The rope is the best material available to attach yourself to the anchor, due to its dynamic properties - but sometimes a separate lanyard might be beneficial. Lanyards can be used for numerous reasons in climbing, to name a few;
Setting up bottom ropes at the top of a crag and clipping to the anchors for personal safety.
An instructor observing clients at the top of the crag whilst not being in the system, clipping into anchors.
Sports climbers clipping into the top anchor of a climb whilst they thread the rope through the anchor to lower off.
Clipping into a bolted belay when bringing climbers up on a guide plate.
Clipping into the anchor before descending a pitch by abseil.
In this article, I am going to review the majority of Adjustable Lanyards that are currently available on the market for standard climbing use. I have not considered lanyards used for industrial access/arborist work (e.g. Petzl Progress, Petzl Grillon or ISC RAD).
Next issue I will examine the use and misuse of lanyards.
There are currently 3 main materials in use for Lanyards.
The internet provides extensive information on the advantages and disadvantages of each material. Briefly here are some pros and cons.
Stretches more than Dyneema.
Less slippery so it can be knotted on itself with less fear of loosening.
It has a higher melting temperature than Dyneema and can thus withstand more friction and heat.
Can be dyed into a variety of colours.
Overhand knots and larks foot weaken overall strength but less than Dyneema.
Needs more material to maintain strength which increases webbing width and weight.
Susceptible to UV and Chemicals.
Absorbs more water and easily freezes
Highly abrasion-resistant and more difficult to cut.
Greater strength to weight ratio makes for lighter, narrower slings.
Excellent resistance to chemicals (except acids) and UV rays.
Can't be dyed (only available in white)
Very low coefficient of friction, vulnerable to slipping when knotted.
Limited elasticity (static) to absorb force in a fall.
More expensive than Nylon.
Overhand knots and larks foot weaken overall strength more than Nylon.
Low melting point, small amount of heat can cause it to fail.
High elasticity (dynamic) to absorb force in a fall.
Cheaper than both Nylon and Dyneema.
Can be knotted in a variety of ways.
Available in a variety of colours.
Susceptible to UV and Chemicals.
Weakens when knotted.
Tests on knotted Dyneema and nylon slings (Check out this DMM Video) have produced some alarming results. The tests are usually carried out with an 80kg weight drop tested to either a Fall Factor of 1 or 2 (Fall Factor = Length of Fall / length of rope out). Falling on an 8mm Dyneema sling with an overhand knot tied in can reduce the slings strength by 42%, falling on a 16mm Nylon sling with an overhand knot in it can reduce the strength by 35% which is due to the slightly increase elasticity of the Nylon. Falling onto a lanyard can create huge shock loading. Due to the dynamic nature of the climbing rope, the rope can absorb a lot of the energy before it being transferred to the anchor and is thus the best material to be used in a lanyard.
Types of Adjustable Lanyard
A daisy chain is a sling (usually made from Dyneema, though Black Diamond do make one from Nylon) sewn into a collection of pockets. The strength of the sling is 22kN but each individual pocket can only take 2kN. It is designed to be full strength end to end and the pockets are to hold body weight only.
This is by far my LEAST favourite lanyard and I would not recommend its use for clipping direct into the anchor. It uses static material and has no absorption in the system. I only have it in here for completeness. There have been accidents with misuse by people accidently only clipping in using the pockets or incorrectly shortening the sling and the sling breaking. The video here by Black Diamond explains this well.
Combination Chain Link Sling
This is the first lanyard on review that is specifically designed as an adjustable lanyard. A vast improvement on the standard daisy chain as each of the loops is 22kN in strength. One end of the chain is designed to be larks footed into the harness and then you just clip the relevant loop into the anchor. There are quite a few on the market made from either Dyneema (Metolius PAS 22, Grivel etc) or Nylon (Sterling Chain Reactor). They are quite simple to adjust and relatively easy to store on the harness by wrapping around the waist but some items on your harness may want to clip themselves to the loops.
