PAS is an acronym for Personal Anchor System that refers to a sewn piece of gear a climber uses to connect themselves to a climbing anchor. While there are many methods of connecting to an anchor that do not require a PAS, there are also many benefits and functions that PAS offer. The 3 basic types of personal anchor system based on their construction are:

  • Lanyards are made from dynamic materials with one sewn loop to attach to a harness and one sewn loop for the anchor. Sometimes the length is adjustable, other times the length is fixed.
  • Double Lanyards are lanyards with an additional connection point. Often this results in a ‘Y’ shape with two different arm lengths for connecting to anchors at different distances.
  • Chains are made of multiple sewn interlocking rings of webbing, with one longer loop at one end for attaching to a harness.
3 types of PAS
The three main types of PAS are differentiated by their construction. Climbers use Lanyards, Chains, and Double Lanyards to connect themselves to anchors and extend rappels.

Each type of PAS is made to perform the same basic function of connecting the climber to an anchor, but there are distinct advantages that each type can offer. Below we’ll discuss each one in detail and cover a few key features that might make a better choice in certain situations.

Using a PAS to set up a rappel
Climbers primarily use PAS (Personal Anchor Systems) to attach themselves to anchors. Here, Alison and Andreas hang from an anchor using PAS while they set up a rappel. Photo taken near Moab, UT on Diné Bikéyah (Navajo) and Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) ancestral lands.

Lanyards

Lanyard are the most simple form of PAS. They are typically made from a length of kernmantle rope with a sewn loop on one end that is long enough to girth hitch to a harness, and a sewn loop at the opposite end for clipping into an anchor or belay station with a carabiner. Some brands protect the sewing on the loops from abrasion with heat shrink or molded plastic covers, some of which are designed to hold a specified supplied carabiner.

A lanyard PAS device
A lanyard style PAS is usually made from rope material and has 2 sewn ends: One larger loop for girth hitching to the harness and a smaller loop for a carabiner that connects to the anchor.

An advantage to the lanyard PAS is that they are fairly straightforward to operate: The long looped end is girth hitched to the belay loop or hard points of the harness and the other end is clipped to the anchor using a standard locking carabiner. When a climber arrives at an anchor, they simply clip themselves in and lock the carabiner. Because of this simplicity and compact size, many sport climbers keep a lanyard PAS on their harness for a day of single pitch cragging, with the carabiner end simply clipped to a rear gear loop for when they need it to clean and lower or rappel from a bolted anchor.

The fixed length lanyards do have a couple of drawbacks. If the lanyard is too short for a particular belay stance, for example, you may find yourself in the way of other climbers or belaying. A lanyard that is too long can also be an issue, though it is possible to tie knots or hitches in the material of the lanyard to shorten it if needed. You can also tie a knot or hitch to extend a rappel device away from you with a lanyard, but it must be long enough to have enough material to accomplish this.

An adjustable lanyard PAS
Some lanyards are adjustable in length by incorporating a metal device that cinches on the rope. Because this device functions as the connector to an anchor, the end of adjustable lanyards is sewn or knotted into a handle used to pull and shorten the lanyard.

Some lanyards have built-in adjusters which are great for finding comfortable positions at a belay stance, or for getting out of the way of other climbers. Rather than a sewn loop, they incorporate a metal device similar to an assisted braking belay device that pinches the lanyard and allows for more precise adjustment.

Most adjustable lanyards come with a specific carabiner that is designed to work along with the metal adjuster with a planned ratio of safety : ease of adjustment. This ensures the rope will not slip unexpectedly.

All of these lanyards still attach to the harness with a loop just like non-adjustable lanyards. The end of an adjustable lanyard is usually sewn or knotted to create a handle for comfortable pulling while adjusting it shorter. The wider sewn end also ensures the rope and the metal adjuster cannot be detached from eachother.

Though there isn’t a technical designation for PAS, the UIAA and CEN recognize ‘Belay Lanyards for Mountaineering’ with the certification UIAA 109/CE EN 17520. This certification requires testing that ensures the device will not fail when an 80kg load is dropped from above the anchor it is attached to, AND that it must not empart more than 10kN of force to the anchor during that fall. In order to accomplish this, a certified lanyard must be made of dynamic materials that stretch under load. The same testing applies for certified lanyards with adjustable length as well as multiple arms like double lanyards.

