Rope Ladder





Introduction: Rope Ladder

We do geocaching with family and friends and sometimes it's really hard to get someone somewhere high or low and rope ladder comes quite handy. This instructable is about our first one made only from two ropes as we had plenty of ropes around ;)

Safety first, so adult person with common sense should be involved during usage of this ladder. Placing this kind of ladder against sharp edges or hot objects could cause serious injuries as a result of fall from destroyed ladder. Please stay safe and consider backup belay.

(Quality of photos is really poor. It's because my digital camera was always somewhere else than I was. Sorry for that.)

Step 1: Ideas and Expectations

This ladder should have:
- eye at the top for hanging
- two tails at the bottom for tactical usage
- width for one foot
- height as long as possible :) lets say 7 meters 
- reasonable weight
- eye is crucial and needs protection (rope thimble)
- rungs are made from rope
- knots are under rungs only

Step 2: Material and Tools

- main rope - static rope 7 mm in diameter (15 kN, blue color)
- rope for rungs - reep 6 mm in diameter (10.5 kN, golden color)
- insulating tape
- rope thimble

- tape measure
- scissors
- round nose pliers
- lighter and bowl of water
- pen and notepad
- tying tool (just a piece of wood and two long nails, 16 cm between them)

Step 3: Math

Don't be afraid, it's nothing complicated. Just a few calculations of rope lengths. Let's see:

Golden rope (the one for rungs, 6 mm in diameter)
You need 1.8 meter for every rung and 3 rungs for every 1 meter of ladder, plus 1 bottom rung. So:

7 meter ladder = 7 x 3 rungs + 1 rung = 22 rungs = 22 x 1.8 meters of rope = 39.6 meters of rope

Allow yourself some reserve for tying knots and burning ends. 41 meters should be enough.

Blue rope (the one for main strings, 7 mm in diameter)
You need two times height of ladder plus knots plus top eye plus bottom tails:

7 meter ladder = (2 x 7) + (22 x 2 x 0.1) + (1.5) + (2 x 1) meters of rope = 21.9 meters of rope

Again, having some reserve is recommended, 24 meters is fine.

Step 4: Rungs

This part needs the most of your strength and patience. Mark 1.8 m from the end of golden rope and wind it twice around tool. Then start winding around these four lines. Do it with force and after five or six winds pull back lower line in order to move these winds to right as much as possible and also to make lower lines loose for reeve the end. Continue winding till the left end, get left side from the tool and reeve the end of rope through the lower loop. Put upper loop back on tool, check and tight the winding and pull the rope with marker (which leeds to rest of rope) really powerfully to close lower left loop and fix the winding. Get it down from the tool, cut the rope and burn both ends. If some loop is too small or tight use pliers to extend it. Rungs should have the same number of winds, ours have 20.

Step 5: Right Side

One way you can string rungs is from the top. If you don't care about rest of your blue rope, just make top eye and string rung on both ends, make knots under it and repeat.

Other way is little more complicated, but rest of your blue rope will be in one piece. String one side of all rungs and tie first knot 1 meter from the end on right side. You have one tail and one support for the lowest rung. Now tie knot under every rung observing the space between knots is exactly 33 cm. Repeat until you have knots on one side under all rungs.  After few knots it could become complicated to make these knots and reeve whole done part. Making 'packages of rungs' should help.

Step 6: Eye

Just make loose eight-figure knot, mark rope at the edges of the thimble and wind tape between marks. Tight the knot right next to thimble and fix the thimble with tape if needed. 

Step 7: Left Side

Reeve rungs one by one and tie knots under them. After the lowest one leave 1 meter rope for tail, cut the rope and burn the end.

And that's all folks ;)



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    25 Discussions

    Nice !
    But you climb it the wrong way. Nothing to worry about as long as you wear the shoes with strong heels that will prevent your foot to sleep from the rung.
    Nonetheless beware ! If you ever climb with sneakers or this kind of low heel shoes they may well slip from the rung leaving you in a precarious situation.
    Watch how trapeze artists, other gymnasts, mountain climbers and speleologists climb up the same type of ladder : they do it sideways, the ladder running between their legs, one foot on one side (end of foot) the other via the heel. This has great advantages : 1) it is safe, 2) it is very stable as the weight is distributed on either side of the ladder at all time, 3) hence it is not tiring : you do not have to hold on the ladder with you arms as you do when climbing the ladder facing you since the weight of your body makes the ladder swing off from your feet. I guess that your heel first would be an answer tho the latter problem, however it involves a lot of twist an unnatural posture that may well lead to mishap. Of course the tree prevents you from swinging that much, thus making it a safer climb (or so I guess) but not that safe !…
    Try the "trapeze style climbing" : I learned it when I practiced trapeze a long time ago … Since then I would never climb an other way. And each time I watch people climbing the "wrong" way I see them progressing very slowly and panting their lungs out after three meters !…

    Happy tree climbing (spring is here !…)
    Be safe.