One of the original types of adjustable lanyards since it requires no specialist equipment, just a decent length of 6 or 7mm cord, thus it is the cheapest lanyard to buy/make. Most cord available under 7mm is classed as Static and NOT Dynamic. It takes a little bit of practice to tie and is very bulky to store on the harness. It can and does slip and is a bit of a pain to adjust as it requires two hands. This can mean that slack can easily be built into the system, which is not good as although the system will slip to absorb a lot of the energy the materials are all STATIC with a breaking strain ~7.5kN.
Dynamic Rope with a Prusik
A slight improvement on the Purcell. This system uses a length of 9mm dynamic rope tied direct to the harness at one end and a karabiner at the other. The adjustment comes with a separate prusik on the rope clipped back to the harness. Again, the lanyard is bulky and cumbersome to store on the harness and the adjustment still requires two hands. The lanyard is quick and easy to make with cheap and easily available materials.
Gadgets allow one to adjust the lanyard length without having to unclip the attachment karabiner.
Dyneema Sling / Dynamic Rope with a Kong Duck
A Kong Duck is a rope clamp that simply replaces a prusik. As it has no teeth and due to its configuration it can be used not only ropes but on slings from 10mm to 15mm. Currently all nylon slings appear to exceed this diameter, thus this can only be used with a Dyneema sling or climbing rope. It is easier to adjust than the prusik, even one-handed. However, using this with Dyneema creates a fully static system: taking a small slip onto a clamp on a Dyneema sling could be catastrophic.
Cost for Duck: £45
Nylon Sling / Dyneema Sling / Dynamic Rope with a Climbing TechnologyRollnLock
The Climbing Technology RollnLock is a rope clamp like the Kong Duck but with improvements. These improvements are mainly for its use as a progress capture hauling device. I personally think it's a great piece of kit for improvised rescue/hauling. It can be used to clamp webbing 10mm to 16mm which takes in Nylon slings as well. Again, it is toothless and is designed to work well on wet or dirty ropes. It works well with dynamic rope and is quite easy to shorten but requires two hands to lengthen. For the same reasons for the Kong Duck I don't use it with slings. It's relatively expensive.
Cost for RollnLock: £58
The Slyde is a very simple plate capable of taking a 9-10mm dynamic rope, the plate has a strength of 25kN and a weight of 143g including rope but not Karabiner. The plate can either be clipped to the harness or clipped to the anchor (I find it easier to use when clipped to the anchor and the rope tied to my harness, but it's personal preference) and then the rope is manipulated through the plate to either lengthen or shorten the lanyard. I've been using this for the past 12 months and it works well. Shortening the lanyard by pulling through the plate is a simple and very smooth. To lengthen the lanyard, you tension the rope and then twist the plate to allow the rope to pass through. This takes practice but once mastered it works well. I've not had it slip or creep on me even with extended use. I really rate this fully adjustable lanyard, and it's cheap as chips.
This is Petzl's purpose-built Adjustable Lanyard which adjusts from 15 to 95cm. It uses Petzl's Arial 9.5mm dynamic climbing rope. The Adjust comes with an ergonomic plate that is smooth to use, even smoother than the Slyde. It is the same bulk as the Slyde and weights slightly less at 128g (not inc. Karabiner). Where the Adjust differs from the Slyde is the attachment point at both ends and the price. The Adjust has a loop that is larks footed to the harness and the plate is stopped from moving up the back bar on the karabiner by a rubber ring.
I find Adjustable Lanyards using dynamic rope are the best and there is little to choose between the Kong Slyde and the Petzl Connect Adjust but the Petzl Connect Adjust is just that little bit smoother. If I was advising a client which to buy then I’d probably advise the Petzl adjust as it is purpose built for the task and does the job well.
It’s worth experimenting with different types of attachment carabiner, but currently my preferred is the Edelrid Strike Slider FG for my Knog Slyde (though it doesn’t work well with the Petzl Adjust due to Size) due to its easy opening action yet still being at automatic locking.
It doesn’t matter which Lanyard you use, taking a dynamic fall on to your anchors whilst attached with a lanyard should be avoided at ALL COSTS. There is no reason for not owning an adjustable lanyard when the Kong Slyde only costs £5 for the plate and £3 for some new 9mm dynamic rope.