Most people will never climb Mount Everest, but there are a variety of famous landmarks that a person can ascend, if for no other reason than to say they’ve done it. Most offer great views, history, and are located in areas that provide ample sightseeing and other activities.
Stairs and Skyscrapers
Anyone traveling to Norway and looking for a real challenge can climb what some say are the longest set of wooden stairs in the world. The 4,444 steps at Florli in Lysefjorden allow tourists to climb to the top of a 2,400-foot Norwegian fjord. The stairs were once used by hydro plant workers to maintain the water pipeline, but the plant has since been shut down.
Every April, the CN Tower — an 1,815-foot communications and observation tower that is the dominant feature of the skyline of Toronto, Ontario, Canada — opens its stairwell so the adventurous can take the hard way to the top. More than 6,000 people make the trek up one of the tallest freestanding structures in the world as part of an event that benefits the World Wildlife Fund.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Pyramid of the Sun
The historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina has guided many ships to safe harbor. Between April and October, travelers can guide themselves up the 269 iron spiral stairs to the top of the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. There is a handrail only on one side, and the stairway is narrow, dimly lit, and not air-conditioned, but those who make the trek will get a good view of the Outer Banks.
History and heights combine at Mexico’s Pyramid of the Sun, the largest building in the archeological site of Teotihuacán, outside Mexico City. This ancient pyramid is 246 feet tall and more than 700 feet wide, and one must climb almost 250 steps to the top.
Statue of Liberty and St. Paul’s Cathedral
New York’s Statue of Liberty has welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States, and she welcomes visitors to climb to her crown, too. About 350 steps take visitors to the top of Lady Liberty’s crown. The stairwell is cramped and not air-conditioned, and the steps are only 19 inches wide, but the view of New York harbor is great.
St. Paul’s Cathedral in London allows people to rise to new heights, as long as they’re willing to climb 530 steps to get there. Visitors can admire paintings by Sir James Thornhill and listen to organ music in the Whispering Gallery before making their way to the Golden Gallery, which circles the highest point of the outer dome.
The Top of the Rock and Some Real Rocks
Another climb that raises money for a good cause is “Climb to the Top” in New York City. Participants raise money for the local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, and in return, are allowed to climb 66 floors of an iconic New York skyscraper — the GE Building in the heart of Rockefeller Center and home to NBC. Participants climb all the way to the Top of the Rock™ Observation Deck.
Another kind of rock is Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome, which rises almost 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley in California. A 14- to 16-mile round-trip hike with a gain of 4,800 feet in elevation, the best part (or worst, depending on one’s level of comfort) is the climb up the cables. The two metal cables with wood planks allow hikers to make their way up the final 400 feet to the summit without any rock-climbing gear.
Finally, a trek up an active volcano may not be for everyone. But 9,340-foot Mount Villarrica in Chile is worth the trip to the top. While climbers use crampons and ice axes, this is more of a strenuous hike than a technical climb, and once at the summit, one can peer into the smoldering crater as well as look out across northern Patagonia. The reward for making it to the top is one gets to make a much faster trip home by sliding down the mountain. Who needs an amusement park?
Prepare for a Climb Up Stairs and Mountains
Anyone who attempts to climb these landmarks should be in reasonable to excellent shape and good health, and have done some stair climbing to prepare. And when a person is asked why they are going to climb any of these landmarks, they can provide the same answer British climber George Mallory gave when asked why he was climbing Mount Everest: Because it’s there.