Does the World’s Tallest Staircase Lead to the Top of a Skyscraper?
No! It leads to the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. That mountain — Mt. Niesen in Switzerland — is known as the “Swiss Pyramid” because of its unique triangular shape. A funicular railway will take you on a 30-minute trip to the top of the mountain. Running parallel to that railway is the world’s longest staircase.
The staircase extends over 2 miles up the side of Mt. Niesen and features a whopping 11,674 steps! It has been certified as the world’s longest staircase by the Guinness Book of World Records. Due to safety concerns, the staircase is usually closed to the public and remains accessible only to workers who need to perform repairs on the railway. Once each year in June, however, the staircase is opened for the “Niesen Treppenlauf” (also known as the “Niesenlauf”).
The “Niesenlauf” is an annual race up the world’s longest staircase. The race is limited to 500 participants, most of whom sign up more than a year in advance to race. The fastest times ever recorded were one hour and two minutes for men and one hour and nine minutes for women.
Does that seem like a long time to go a little over two miles? It’s not when you consider the staircase has an average gradient of about 55% and climbing it is equivalent to climbing to the top of the Empire State Building more than seven times!
The Herculean race obviously isn’t meant for the faint-hearted, so its popularity is rather surprising. In fact, people need to register almost a year in advance in order to secure a place in the competition. And sometimes even that doesn’t guarantee participation – last year’s race, for instance, was cancelled due to heavy snow.
Fortunately, you don’t need to huff and puff your way through the race to experience the spectacular trail. Instead, you could opt for a ride on the Niesen train that runs parallel to the staircase, up the mountain’s steep flanks. The 28-minute ride, which opened in 2010, offers a breathtaking view of lush Alpine woods, occasional pastures, and herds of cows, with snowy alps glinting in the horizon. It also passes through several tunnels and across a few elevated sections.
If you’re interested in a shorter trek that nonetheless offers spectacular views and more than a hint of danger, consider Hawaii’s Haiku Stairs. Known as the “Stairway to Heaven,” the Haiku Stairs feature nearly 4,000 steps that stretch over 2,000 feet up a narrow ridge to a peak that housed a radio communications tower in World War II.
It’s actually illegal to climb the Haiku Stairs for safety reasons, but many people do it every year anyway. Why take the chance? The climb is exhilarating and offers spectacular views and even features peaks that rise above the clouds!