this chore by following the above steps. Within no time, you could make a cordelette effortlessly. The cordelette is considered a handy and dependable anchor for climbing.

It has proved its worth several times. Please ensure to follow the guidelines while using it. It is highly crucial to do so for securing knots. Alternatively, natural anchors like trees can also be used. But, it also depends upon the circumstances and climbing environment. In any case, let us hope that these quick tips helped you in your climbing experience.

As I told you earlier, I always wanted that these quick tips should have been known to me when I first started my climbing journey. I wish I had known them much earlier when I started. They would have certainly made my climbing experience more comfortable.

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About the author 


Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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