Gravity ropeways

Depending solely on gravitational force – and using no external power – gravitational ropeways are simple and inexpensive to operate as well as environmentally friendly.

Life is difficult for families living in the remote mountainous areas of Nepal. Getting crops to market can be exhausting and dangerous – it is generally mules, women and children who carry these heavy loads on their backs, down treacherous, winding dirt tracks. When it rains, or there’s a landslide, it’s completely impossible.

Six communities in Nepal, together with Practical Action, have found a surprisingly simple answer that’s transforming their lives. It used to take two people over three hours to carry a 120kg load of apples 1.3 km down a steep mountain path – and that was just the first part of the gruelling journey to market. Now, with a gravity ropeway, the apples take less than five minutes to cover the same distance.

How it works

Gravitational ropeway use no external power, only gravity.

Two linked trolleys, on pulleys, run on separate 10mm diameter steel wires which are suspended from towers: as the full trolley comes down, pulled by the weight of its load, it pulls the empty one up, ready for the next load. The trolleys’ progress is controlled by another, 8mm wire, looped over a flywheel. A wooden drum brake, with bearing and bracket, governs their speed.


rope and pulley arrangement the trolleys run free roller assembly braking system lubrication

Download technical brief (PDF, 1.1Mb)Practical Action Nepal have produced a detailed Technical Brief showing how the gravity ropeway works. Gravity ropeway technical brief | Related technical briefs from Practical Answers

Further reading

Practical Action has also helped communities in Nepal to develop powered aerial ropeways.

Impact: Read how the gravity ropeway has helped people in the village of Janagaon.

Video blog: see a gravity ropeway in action

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