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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Most Terrifying Spiral Staircases on Earth


Glasgow lighthouse
Image: Craig Morey

Apart from the fact that they simply make you dizzy, spiral staircases are not for the faint of heart as this post will show. They are often in lofty places or the opposite, cramped dungeons, so mastering a spiral staircase is not a question of simply walking up or down. Claustrophobia, vertigo-inducing views and stomach-churning heights have to be braved because of those adventurous minds that installed spiral staircases in the scariest of places.

Long way down and low handrail at a tall pagoda in Singapore:
Image: Ray Tomes

Like a slightly heart-shaped vortex – don’t get sucked in:
ITC MIskolc
Image: Darnyi Zsóka

The square yet spiral staircase in an old apartment house in Hong Kong. Is that a trap door at the bottom?
Hong kong
Image: Ksionic

Next, on to a treehouse: at 80 ft in height, the spiral staircase winding around a fir tree at Cedar Creek Treehouse, Mt. Rainier, is called “Stairway to Heaven”. The reason for this is that it leads to Cedar Creek Observatory, reachable via a 43 ft-long suspension bridge. We’re not sure what’s scarier – the climb up the tree, or the walk across the bridge.

Here’s a view from low down:
Cedar Creek staircase
Image via cedarcreektreehouse

… and from up top:
Cedar Creek STairway to Heaven
Image via cedarcreektreehouse

Almost there – the observatory:
Cedar Creek Observatory
Image via cedarcreektreehouse

The scary outside staircase below winds its way around the chimney of the old Bóbila Almirall in Terrassa, Catalonia. At 63 m, it is the world’s tallest chimney with a spiral staircase. In case you’re contemplating going up, it’s 234 steps to the top and there’s not much of a handrail to hold on to!

Old chimney in Terrassa, Spain:
Image: Greg Gladman

Lighthouse stairs surely have their scary element, given their length and the claustrophobia factor.

Looking up at the lighthouse in Brunate, Italy:
Image: Antonis Lamnatos

Santa Barbara lighthouse with see-through staircase:
Santa Barbara lighthouse
Image: Cathy Stanley-Erickson

And fire escapes and building staircases can be scary if the view down makes your stomach feel queasy. We’ve found a few that fit the description.

Inside the Julius Tower in Berlin Spandau:
Julius Tower
Image: Till Krech

The image above was taken inside the 30 m tall Julius Tower. It is part of the Spandau Citadel, one of Europe’s most important Renaissance forts, built between 1559 and 1594. Its famous wooden spiral staircase was reconstructed in 1964 after the neo-Gothic one of 1843.

Only in emergencies – old fire escape on a building in Boston:
Fire escape Boston
Image: Paul Keleher

Those who like to go spelunking may want to tour California’s Moaning Cavern. Just be warned that this rickety looking staircase is part of the package…

Dark, rickety and claustrophobic:
Moaning Cavern
Image via atlasobscura

The Statue of Liberty in New York, though exhilarating to get to, rich in history and an important monument, is not for those with an aversion to cramped spaces and climbing tiny, dizzying steps in one direction.

Looking up at the steel construction:
Statue of liberty
Image: lemoncat1

This staircase used to take tourists up – no longer because of security reasons:
Statue of Liberty
Image: lemoncat1

Climbing up to the crown:
statue of liberty
Image: Katy Warner

Iraq’s Malwiya Tower:
Malwiya Tower
Image: Jim Gordon

Then, there are buildings that are only staircases – the spiral minaret, or Malwiya Tower, above at the Great Mosque of Samarra, 125 km (78 miles) north of Baghdad, is one of them. Commissioned and built in the 9th century, at 52 m high and 33 m wide at the base, it was for a long time the world’s largest mosque. Though the ramp spiraling up to the top is quite broad, there’s no protection on the sides; one step too far and it’s a free fall down.

Here’s an image with people, tiny in comparison:
Image: Izzedine

Anyone who has been inside the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s monumental church in Barcelona, Spain, will agree that its long and winding stone staircases in each 170 m-tall spire are by far the building’s scariest features – about 20 stories tall without a handrail.

This is just the beginning…
Sagrada Familia
Image: wendy

… or option 2, the elevator:
Sagrada Familia lift
Image: Reckless

…before you know it, you look down at something like this:
Sagrada Familia
Image: Travis Miller

Says photographer Travis Miller about how he took the shot above: “I was the only person in the towers this day and going down was quite the mental challenge to keep my mind focused on the task at hand…don’t know if I could handle it today … I was tottering quite badly.”

Sagrada Familia
Image: Gary Denham


Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 1:45 AM  

Very enlightening and beneficial to someone whose been out of the circuit for a long time.

- Kris