Following on from our post about beaches that are only accessible by climbing a ladder A view of Phutuq K'usi across some ruins.we are going to look at ladders that are only accessible for people going on a long hike.  We start in Peru, close to Machu Pikchu, a common tourist destination and the site of the most familiar buildings of the Inca civilization.  The peak behind this important historical site offers fantastic views over the estate and the surrounding river valley and it can be climbed by the intrepid hiker.  Called Phutuq K’usi, the mountain gets its name from the round shape that faces Machu Pikchu, which translated from native Quechua means ‘budding cucumber’.

Peruvian Ladders

The hike to the peak takes you to 2,560 metres above sea level and takes around an hour and a half, but is recommended for reasonably experienced hikers only, due to the nature of the trail.  The route goes through the jungle and includes several vertical ladders, the longest of which ascends for over thirty metres.  In 2011 floods destroyed the ladder section of the climb, but these were restored by the summer of 2012 opening the trail back up to those without professional climbing equipment.  The jungle surroundings are beautiful, with over ninety species of orchids alone, plus the native palms and ferns.  In addition to the wooden ladders, the trail consists of lots of rocky steps and there are over 1,700 steps and rungs over the whole hike, making it unsuitable for inexperienced climbers or anyone with a fear of heights.  If you can brave the steep ascent though, the views are worth the effort. In Albany County, New York, the John Boyd Thacher State Park is home to three hiking trails around the Helderberg escarpment that offer views to the Green Mountains and Hudson Valley.  We are interested in the Indian Ladder Trail, which is open from May to November, weather permitting.  The name comes from the ladders that feature on the route and the fact that the trail was historically used by the Mohawk Indians to reach a trading post in the Hudson Valley.  The trail starts by descending sixty feet down a metal staircase to the base of the Helderberg escarpment.  The trail then follows the A view of a waterfall on the Indian Ladder Trailbase past a stream coming out of a cave (the limestone rocks that form the mountains here provide excellent drainage) and then back up several more metal stairs, or ladders, to the top of the escarpment.  This is not as arduous a trek as the ladder trail up Phutuq K’usi so is suitable for less experienced hikers, but the fact that the ladders are made of metal can make them dangerous in wet and windy weather, hence the closure of the trail over the winter months.

Ladders up Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain, part of the Appalachian Range in North America, is the highest peak on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is also a state park in North Carolina.  The name comes from the early pioneers who thought it looked like an old man gazing towards the sky and there are several hiking trails in this part of the mountains, one of which consists of several ladders.  MacRae peak is not the tallest of the peaks on the ridge, but the climb is considered the most difficult due to the exposure along most of the trail, as well as the vertical climbs that are achievable with the ladders.  The hike to MacRae cliff is less than a mile when starting from the nature park below, but the views from the ridge are stunning, so it’s well worth a short hike.  If you start from the bottom it becomes three and a half miles, so the option is there if you wanted to make a whole day of it.  The ladders were replaced in 2011 and made more secure by drilling the anchor points further into the rock as well as using more sturdy ladders and cables as extra support.  In some places the ladders are nearly vertical so despite the short distance involved, it is still not a task for anyone with mobility problems or who is unable to climb a ladder.  The ladders do make it a lot easier than with ropes and professional mountaineering equipment though and park rangers hike along the trails all day to provide assistance to those who are in trouble.  The ladder portion of the hike is also part of the Grandfather Trail as well as a route in its own right, so it does get a lot of traffic each day from visitors heading in different directions. The Mecca Hills in California are home to another ladder assisted hiking trail around A view over the painted canyons, California.several canyons in the hills.  There is a simple hike through Painted Canyon, so called for the hues of different coloured rock that make up the layers of the sheer sides.  This is a hike in itself, but a fairly easy once since it is all on one level and there are no dangerous crossings.  Experience hikers can add to the Painted Canyon hike by exploring the loop through Ladder Canyon, which gets its name from the various ladders that help visitors through the narrow slots in the canyon walls to reach the top.  The ladders are maintained by volunteers and are generally kept in good condition, but hikers are advised not to climb the ladders if there are broken rungs, as the danger if falling is too great.  If everything is in good shape, including the climbing party, you can reach the top after a quarter of a mile of mostly vertical hiking, as there are several ladders that make up this part of the trail.  Following the trail along the top of Ladder Canyon takes you to another set of ladders that allow for a descent into Painted Canyon below and back to the start of the trails. Once you have given all these ladder hikes a try, perhaps you’ll be ready to try out the ones potentially being installed on the Hillary Step on Mount Everest?  I think we’ll stick to the easy ones for now.