Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tree Climbing Part III

Rope Ladder  - Sheva Apelbaum

In my last two blog posts (Tree climbing part I and Tree Climbing part II), I discussed the methods and saftey used for ascending and descending trees using an 11mm climbing rope and a 2” 3 strand rope. In this blog (part 3 of 3), I will discuss the specific methods I use when climbing a rope ladder to get to my tree house.

Rope Ladder History
From the research I have done, it looks like rope ladders have been used for hundreds of years on ships. One reason why they are so popular is because when they are not in use, you can easily fold and store them away. They don’t take up much room and they are much easier to use than a regular rope. Today, rope ladders are still used a lot for rescue operations (air, sea and land).

Climbing Up
If you’ve tried climbing a regular solid ladder you probably agree that it’s almost as easy as climbing the stairs, (it might be even easier because you can use your hands to help pull you up). But rope ladders are completely different. They require special arm and foot strength, body position, and preparation.

When I first climbed the rope ladder, I quickly found that because it is made out of two parallel ropes, it was very flexible and difficult to control. Each time I placed my foot on the rungs, it twisted and moved away from me. I also found that unlike a regular ladder, I could not climb the rope ladder without using my hands to actively pull myself upwards (which is similar to rope climbing).

Shortly after my dad finished building the rope ladder (I will post the plans and instruction for building one soon), my sister, Avital, jumped on it immediately. She climbed on the first rung and started swinging around like the grade “A” monkey that she is, but after a few minutes she hadn’t made any progress upward. Clearly, there were some steps she was missing.

When it was my turn, I tried stepping on the first rung but after completing that step I realized that I was also stuck. So then I tried using what I know about rope climbing and with some changes I found that that worked well. After more practice, I was able to come up with the following simple steps to make your next rope ladder climbing adventure a breeze.

  1. Stand in front of the step ladder
  2. Raise both of your hand as high over your head as you can
  3. Grab the highest rung you can with both hands, placing each hand as far apart as you can (it will help you stabilize yourself)
  4. Pull yourself upwards with your arms while raising your feet as high as you can
  5. Place your feet on the nearest rung
  6. Shift the weight of your body to your legs while pushing upwards
  7. Raise your stronger arm (I’m right handed) and grab the next rung above, this time placing your hand on the middle of it
  8. Place your right foot on the next rung above
  9. Push upwards with your right leg while pulling yourself upwards with your right arm
  10. Continue to repeat steps 8 and 9 until you reach the top.

Another method I found to work well is to replace steps 8 and 9 with alternating left leg and right hand. This make up for a smoother climb but takes more practice.

Climbing Down
Climbing down a rope ladder is very similar to climbing up with the only difference being the order of your hands and feet. When going down, place both feet on the first rung and then lower first your right foot and then your right hand. Repeat these steps until you reach the ground.

Skin and Climbing
I have found that if you climb the rope ladder enough, you will end up getting at least some blisters. My dad told me that this happens because while climbing, pressure and friction build up between my hands and the wooden rungs.

I can use gloves, but I don’t like to because they tend to make me clumsy. On the positive side (if getting blister can be positive), I discovered that once I get blisters and they heal, the skin on my hands becomes tougher and I don’t get any new blisters in those spots.

Safety Tips
Here are a few suggestions for maximizing the gain and reducing the pain.

  1. Before pushing yourself upwards, make sure that you have good footing (your foot fits well on the rung
  2. Never jump from the rope ladder mid air because you can hurt yourself when landing
  3. Be prepared that the rope ladder will swing around as you climb
  4. Before starting to climb, make sure the rope is clear of any branches or obstructions

I hope you enjoyed reading my 3-part series about tree climbing. I have certainly enjoyed
both climbing and writing about it.

Happy climbing!

1 comment:

  1. I am soooo happy you wrote about how to climb rope ladders, because now I feel at least a little more capable of climbing one on a ship, which I hope someday to do--but NOT in a rescue operation--well, okay, only if absolutely neccessary!

    Once I climbed the mast of a ship, using a harness like your's. It was very strenuous, but possible!

    Thank you for this very entertaining and beautiful blog--I so love to come in and I'm actually learning something at the same time, which makes me feel clever!