7 of the World's Most Terrifying Ladders

Do heights give you an adrenaline rush? To successfully scale one of these terrifying ladders, you'll need to possess a few key traits—namely fearlessness, grit, and in a few cases, straight-up masochism—in addition to sturdy shoes (if they're even allowed).

1. THE HALF DOME CABLE ROUTE IN CALIFORNIA'S YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

While climbing Half Dome—the famed granite dome at Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California—hikers have to watch their step while scaling the formation’s slick eastern slope. The climb’s last 400 feet takes visitors up sheer rock, with cable ladders bolted into the granite for support. Multiple individuals have died while attempting this climb during or after a storm, so make sure to only tackle it if weather conditions are dry. 

2. THE TRADITIONAL KNIFE LADDERS OF ZHONGTUAN, CHINA

miao performers on traditional knife ladder
China Photos /Getty Images

Every three years, villagers in Zhongtuan, in southeast China's Fujian Province, hold a harvest festival on the 15th day of the 10th lunar month. One traditional festival custom requires barefoot men to climb a ladder made of 36 sharpened blades, after being blessed by senior villagers. The first man to finish the treacherous climb sits on a chair at the top and hands out prizes to the others who reach the top. Meanwhile, other cultures around China reportedly have their own versions of the painful practice, including the Bai people of Yunnan Province, who climb knife ladders as a religious rite.

3. THE 'SKY LADDERS' OF ATULEER, CHINA

children climbing atuleer ladder
香港今昔, YouTube

Until recently, students in the tiny rural village of Atuleer, in China’s mountainous Sichuan province, had to climb down rickety "sky ladders"—a chain of 17 bamboo ladders affixed to a sheer, half-mile cliff—to attend a local school at the mountain’s base. In 2016, the state-run Beijing News ran a photo series of kids scaling the mountain, and reports surfaced that villagers had either died or been injured after falling from the ladders. Local government officials responded to the news by providing Atuleer’s residents with a sturdy steel ladder with handrails, which was completed in November 2016.

4. THE CHAIN LADDERS OF SOUTH AFRICA'S ROYAL NATAL NATIONAL PARK

Hike through Royal Natal National Park in the Northern Drakensberg, in South Africa, and you might be tempted to check out one of the region's most famous natural features: a dramatic rock wall called the Amphitheater, which stretches for roughly three miles and juts more than 1600 feet into the air. For an awe-inspiring view of the formation, visitors can tackle the so-called Chain Ladder Hike, a trail featuring rickety chain ladders that leads park-goers past the Tugela River and the world's second-tallest waterfall. This course requires hikers to shimmy up a sheer cliff face, so it isn't for the faint of heart. That said, they can also opt to travel along a safer route—a gully that leads to the mountain's top.

5. THE CABLE LADDERS OF GRAND CANARIA, IN SPAIN'S CANARY ISLANDS

woman climbing via ferrata on gran canaria

When mountain adventurers who visit the island of Gran Canaria, off the coast of Africa in Spain's Canary Islands, see the via ferrate—or cabled climbing routes—located across the mountainous region, they might be reminded of the Alps or the Dolomites, where via ferrate ("iron roads" in Italian) are more common. Here they can explore the volcanic region's dramatic peaks and caves on a series of protected climbing routes. Thin, slack cables are bolted to the rock so hikers can climb hand-over-hand to reach the rugged island's highest peaks.

6. THE LADDER LEADING TO THE TOP OF THE KATSKHI PILLAR IN THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA

Long ago, residents of the western Georgian region of Imereti are said to have believed that the Katskhi pillar—a limestone monolith that looms more than 131 feet above the village of Katskhi—represented a fertility god. In later years, the natural pillar became a symbol of Christianity, and two churches were constructed at its top. The ancient churches were likely built between the 6th and 8th centuries CE by the Stylites, an early group of Christian ascetics who worshipped atop pillars. The sites were just recently restored by a local monk, and those brave enough to climb a steep iron ladder running from the Katskhi pillar's base to its top can visit them—and the monk who lives there—while also taking in a wider view of the surrounding countryside.

7. MOUNT HUASHAN IN CHINA

China’s Mount Huashan—an important Taoist landmark located around 75 miles from the historical capital of Xi’an—has a 7000-foot-high cliffside trail leading visitors up towards the mountain's peaks. A particularly perilous stretch between the south and east peaks features a series of wooden planks bolted to the mountain—and hikers are required to wear safety harnesses while carefully inching their way along the narrow path. At the journey's end, they can soothe their nerves by visiting a sky-high teahouse perched atop the southern peak, or relax under a pavilion to take in the view.