Climbers who find themselves in areas with loose rock, uncertain bolts, or anchors made from trad gear often choose a PAS with dynamic materials to help reduce the force on that anchor should they suddenly fall while at the belay stance. To ensure a PAS is made to function this way, it is a good idea to use a UIAA/EN certified lanyard.

Lanyard Examples

The Beal Dynaclip comes in 2 lengths and has a molded plastic grip on the anchor connection end for gripping and positioning while at a belay anchor.

The Switch Adjust from Edelrid has a built-in metal device for adjusting the length longer or shorter. It also includes a screw lock oval carabiner for connecting to the anchor.

Lanyard Summary

The Good

  • Simple, one point of connection
  • Made from stretchy materials
  • Can be certified by UIAA/CE EN
  • Can be adjustable

The Bad

  • Bulkier than other options
  • Non-adjustable models can be too short/too long
  • Adjustable models are the most expensive option

Best Used For

  • Single pitch sport cragging
  • Multi pitch climbs

Non-Adjustable will work for either but adjustable will be more convenient in both situations, especially multi-pitch.

Double Lanyards

Double lanyard PAS operate very similarly to regular lanyards, with the added advantage of a second arm for attaching to the anchor. This second arm is usually shorter and gives you options for different lengths to choose from when positioning at a belay.

Another thing many climbers use the second arm for is extending their rappel device off their harness and away from their body. This allows the device to be clear of hair and clothing while rappelling, but also because the arm is secondary you can stay safely connected with the main arm while you set up a rappel, then disconnect from the anchor quickly and efficiently when you’re ready to go down.

IMG_8690 1
Double arm lanyards can be helpful for cleanly setting up a rappel while staying anchored. Adjustable versions like the one from Petzl pictured here are also great for taking in slack as you transition from the anchor (left, silver carabiner) onto the rappel ropes (right, orange carabiner + green rappel device).
A double lanyard PAS
Double Lanyards function much like a regular Lanyard PAS, with one large loop for connecting to the harness but with the added advantage of a second arm for connecting to multiple anchor points or for extending rappels.

A second arm is also handy if you need redundancy, or find yourself needing to move around. With a second point of connection, it is possible to pass over or under something on the anchor easily by simply disconnecting one arm and placing it where you want to be and locking it, then undoing the other arm and following.

This can be particularly helpful if your anchor is cluttered or there are a lot of climbers, while swapping who leads the pitch, or if another party wants to pass by (going up or down). Without the second arm, getting ‘trapped’ behind weighted gear that is clipped in front of you can be more of an issue, or you may find yourself needing to swim through tangles to sort out a messy anchor.

Double Lanyard Examples

The SBEA Twin Lanyard from Ocun has a short second arm for connecting to the anchor that was also specifically designed to extend a rappel device.

The Petzl Dual Connect Adjust is an adjustable lanyard PAS with a second arm for connecting yourself to an anchor or extending a rappel.

Double Lanyard Summary

The Good

  • More versatile than single lanyard
  • Allows for easier positioning
  • Great for extending rappels
  • Can be adjustable

The Bad

  • More material, bulkier and heaver than other options
  • Less straightforward than single lanyards

Best Used For

  • Multi pitch climbing
  • Keeping clean anchors
  • Extending rappels

Chain PAS

Chain style PAS are made from a series of interlocking loops or ‘links’ that are most often sewn from static materials like Dyneema®. There are some chain loops that are made with more dynamic material (nylon) such as the Sterling Chain Reactor and the Metolius Dynamic PAS.

Similar to other PAS, chains have a long loop on one end for connecting to the harness. Some also have a hard sewn or molded end for holding the carabiner that connects to the anchor. Because it is made from a series of loops, the chain PAS can also be used to make a temporary equalized anchor by connecting two of the links to two points of protection and belaying from a third loop between them.

Using chain PAS as an anchor
Chain style PAS can function as anchor building material if you're in a pinch or moving fast and light (and swapping leads) in terrain with bolted belay stations.

