Instructions for rigging your Corde Lisse from a friendly tree bough


Throw the blue cord over the bough perhaps using keys or better yet, a spare trainer

Shake the blue cord so that the trainer lowers to within your reach

Fasten the caribiner to the blue cord which is furthest away from you

Add the strop.  Open caribiner and loop the strop inside, closing the caribiner

Pass the rest of the blue cord through the climbing strop as shown

Pull tight so that the corde lisse eye is out of the way at about shoulder height.  Fasten the end of the blue cord to a weight like a rucksack while you work on the next bit

Throw the second cord over the tree as near as possible to the first blue cord (this will make it easier later).  We’ve used keys this time

Attach the circus equipment by its tail to this new blue cord hanging over the bough

Again pass all the free blue cord through the same climbing strop in the manner shown

You can fasten this end of the blue cord to the rucksack also if needed

Here’s an illustration of how it looks in the field - I’ve taken to using red and blue cords so I can more easily identify what’s going on!

Here’s something else I learnt to make life a lot easier.  Before you pull the equipment (and strop) over the bough, drape a long piece of free cord over the strop as shown above


There is a whipping motion you can do with the equipment followed by a tug with the blue cord to get it over the bough


Now you will you pull the cords:

1) the corde lisse eye will go over the bough - your goal is now for it to go down through the climbing strop!  Pitfalls - ensure the strop is not twisted.

2) the corde lisse tail will also go over the bough and pass through the climbing strop as shown



Now that the tail end is through the strop it should be possible to get the large eye through also, as shown above.  Jiggling your blue cords in different directions will help here

Presto!  The eye and the tail of the equipment are over the bough and through the climbing strop.  Assess the situation and then keep pulling the base of the circus equipment as shown

The circus equipment is almost through to its final hanging position.


NB avoid getting the strop caught just under the eye (top-right).  If this happens you might decide to climb the rope (which won’t really be secure) and pull the strop out

We hang as follows human > equipment > caribiner > strop > bough. 


Potential hazards: a cracked caribiner or one with the gate not shut; a weak or dead bough.  Study the operating instructions for the caribiner and for the strop.

Our corde lisse - ready to climb…. We need to make preparations for taking down the equipment.  I prefer to do these next, before we begin our practice time.


NB the free blue cord hangs down in the middle of the picture - this addition will make it easier to get the equipment down

A summary: the cord has been thrown over the bough and back through the strop (to which the other end is tied). 


NB the caribiner is omitted from these sketches but is clipped around the strop at the point where it meets the cord.

We then pull the cord so that the strop starts to feed through itself making a secure connection

We carry on pulling until we have locked the strop in place (above).  The * * * indicate where our ‘free cord’ is hanging.  This finishes up looped over the eye of the strop and will shortly act as a pulley.  Tugging on it makes the the ‘eye’ bigger, too.


Take the free end of the first blue cord (the other end is attached to the corde lisse eye).  Thread it through the eye in the hanging blue pulley cord.


Pull on the left-hand cord to send the dark blue cord up through the eye of the strop and back down again.

We are using the free blue cord as a pulley to send the other cords through the eye of the strop, these cords are, or will be, attached to the corde lisse eye and tail.

In this instance the red cord is being sent upwards and through the eye of the strop, by pulling on the free cord.

The ‘free cord’ (blue) has helped you pass the red cord through the eye of the strop.  You can now separate the red cord from the free cord (our pulley).

The red cord now hangs down from the eye in the strop.  Identify the end which does NOT hang down from the eye itself, and throw this end over the bough …

This is the end to throw. . .

. . . over the bough.  (The pulley cord remains in place - not shown here)

… so that the red cord ends up like this - repeat with the blue cord


Wrap all the spare cords out of the way around the tree while you are using the corde lisse - ensuring that you do not damage the bark



Where my finger and thumb are is the ‘eye of the strop’


If you tug on the eye of the strop with the ‘free cord’, you make a huge big opening through which you will later be able to pull the entire circus equipment back through.

Fastening the red cord to the corde lisse we ensure that the end attached to the corde lisse tail is the one hanging down from the ‘eye of the strop’. 

Now we can pull on the red cord (see arrow above) and ‘send’ the tail of the rope back up through the eye of the strop.


By pulling on the strop with the free cord you should be able to create a bigger loop in the eye of the strop (above).  You are pulling on the cord attached to the eye, sending it up, through the loop and over the bough.

Pull the tail of the white rope and this should all now go through the climbing strop.  The red circle shows you where the equipment is not yet free.

The equipment - now free


You will need to release all the cords and the caribiner.  The cords can be tied neatly away.

Equipment needed:

* Three blue cords 10m+ in length

1) to pull down on the eye of the strop and create a space for the white rope to pass through

2) to send the corde lisse tail up through the eye of the strop over the bough and back down

3) to send the corde lisse eye up through the eye of the strop over the bough and back down

* One climbing strop - in this case 120cm

Polypropylene rope ties reliable knots in tricky conditions but they can be hard to untie.  It is probably kinder to the tree bough than washing-line, your other alternative.


Tips: you need to ensure that you pull the corde lisse eye and corde lisse tail over the bough from the same side.  I tend to fasten the cords (to the corde lisse tail and to the caribiner) with a thumb knot and several half-hitches.


You need to ensure that when dismantling the equipment, you are pulling the equipment UP through the eye of the strop up over the bough and back down.  It’s therefore important when you are sending the cords through your pulley system that you bear this in mind.  Ensure that you lower the corde lisse eye gradually to the ground - caribiners should on no account be dropped.


The bough here is 4-5metres high and I believe this technique ought to work for higher boughs too.  You will be limited by how high you can throw and the length of the corde lisse.


These instructions are issued as a guide but no responsibility is taken for their interpretation.


Photographs taken: Finsbury Park, Harringay Ladder chez moi, Trent Park


(c) David Walsh 2009