What Would Happen If a Plane Flew Too High?

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iStock

Tom Farrier:

People have done this, and they have died doing it. For example, in October 2004, the crew of Pinnacle Airlines 3701 [PDF]  was taking their aircraft from one airport to another without passengers—a so-called "repositioning" flight.

They were supposed to fly at 33,000 feet, but instead requested and climbed to 41,000 feet, which was the maximum altitude at which the aircraft was supposed to be able to be flown. Both engines failed, the crew couldn't get them restarted, and the aircraft crashed and was destroyed.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable causes of this accident were: (1) the pilots’ unprofessional behavior, deviation from standard operating procedures, and poor airmanship, which resulted in an in-flight emergency from which they were unable to recover, in part because of the pilots’ inadequate training; (2) the pilots’ failure to prepare for an emergency landing in a timely manner, including communicating with air traffic controllers immediately after the emergency about the loss of both engines and the availability of landing sites; and (3) the pilots’ improper management of the double engine failure checklist, which allowed the engine cores to stop rotating and resulted in the core lock engine condition.

Contributing to this accident were: (1) the core lock engine condition, which prevented at least one engine from being restarted, and (2) the airplane flight manuals that did not communicate to pilots the importance of maintaining a minimum airspeed to keep the engine cores rotating.

Accidents also happen when the "density altitude"—a combination of the temperature and atmospheric pressure at a given location—is too high. At high altitude on a hot day, some types of aircraft simply can't climb. They might get off the ground after attempting a takeoff, but then they can't gain altitude and they crash because they run out of room in front of them or because they try to turn back to the airport and stall the aircraft in doing so. An example of this scenario is described in WPR12LA283.

There's a helicopter version of this problem as well. Helicopter crews calculate the "power available" at a given pressure altitude and temperature, and then compare that to the "power required" under those same conditions. The latter are different for hovering "in ground effect" (IGE, with the benefit of a level surface against which their rotor system can push) and "out of ground effect" (OGE, where the rotor system supports the full weight of the aircraft).

It's kind of unnerving to take off from, say, a helipad on top of a building and go from hovering in ground effect and moving forward to suddenly find yourself in an OGE situation, not having enough power to keep hovering as you slide out over the edge of the roof. This is why helicopter pilots always will establish a positive rate of climb from such environments as quickly as possible—when you get moving forward at around 15 to 20 knots, the movement of air through the rotor system provides some extra ("translational") lift.

It also feels ugly to drop below that translational lift airspeed too high above the surface and abruptly be in a power deficit situation—maybe you have IGE power, but you don't have OGE power. In such cases, you may not have enough power to cushion your landing as you don't so much fly as plummet. (Any Monty Python fans?)

Finally, for some insight into the pure aerodynamics at play when airplanes fly too high, I'd recommend reading the responses to "What happens to aircraft that depart controlled flight at the coffin corner?"

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Baskin-Robbins Russia Debuts Self-Driving Ice Cream Truck

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iStock

While technologists tend to tout the potential benefits of self-driving cars for futuristic commuters, the best use of autonomous driving technology may not involve passengers at all. (Apologies to everyone who wants to nap while they drive.) What we really need are self-driving ice cream trucks.

In Russia, that's already a reality. A driverless ice cream truck from Baskin-Robbins Russia and a company called Avrora Robotics just debuted in Moscow, according to The Calvert Journal.

The VendBot, similar to a smart ice cream vending machine on wheels, debuted at Moscow's Hydroaviasalon conference, an event about seaplane technology and science. The small vehicle is currently designed to move around parks, event spaces, and shopping centers, and can maneuver independently, detecting obstacles and stopping for customers along the way. For its debut, it was stocked with six different Baskin-Robbins flavors.


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Based on videos of the VendBot Baskin-Robbins Russia posted to the company's Instagram account, the miniature truck doesn't come equipped with the jingles U.S. ice cream trucks play incessantly. Instead, it beeps to alert potential customers of its presence instead. Once it stops, customers can order their dessert from a keypad on the side of the vehicle similar to ordering from a vending machine.


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Avrora Robotics, based outside of Moscow in Ryazan, Russia, specializes in developing autonomous vehicles for freight transport, industrial farming, and military use. And now, ice cream delivery.

Unfortunately, there's no mention of Baskin-Robbins bringing its driverless ice cream truck to other countries just yet, so we will have to content ourselves with chasing after human-driven ice cream trucks for a while still.

[h/t The Calvert Journal]

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