Now, ladders are an unlikely candidate for any level of public reverence, awe, or affection. You rarely see a ladder strolling down the red carpet in front of thousands of adoring fans, or wait with anticipation for the next episode of the newest, biggest, fastest ladder drama. Ladders are rarely considered to be beautiful, inspiring, or a top topic of conversation (except in our warehouse!). But there are a fair number of ladders that touch a place in our hearts, and have achieved a level of world fame that any Hollywood celebrity would be proud of.

The Putucusi Ladders of Machu Picchu

Let us start with the magnificent; the Putucusi Ladders of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is the world famous Inca city located in Peru, South America. Every year thousands flock to this revered site, climbing the 2430m high mountain to experience the amazing views and take in the breath taking structural achievement of the Inca ruins. Machu Picchu (which translates into Old Peak) is one of 3 mountains in the Urubamba valley that are considered to be holy mountains by the local Quechua people. The other two, are Huayna Picchu, or Young Peak, and Putucusi, also known as Happy Mountain. Putucusi is a particularly challenging climb that tends to be attempted only by the brave and the bold, but is worth it for the epic views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding forested valley. As it is off the beaten track, there are also many more opportunities to enjoy the flora and fauna of the region in all its natural glory. The trek up the mountain takes around an hour and a half for a seasoned hiker, and involves approximately 1700 rock and wooden steps and ladders. The first half of the trail is comprised of several very steep vertical tower ladders, one of which is an impressive 100 feet in length. If you decide to embark on the Putucusi challenge, you may want to check out some of the many travel blogs and reviews written by other unsuspecting tourists. Excited, bemused, and even terrified cries of ‘we are going to climb that? appear to be a regular feature. The ladders themselves are simple wooden constructions, and far from infallible; in April 2011, floods hit the valley, and wiped out the entire sections of ladders on the trail. For around a year, the hike could only be completed using specialist climbing equipment. As of June 2012, the trails had been restored, and the ladders back in place, as daunting as they had ever been, and tourists can once again make the dizzying journey to the summit of Putucusi Mountain.

Devils Tower Wooden Ladder

A more historical tribute to ascending fabulous natural monuments, are the remains of the wooden ladder used to climb Devil's Tower in Crook County, north-eastern Wyoming. This mass of igneous rock stands over 1500 metres above sea level, and is sacred to the Native American tribes of the region. The folklore of the regions tribes tells the story of a group of young girls who were attacked by bears whilst they were playing. As the bears were about to come upon the hapless group, they prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. The Great Spirit answered and became a large rock that soared into the sky carrying the girls to safety. The deep grooves in the side of the laccolith are the marks left behind by the bear's claws as they fought to get to their prize. Climbing onto Devils Tower became a popular sport in the 1800s. On July 4th, 1893, ranchers William Rogers and Willard Ripley constructed the first ladder aimed at climbing the south-eastern side of the rock. It is thought that they used a simple structure of wooden stakes driven into crevices in the rock, with vertical wooden planks connecting the stakes, and rungs made from 12 foot lengths of timber. On July 4th, 1893, to a crowd of around 1000 people who had travelled from up to 12 miles away to witness this event, the two gentlemen successfully completed the first ascent of Devils Tower. Two years later William's wife Linnie also made the climb becoming the first woman to successfully scale the Tower. The ladder was used until 1927 when stunt climber Babe The Human Fly White became the final person to climb the Tower without using specialist equipment. That first ascent by the pioneering ranchers resulted in the Tower becoming the meeting place for ranchers and the families to hold their annual picnic in celebration of Independence Day. The ladder was restored to its former glory in 1972; with the lowest 100 feet removed for safety reasons. It now climbs 170 feet to the summit and remains part of the historic Wild West story. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre - 18th Century Ladder! Now, if that was not enough for you, how about a ladder that is considered by many to be a true revelation! The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which has been proposed as the site of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and has been the site of pilgrimages since the 4th century AD. Just below one of the windows above the entrance to the church sits a small wooden ladder. This ladder has not moved since the 18th century. Reference to the ladder was first made in 1757, in an edict made by an Ottoman Sultan. This edict defined the rights and duties that are shared between the six religious groups that use the church for their religious practices. The three primary custodians of the church are the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and the Roman Catholic Church, together with the Coptic, Ethiopian and Syriac Orthodox sects. The problem is, that this edict is really rather complicated and very strict in places, with a lot of room for personal interpretation and the opportunity to accuse any sect that was not your own, of breaking the rules. This was illustrated spectacularly in 2008 when the internet was flooded with videos of a fist fight between two monks from different sects, which started off as a verbal dispute over care of a section of the church's roof. But where does this little ladder fit into all of this? Thought to belong to a mason who was completing restoration work during the 1750s the cedar wood ladder has become a symbol of the religious status quo as stated in the edict. The window that the ladder is sat under is under the care of the Armenians. The classical cornice (reinforced decorative corner) of the window belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. As a result of the status quo, neither sect can remove or use the ladder, for fear of retribution of the other sect. Indeed, permission from all six sects is required for anyone to be able to move the ladder in any way, shape or form. The crime has been attempted though, most notably in 1997, when the ladder disappeared for a period of four weeks. A gentleman known simply as Andy is thought to be the culprit. A follower of the protestant faith, Andy wished to expose what he viewed as the silliness of the argument over which sect the ledge belonged to. He claimed to have hidden the ladder behind an altar, and once it was found, a steel cage was positioned around the ladder to prevent the theft ever happening again. Even when the ladder rots it is replaced in order to honour the status quo set in 16th century. Ladders should not be simply viewed as a tool which allows the local builder or DIY fanatic to get the job done. They form part of our history, part of our culture. They allow us to reach dizzying heights, to explore places we might never have seen otherwise, and play a huge role in the rich symbolism of our beliefs and ideals. They are tangible proof of the human desire to explore and to understand and may they continue to allow us to make many more discoveries for years to come.