And She's Climbing the Stairway to Heaven
March 20, 2010 2:35 AM   Subscribe

I've been to Oʻahu several times but until now had never heard of the Haʻikū Stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven or Haʻikū Ladder. I'm heading to Oahu in 2011; I think I'll go get some photos. But for now, these will have to do.

From Wikipedia:

The trail began as a wooden ladder spiked to the cliff on the south side of the Haʻikū Valley. It was installed in 1943 to enable the construction of antenna cables that would be strung from one side of the cliffs above Haʻikū Valley to the other. A building to provide a continuous communication link between Wahiawā and Haʻikū Valley Naval Radio Station was also constructed at the very peak of Puʻukeahiakahoe, elevation at about 2,800 feet (850 m). These extraordinary antennae transmitted very low frequency radio signals from a 200,000-watt Alexanderson alternator located in the center of Haʻikū valley. The signals could reach US Navy submarines as far away as Tokyo Bay even while the submarines remained underwater.


Surprising no one has yet written a haiku about the stairs, so what the heck:

Stairway to Heaven
A thread through the Summer green
Haʻikū Ladder
posted by bwg (17 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
this is FANTASTIC. i so very much want to climb up these stairs! but... i am pretty sure i'd get about halfway up, and totally freeze in terror.
posted by lapolla at 3:56 AM on March 20, 2010

The city is now providing security at the stairs in an attempt to keep illegal hikers away.

No Stairway. Denied!
posted by pracowity at 4:26 AM on March 20, 2010 [9 favorites]

Reminds me of the stairs up Mount Huashan, a.k.a. Stairway of Death.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:47 AM on March 20, 2010

And El Caminito del Rey. Pictures and videos of these places are quite enough for me, thank you very much...
posted by The Mouthchew at 5:39 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go lay on the rug in my basement, spread-eagle.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 6:33 AM on March 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

I am out of breath.
Is there an elevator?
Give me a minute.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:36 AM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Ron Thanagar: "I'm going to go lay on the rug in my basement, spread-eagle."

I feel exactly the same way. Anytime I see photos of people clinging precariously to some surface very high above the ground, I hit a pucker factor of 9 out of 10.
posted by bwg at 7:02 AM on March 20, 2010

Being a die-hard radio man, the Stairs' Wikipedia entry sent me down a rabbit-hole about the Haiku Naval Radio Station itself. A fascinating history of the station(s) is buried in one of those links. And apparently one of those hulking transmitters (encased in a bomb-proof building at Haiku) is still in use at a single location in Sweden (also deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less). And I could do a whole Blue post about the OMEGA Navigation System (into which the Haiku site was later folded).
posted by mykescipark at 8:32 AM on March 20, 2010

What's totally pathetic is that for a few moments I get roughly the same horrible innard-clenching feeling when I climb a ladder or walk over a metal sidewalk grating that I do when I look at photos like these.

I've realized it's less a fear of heights or of falling than a fundamental distrust of engineering. I just don't let myself think too long or hard about how anything human-made is constructed because when I do, I become pretty certain it will collapse, cave in, or otherwise fail any second now.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:55 AM on March 20, 2010

There were always rumors about security guards at the base of this hike. There was even a make-shift shack where said security guard could rest. In the 4-5 times I've done this hike, no security guards were in evidence. With the kind of budget issues Hawaii is facing, I wouldn't worry about that having changed in the 3 years I've been gone.

Huashan? That looks like death. Haiku has a nice rusty ladder guiding you away from doing anything too foolish. Oahu hiking is all about the ridges, this is just one of the shorter and sweeter choices. It's a hike though, not a climb. You don't need technique, equipment or much in the way of foolish courage.

Does anybody know a big island hike that reminds them of Haiku?
posted by minedev at 9:07 AM on March 20, 2010

yes, its suomolinna's cannon walk - its an idiot proof test
posted by infini at 9:53 AM on March 20, 2010

Don't be alarmed, now:
That bustle in your hedgerow?
The May Queen's spring clean.
posted by Spatch at 1:36 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Koko Head outside of Honolulu is a pretty and steep hike, though not crazy steep like Ha'iku looks to be.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:04 PM on March 20, 2010

Better picture of the Koko Crater Railway Trail (it seems to go by a few names).
posted by small_ruminant at 2:11 PM on March 20, 2010

a haiku for a
funicular railway is
a strain on the nerves
posted by infini at 1:43 AM on March 21, 2010

I am in Oahu now, for the first time ever - for my brother's wedding - and actually have the time and opportunity to make this climb (and inclination/lack of vertigo) - can anyone advise as to the feasibility of accessing it without undue hassle? I promise photos if I climb it...
posted by fellorwaspushed at 1:12 AM on March 22, 2010

4 years out of date, but I hiked it a number of times without any hassle, from neighbors to more official hassle. Big fun but if you're stressed about it, Oahu has a lot of worthwhile hikes.
posted by minedev at 12:53 AM on March 23, 2010

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