Lanyards fall into two major groups.
- Steel core lanyard, or “flip line.” This is a stiff lanyard used by spike climbers during tree removals. It has a strong steel core in the center that can be easily flipped up the tree as the climber walks up the tree. These lanyards use a mechanical ascender to adjust their length. They are heavy and cumbersome for any other application, like pinpoint positioning out on a long branch walk. These lanyards are considered “chainsaw resistant,” but they are NOT “chainsaw proof.”
- The rope lanyard is a primary climbing tool. You have to have one if you are serious about tree climbing. Rope lanyards are short pieces of arborist rope used to temporarily hold a climber in position or climb short distances. They also provide a second attachment point for safety, such as when a tree worker is making a cut.
When you're in a tree and your ropes are all close together, it can be hard to know which rope is going where. To make identification easier, have a lanyard with a different color than your long climbing rope.
Your rope lanyard needs to be a two-way system: you need to be able to go up with it and then go back down with it. Being able to adjust the length of your lanyard while it is loaded with your weight is crucial for getting into the best position, like when you are going to make a cut or throw a throw weight and line into another section of the tree.
The length of lanyard you use determines how versatile it is. If you use a short lanyard, say 10 feet or less, it will be good only for a temporary tie-in point or a close position setting. A lanyard of 25 feet or longer will permit you to climb longer distances and provide you with more positioning opportunities.
Lanyards have come a long way since the cave man days of leather straps and double buckles. Pre-made ones come in a number of different configurations and lengths. Some have sewn or hand-spliced tight-eyes on both ends that accept double action auto-locking carabiners. Others for professional use have locking snaps sewn in on both ends with an adjusting device. Some have a fixed mechanical ascender between the two ends, while others use a mechanical ascender and a sewn-in locking snap. New systems are being developed every year, too.
The most versatile system to date is a double-ended lanyard (CE lanyard or Hipstar Flex lanyard). One end uses a Pinto pulley along with a hitch cord. The other end uses a short loop to make a 6-wrap Prusik knot. A climber uses both ends to “leapfrog” between settings for long protected branch walks. This system is particularly useful for a new climber who needs a feeling of more security. The 30-foot length gives the climber the most options.
If you are new to tree climbing, a homemade lanyard is acceptable. All you need is a 25-40 foot piece of 10-13mm arborist rope with a termination knot (figure eight on a bight or anchor bend) tied at both ends to take a carabiner. You can tie your knots or use a 6-wrap sliding Prusik loop to make this lanyard adjustable. There are other ways to make the lanyard adjustable; the right way is the one you understand and use regularly. As you get more skilled at tree climbing, you might want a pre-made lanyard that works more smoothly.
No matter if you’re climbing for fun or tree work, you must always use a bombproof setup that will provide complete safety hour after hour, climb after climb. Practice low to the ground first to get used to how you can use the new technology. Look at the videos, and hang out with another climber who uses the system.