Another great advantage of the chain is that its adjustability does not require a special knot or a connector. To shorten a chain you can simply connect a carabiner from any of its loops to any other loop, thereby bringing them closer together and shortening the whole arm. Using chains to extend rappels you can also clip your rappel device into any one of the links, (even while it is weighted) allowing the extension point to change depending on your needs.

A chain style PAS
Chain style PAS connect to the harness with a long loop and have many interlinked loops to connect to belay stations, extend rappels, and build temporary anchors.

One downside to using a chain PAS often comes from the materials used to create them. Most chain PAS are made from static materials like Dyneema® and have no ability to stretch and absorb force in a sudden fall. Suddenly shock loading an anchor with static material can act as a force multiplier (when falling from above) and can create a potentially dangerous situation that can compromise an anchor, especially in trad situations.

Static chains are not recommended to be used in any situation where there is a potential for falling onto the anchor. Ideally, you would always be below and in line with the anchor, whether you are using a static chain or not.

Some climbers find chains a bit bulkier to store than lanyards. Some climbers will store a chain PAS with the loops stacked on a carabiner and other climbers will store the chain clipped to a rear gear loop.

Because most chain PAS are made from static materials, they cannot absorb fall forces or pass the UIAA/CE EN certification for a belay lanyard as we mentioned above. However, because the strength of these static materials allows them to pass the standard for a sling (UIAA 104/CE EN 566) most manufacturers still get them certified so that climbers know that they are capable of holding some amount of weight (in this case 22kN) and have been tested to do so.

What this means practically, is that without checking the certification, you may or may not be using a PAS that is tested to function as a lanyard, as a sling, both, or neither. Bottom line, if you see UIAA or EN on any PAS (but especially chain style PAS) it is important to know which certification, and not assume that your chain PAS is designed to function as a shock absorbing belay lanyard. To help make this easier, we share every certification in the technical specs of every PAS we list on WeighMyRack.com. This information is also required to be shipped and sold with every certified device and should be printed in the documentation that came with your PAS.

Chain PAS Examples

The Multichain EVO from Climbing Technology is a chain style PAS with a tightly sewn ‘dogbone’ loop at the end for holding a carabiner. It is made of static materials and not certified as a belay lanyard, but can hold 22kN of force and is a UIAA/EN certified sling.

Metolius is currently the only brand we know of that makes a chain PAS that is certified as a belay lanyard. The Dynamic PAS is made from loops of Polyamide/Nylon that stretch when under load, allowing it to absorb fall forces and pass this certification.

Chain PAS Summary

The Good

  • Very versatile; many loops mean many options for shortening or extending
  • Comes in many different lengths (number of links)
  • Modular when weighted
  • Can be used to make an anchor
  • Usually very strong (Dyneema loops can hold 22kN)

The Bad

  • Dyneema® models have minimal stretch which can transfer large amounts of force to anchors particularly if there is a fall from above the anchor
  • Can feel bulkier than a lanyard, definitely bulkier than using a PAS alternative

Best Used For

  • Multipitch Sport
  • Multipitch trad with bolted belays

In Closing

PAS, whether using a chain or lanyard, are most helpful when single pitch cragging, or when climbing multi pitch routes with bolted belay/rappel stations. It’s the fastest and most convenient way to tie into an anchor to prepare to clean the anchor as you get ready to lower, or to transition to a rappel.

Technically, you don’t need a PAS and could use quickdaws or slings in these situations, which are cheaper (especially if you already own them), but they can be far less convenient while setting up a quick, taut, stance at the anchor.

There are also other PAS alternatives that are most helpful when multi-pitch climbing and you want to keep weight and bulk to a minimum. These alternatives are often preferred most by trad and alpine climbers and some of them require more knowledge and practice.

We use a PAS when we single pitch climb since it creates fast and easy transitions. We’ve even experienced the joyous speed that comes when using a PAS as we rappel down 8+ bolted anchor pitches.

We have also recommended a PAS for birthday or holiday gifts for climbers who are about to transition to outdoor climbing as they’re a ‘nice to have’ vs a ‘need to have.’