Exploring the Harder Side of Caving
Dan Clyde "A Caving Tribute"

Ladder            Everybody knows what a cable ladder is, well how about a web ladder? Several years ago I was in a situation where I need a cable ladder, but didn’t want to spend the money for one so I came up with this idea. A cable ladder made out of webbing and PVC pipe.

            The problem with cable ladders is they are expensive, bulky, tangle easy, and will start to break at around 800 pounds. The web ladder on the other hand is cheaper to make, compact, doesn’t tangle as much and has the tension strength of 4000 pounds if built right. They work really well for a big group that you need to get up a wall. The first person takes the ladder up and hooks it up then everybody else climbs with a belay device or top belay,

            So how do you build one? First you need high strength, continuous woven shuttle loom 1” tubular nylon webbing, 4,000-pound test. This is what all the cave suppliers’ sale. The next thing you need is 1-inch schedule 30 PVC pipe. How much you need depends on how long you want the ladder. For a 30-foot ladder with 6-inch wide step 11 ½ inches apart you will need around 100 feet of webbing and 15 ½ feet of PVC pipe.

            First, cut the PVC pipe into 6-inch lengths. Then sand the inside edges smooth so they don’t cut into the webbing. I rounded mine. Next cut 10-inch long strips of webbing for you steps. I used 31 for my 30-foot long ladder. If you want loops on each end of the ladder, then you will need to cut the remaining webbing in half. If not leave it in one piece and minus one 10-inch strip of webbing.

            Start from the top of the webbing measure down 10 ½ inches and mark a mark with a felt pen. This is where the first rung will be. You will need all that 10 ½ inches of webbing for the loops. Now mark every 11-½ inches until you run out of webbing. If you are not going to put loops on the bottom then I would recommend that you fold the webbing in half and mark both sides at the same time so they are even.

            To make the loops you fold 5 ½ inches over and sew up 2-½ inch, which will give you a 3-inch loop. If you think you are going to use the ladder a lot I would recommend that you take a 5-inch piece of webbing and sew it inside the loop for wear

            I can’t sew so I had a professional do it for me using high strength nylon thread. On rope is an excellent book to get your sewing and thread information. First he sewed the top loops. Then he went to each tick mark and sewed 1-½ inches of the webbing strips on. When he got one side done he put the PVC through the strips and sewed the strip to the other main piece. As you can see in the picture the ladder sides are not flat, but vertical and the steps are sewn above the rungs. This creates a down pull on the thread not a side pull, which is stronger.

            When using the ladder clip each loop to something solid or clip the loops together and clip into something solid. The ladder works just like a cable ladder and will swing around as you climb, so you need to climb with one foot and hand on each side of the ladder and use some sort of belay. It can be stuffed just like a rope and will come out okay, most of the time. So there you have a cheap, lightweight and very strong ladder.

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