What are Rope Ladders?

Malcolm Tatum

Rope ladders are flexible ladders composed mainly of sections of strong rope. Over the years a couple of slightly different designs for the rope ladder have emerged, although the basic premise remains the same. Ladders of this type are easy to store and can come in very handy in situations where a traditional rigid ladder is not practical.

Rope ladders are made from strong rope.
Rope ladders are made from strong rope.

In basic design, rope ladders utilize strong rope for the side pieces. Two different strategies can be employed with the rungs of the ladder. The simplest approach is to create flexible rungs made from the same type of rope used for the side pieces. An alternative is to use wood or metal sections to create rigid rungs for incorporation into the ladder design.

Building a rope ladder is a relatively simple process. For the side pieces, cut two sections of rope that are slightly longer than the total length you want for the ladder. Make sure to leave enough extra length in each section to tie knots at the desired intervals. These knots will support each of the rungs. Also leave a little extra length for hooks at one end that can be used to secure the ladder into position.

The next step in creating your rope ladder is to install the rungs. For wooden or metal rungs, drill holes that are large enough for the side ropes to slide through with ease. Beginning at one end, tie a knot in each of the side pieces. Slide the rung into position just under the first set of knots, then tie in a second set of knots just below the rung. Repeat this process with each rung you add to the ladder.

If you prefer to install flexible rungs on your ladder, the process is very similar. You still want to tie knots in the side pieces above and below where the rope lung is tied and knotted onto the side pieces. Using this dual knot system adds stability to the ladder itself, while still allowing the general design to be flexible and therefore easily stored.

Rope ladders are practical for many different applications. Ladders of this type are ideal for use with backyard tree houses. People who live in multi-story homes may choose to keep rope ladders on each upper floor, creating a means of exiting the home in the event of a fire or other disaster that blocks access to the exits on the main floor. Rock climbers sometimes take along the ladders as part of their basic equipment, using them for scaling areas where hand and foot holds are not readily available.

For people who do not want to make their own ladders, it is possible to purchase commercially produced rope ladders from many sporting stores, as well as some home and garden shops. When purchasing a ready made ladder or the materials to make your own, pay close attention to the weight load of the materials that go into the design. Stay away from designs that will not support at least the weight of the average adult male. If at all possible, make sure to go with rope ladders that are capable of supporting at least two people at any given time.

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