    And thank you agains for posting : very nice instructable about the ladder !

    10 replies

    hi vincent7520,

    many thanks for your comment. my 'technique' was based on three words which friend of my friend told him: 'use your heels!' :D i've never seen somebody around use this kind of ladder without getting feet over head, so it was quite good advise as i was able to climb. now i've checked your trapez artists method and if you mean something like

    then it seems a lot better. really appreciate your advise and next time i give it a try ;)

    Yep !… that's the one !…
    Try it and you'll never go back to another way of climbing !!…
    Have fun !…

    Do you think your technique will work okay with the ladder against a tree?

    Ah ! That's a good question !… I would give it a try anyway.
    Maybe you should offset it a little bit.
    Anyway you'll always have to adapt in a changing situation.

    i gave it a try during the last weekend and it worked 8D
    maybe i had a little strange feeling at the beginning, but after a while it was ok.
    thanks ;)

    I'm glad I helped !…
    I made many comments on inst' but never had a chance to post anything that I found worth it. So it's great my comment helped you : albeit minimal it is a contribution.
    Have fun !…

    hi rf,

    i'm not sure what exactly do you mean. if it is about my climbing technique than as vincent7520 said it's definitelly wrong :D see his post for more info...

    My mistake. I meant to say that Vincent's technique may not work against the tree. All of the examples of his technique that I could find show free-standing rope ladders, with nothing in the way ... like the tree.

    Beautiful project….
    To be cheaper & faster (& uglier) I wonder how practical it would be to use lengths of old garden hose for the outer layer of the rungs instead of winding rope around rope? (So the weight would still be on 4 horizontal ropes, but run them through strips of hose and tie off the ends).

    1 reply

    hi dsweitzer,

    thanks for comment. garden hose was one of considered alternatives (still on our whiteboard ;)), but in my opinion it has more cons: 1) knot of four horizontal ropes must be outside of hose or they must be sew together 2) ends of hose are too weak, they spread and rung will go over supporting knot 3) old garden hose gets brittle 4) it's uggly :D. another alternative was polypropylene pipes, but they are fragile if cold and also they are rough to main ropes...

    This is really cool but I have one question. If you use it to climb a tree, how do you get it in the tree in the first place?

    1 reply


    thanks for good question ;) in fact it's simple. all you need is thin cord, static rope and tennis ball (or short stick). tie ball to the end of thin cord and throw it over high and huge branch. then tie ends of cord and rope together and pull cord in order to get rope over branch. tie the end of rope to the eye of ladder (use eight-figure knot) and use rope to get ladder high. finally wind rope around the tree trunk (at least five times) and tie knot to fix it on place.

    i usually add small pulley to the rope/eye connection for standard 'top rope' belay.

    Good tutorial. Do you think I could make one with paracords?

    2 replies

    hi fillon,
    although paracord is strong enough, i think there would be some other issues using it. 1) paracord is elastic with elongation of 30%. 2) paracord is only 3-4 mm in diameter, so weaving rungs would need maybe twice more paracord than reep rope and i'm not sure rungs will be stiff enough. i don't use paracord as i have plenty of reep and static ropes around. maybe you could do some tests before doing whole ladder. try to hang paracord loop and step into it. you will see how elasticity works. also weaving of one rung can give you good example if it works. good luck and please let us know how it works with paracord.

    Tank you very much rinkishimo for your reply. I might try it or just use the ropes you suggested. It's true paracord is thin and rather elastic. I hadn't thought of that. Thanks again. :)

    why are your feet on the "wrong" side of the ladder in the picture(you just posing and not climbing,,seems awkward and dangerous to me. what am i missing ???

    1 reply

    hi georion,
    you just can't climb rope ladder (without fixed bottom) way you climb standard ladder. my technique is not ideal, but usable. right technique is described in vincent7520's posts. you can see it here: