The scariest stairs in the world
21st December 2016
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
When you struggle with reduced mobility even your household stairs can become a real issue, but thankfully we can help you here at Handicare.
However, there are places around the world which boast some of the most extreme and unbelievable stairs that are certainly in need of a stair lift or two, where even the fittest and most experienced climbers and hikers struggle to get up them.
Pailon Del Diablo Waterfall, Ecuador
In English, Pailon Del Diablo translates as the Devil’s Cauldron and the steps around this beautiful waterfall in Ecuador are certainly devilish.
The staircase that flows adjacent to the magnificent waterfall is designed to blend into the natural beauty that this area has in abundance, but these stairs are awfully difficult to manage, even for the most sure-footed walker.
Made from smooth, oversized pebbles these steps offer very little grip underfoot. They are also steep enough to have you reaching for the sides - as you look down they blend in together, presenting the illusion of a pebble slide.
Rock of Guatape Staircase, Colombia
This staircase is one of the most impressive found in a natural environment.
Wedged between a crack in the rock face is a 649-step masonry staircase up the 10 million-tonne rock that takes you up 200 metres into the blue sky. Back in the 1950s a group of friends used planks of wood strategically placed across the crack to scale the gigantic rocks, taking five days to reach the summit.
Spanish for The Rock of Guatape, it is simply known as La Piedra in the town of Guatape in Antioquia, Colombia.
As you climb the stitch-like stairs up the side of this giant rock, you are able to see majestic views stretching miles across the countryside. At the top you can find benches, food vendors, religious relics and souvenirs to remember your climb.
But nothing will be as significant as the views that greet you.
Half Dome, California
There is little doubt that Yosemite’s Half Dome in California is the most extreme assent of all on this list.
87 million years old, the long, steep climb is one of the most dangerous and dramatic of all stairway climbs in the world, with the stair aspect being nothing more than a few cables up the side of the rock and the notorious ‘Granite Staircase’.
It is a very popular hiking route, and with good reason. The terrain is dramatic, while the 360 degree views and scenery make for the most unbelievable panoramic photos.
At the beginning of the climb, you will be greeted by stairs up the Vernal Fall. Though this section is more of a slog the views that greet you at the top are spectacular, courtesy of the trees and waterfall.
The cables themselves appear to just be two thin lines scaling 400 feet or so up the sheer side of this imposing rock face. No photo or description can really do them any justice.
Many are too intimidated to continue the climb once they are faced by the cables, given the 50 degree climb in places, but the overwhelming sense of achievement once conquered is a lifelong feeling.
La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
At the heart of Barcelona’s famous architecture and design is the magnificent La Sagrada Familia. Still under construction, the towering basilica is a must-see landmark for anyone visiting Barcelona, with over 3 million visitors a year making it the most visited monument in Spain.
Visitors are treated to some of the best views of a colourful and dynamic Barcelona, but only after tackling the 400 steps. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is one metre lower than Montjuic Hill in Barcelona because Gaudi believed that nothing man made should be taller than God’s creations.
“Be sure to climb the spiralling staircases that can be accessed in four of the towers. Not only are they beautiful to see, like the inner world of a seashell, but the look-out points that they lead to offer unparalleled views over Barcelona from a giddying height of 65 metres above ground level.”
Its development began in 1882 and holds itself with significance, as both a place of worship and as a spectacle in design. The Sagrada Familia isn’t expected to be finished until 2026, which will mark the centennial of Gaudi’s death, and will also make its development longer than that of the Egyptian pyramids.
These staircases are truly dizzying, as you climb high up into some of the four towers of the church via the spiralling staircases and lifts. They are extremely narrow and offer no barrier to the winding drop below you - it would make a great place for a new curved stairlift.
As impressive as the staircase is, the whole building is simply an incredible piece of design, and Ben agrees.
“Inside, the church is equally as ornate and magical, with impossibly tall ceilings that appear to stretch out forever like the canopy of a forest. As with all of Gaudi's designs, La Sagrada Familia is almost entirely inspired by the shapes and textures of nature.
“Whether you're an architecture fan or not, the spiralling towers that reach up towards the heavens are guaranteed to impress. Once complete there will be 18 towers: 12 represent the Apostles, 4 represent the Evangelists, and the final two represent the Virgin Mary and Jesus (Jesus' tower will stand in the centre and tower high above the others).”
Inca Stairs, Peru
Climb into the clouds via the Inca Stairs at Machu Picchu, Peru.
600 feet of granite rocks which had been carved into the side of Huayna Picchu over 500 years ago lead you up to the Moon Temple, which is a rarely visited location but somewhere that boasts similar beauty to that of its neighbouring temples.
In places there is a chained barrier which helps to guide you up the steep and slippery steps and it is worth holding onto, as the drop facing you is formidable.
The Incas came to this region of the Andes in the 12th Century AD and are known for being master builders and architects. This claim can hardly be argued, when you marvel at the beauty that they have created between the clouds.
At its peak, the Inca Empire stretched between northern Ecuador and central Chile and was made up of over 12 million people from more than 100 different ethnic groups.
They were fascinated by stairs, which is why each of their temples look like giant staircases. The intricate designs and steep, narrow staircases worked to their advantage and needs while farming or in the event of invasion.
The Statue of Liberty, New York City
Standing over New York Harbour, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom to people all over the world, as the female figure represents the Roman goddess of freedom, Libertas.
4 million people visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was a gift from France in 1886, each year. The statue has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City and across the United States.
Inside the Statue you can enjoy the museum before you begin the climb up to the crown, which is strenuous. Comprising of 354 steps – 20 stories – the spiralling stairwell is a tight area, with the steps measuring just 19 inches wide and offering just 6ft 2 inches of head room.
Once at the crown, visitors can enjoy views through any of the 25 windows revealing the skyline of New York and its harbour.
Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Verrazano Bridge can all be seen from the crown, but it is about the climb as much as it is the views. Unlike the other staircases on this list, which offer you a beautiful image of the natural landscape that encapsulates them, you are able to marvel at the complexity and brilliance of this feat of engineering and design.