During lockdown, we all got a bit carried away indoors. We had to take our adventures where we could get them. For us, this meant working out how many stairs we would have to climb in order to reach the equivalent height of famous mountains around the world - and then giving it a bash.
The bottom stair is now the trailhead. The living room is Base Camp.
The current world record for vertical height ascended by stair climbing is 18,585m in 24 hours, which considering that Mount Everest is 8,848m (or 17,475 stairs from base camp), as our guide worked out, is pretty darn impressive. Of course, to really emulate the feat of climbing the world’s highest mountain you’d have to significantly thin out the air, add a bunch of snow and wind and make things particularly chilly in there too - but that all seems a little excessive.
Lockdown may be over but the stairmaster challenge on TikTok has racked up over 343 million views, which tells us people are far from done climbing stairs. That's why we've decided to follow up our global list of mountains-by-staircase with a UK edition, which is... quite a bit easier to actually use and complete. So, if you're at it at home or at the gym, why not add a little narrative and get yourself (virtually) up some of the UK's most famous mountains?
The bottom stair is now the trailhead. The living room is Base Camp. And the top stair - if you are able to make it without supplementary oxygen - is the coveted mountain summit. For our measurements, we’ve taken the height of an average step as 20cm, and worked out a rough stair count for both sea level and ascent.
1. Ben Nevis
Ascent: 1341m (from Glen Nevis Visitor Centre)
Stairs to the top: 6705
Stairs from sea level: 6725
Climbing the highest mountain in the United Kingdom is a right of passage for any British hiker. There are various routes to the summit of Ben Nevis. The first, and the one we’ve taken our stats from, is the Mountain Path, or Tourist Trail, which runs from the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre. There’s a great, recently-renovated youth hostel next door as well. Other routes include the ascent via the Càrn Mòr Dearg (CMD) Arête ridgeline, and the climb via the Ledge Route.
Ascent: 980m (from Llanberis)
Stairs to the top: 4900
Stairs from sea level: 5425
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, and at 1085m, it’s also higher than any mountain in England or Northern Ireland. There are six official routes to the top, varying in difficulty. They are the Watkin Path, Llanberis Path, Miners Path, Pyg Track, Rhyd Ddu Path and Snowdon Ranger. Of course, at Llanberis you can also jump on a train that’ll take you to the summit of Snowdon, on what is surely one of the most scenic train journeys in the UK, if not all of Europe.
3. Scafell Pike
Ascent: 917m (from Wasdale Campsite)
Stairs to the top: 4585
Stairs from sea level: 4890
The highest mountain in England is found in the Lake District. Along with Snowdon and Ben Nevis, it makes us the famous three peaks challenge. Scafell Pike is often confused with the nearby Scafell, which is only 964m tall. This might be easier to hike in stair terms, but do try and not get them mixed up if you head to the Lakes. There are various routes up Scafell Pike. Three of our favourites are the climb from Wasdale, from Borrowdale and from Langdale.
4. Slieve Donard
Ascent: 833m (from Donard car park)
Stairs to the top: 4165
Stairs from sea level: 4250
The granite peak of Slieve Donard dominates the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. It’s the highest peak in Northern Ireland, and gets its name from St. Domhangart, or St. Donard, who lived on the summit until his death in 506 AD. There were subsequent pilgrimages to the summit from the 1600s to the 19th century. Donard car park is 4.6km away from the summit.
5. Ben Macdui
Ascent: 813m (from Cairngorm Mountain car park)
Stairs to the top: 4065
Stairs from sea level: 6545
Often overshadowed by Ben Nevis in discussions around hiking in the UK, Ben Macdui is the second highest mountain in the UK, and one of the finest hikes in the Cairngorms. Leave from the Cairngorm Mountain car park and you can take on Ben Macdui and Cairngorm in a fine 11-mile route that’ll keep you occupied for the best part of eight hours. That car park is situated at 635m though, which takes a whole lot of steps out of the ascent if you’re doing it at home.
6. Kinder Scout
Ascent: 583m (on Kinder Downfall Circular)
Stairs to the top: 2915
Stairs from sea level: 3180
This hill is most famous for the famous mass trespass of Kinder Scout that took place back on 24 April 1932. On that day, hundreds of men and women defied the law to walk over the hills and up to the plateau of Kinder Scout, in what we now know as the Peak District National Park. This event played a huge part in the “right to roam” movement in England which is still campaigning for more rights today.
7. Ben Lomond
Ascent: 961m (on the Mountain Path)
Stairs to the top: 4805
Stairs from sea level: 4870
Ben Lomond is a particularly memorable Munro for a lot of people, since it’s often the first they bag. The mountain on the banks of Loch Lomond, and provides beautiful views over Scotland’s biggest loch and the Trossachs from its summit. It’s also a particularly accessible Munro to hike from Glasgow, being under an hour’s drive from the city. For these reasons and more, it’s an incredibly popular hiking spot - and the mountain where many Scots fall in love with hiking.
9. Pen y Fan
Ascent: 560m (from Blaen Taf)
Stairs to the top: 2800
Stairs from sea level: 4430
One of the best hikes in the Brecon Beacons is the ascent of its highest mountain, Pen y Fan. There are a few different routes to the top. There’s the 110-mile Beacons Circuit, taking in Corn Du and Cribyn. Then there’s the Cwm Llwch walk from Cwm Gwdi, a tough seven-and-a-half-mile climb, and the Horseshoe Ridge Walk, which is a demanding nine-mile circuit. The final option, from the Storey Arms, is a classic four-mile circular, which is the most gentle option of the bunch.
Ascent: 747m (from Swirls car park)
Stairs to the top: 3735
Stairs from sea level: 4750
There are few mountains in the Lake District, or Britain for that matter, quite as iconic as Helvellyn. It’s indisputably one of the best Wainwrights to hike in the Lake District. An ascent via Striding Edge is particularly spectacular. A photograph of two trail runners on the ridgeline forms the front cover of Nadir Khan and Tom McNally’s terrific book ‘Extreme Lakeland’. The rugged nature of the ridgeline, and the views over the region, make it a hard route to beat.
Inspired? Ditch the stairs and get on one of our UK adventures now!