Rope ladders, whether for climbing into tree forts, boarding a tall ship, or to escape out a window in an emergency, they're an adventure to use. Rope ladders are great when storage space is at a premium or if the vertical distance to cross is nonuniform and a rigid ladder will not work. If you live or work in a building that has a drop to the ground from your window and want to have a collapsible method of escaping in case of an emergency, then a rope ladder may be just what you need.
I live at the end of the hall on the second storey of an old wood-framed apartment building. An alternate exit route was deemed necessary due to the building having wood burning fireplaces, inattentive residents who burn food, and hippy neighbours conducting seances. Considering all this, my apartment building is one mistake away from becoming a fiery inferno.
Since January of this year the fire alarm has been triggered at least once a month, I've never feared for my safety more. Never one to be caught unawares, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create my own method of escape in case of an emergency.
The ladder I made uses glow in the dark rope to promote its location in darkness, hopefully offering a faster route to safety if the power goes out in an emergency situation.
A rope ladder forms part of the solution to getting out alive in the case of an emergency or fire.
Be prepared, ensure you plan and practice your safe exit prior to any actual emergency.
Enough talk, let's build a rope ladder.
Step 1: Overview
A rope ladder is a generic term used to describe any type of flexible ladder, rope ladders are different than regular rigid ladders by having a flexible stringer (vertical component - rope) and usually have rigid rungs (horizontal members - steps). There are a few varieties of rope ladders: some use all rope, some use steel wire, some have plastic rungs, while others have wood. Before you begin, explore the types and the situation you intend to use yours in to ensure it's suitability.
This rope ladder design consists of a wooden top dowel which is wider than the opening to be climbed through. The rope is attached to the top dowel and knotted to each successive rung of the ladder at regular intervals to make a ladder. Other designs exist, however the benefit of having the rope pass through each rung is the rope will not slip off the rung, and the knots cannot be untied.
This design aims to play to the strengths of the wooden top dowel by distributing the load near the window frame and leaving the vulnerable centre of the top dowel free of any point load. During operation the force exerted from climbing is transferred to the window frame, the remainder of the top dowel then acts in compression with minimal lateral load applied (meaning the top dowel is less likely to snap like a twig).
This is a good place to give the obligatory warning:
Be smart, use hardwood dowels of sufficient diameter with rope that is designed to carry the weight of the persons intended to use the rope ladder. If opening for top dowel is too large or dowel type/size or rope is inadequate you risk having your top dowel, ladder rungs or rope failing and exposing users and spectators to the possibility of injury or death.