Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by William from Raleigh, NC. William Wonders, “What is the tallest staircase ever?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, William!
When you need to get from Point A to Point B, but Point B is several hundred feet higher in elevation than Point A, what do you do? If you're like many people, you might look for the nearest elevator or escalator.
But what if you need to get to the top of a skyscraper? Unless you're a professional athlete, climbing dozens of flights of stairs might be too much to tackle. That's why tall buildings have elevator systems for speed and convenience.
All this thinking about stairs got us to WONDERing about the tallest staircase in the world. Does the world's tallest staircase lead to the top of a skyscraper? Nope! 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!
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!