BY: LAURA ROJAS
The stairs span a height of over 2,500 feet, nearly vertical at times and peaking above the clouds at others. However, for the past 26 years, the Haiku Stairs have been closed to the public and are illegal to climb.
Also called “The Stairway To Heaven”, the 3,922-step construction stretches across the Pu’u Keahi a Kahoe, a mountain peak above the Moanalua Valley. The stairs were built for the U.S. Coast Guard in 1943 during WW2 to facilitate access to the LORAN radio antenna on the mountain peak, as well as other buildings used for transmissions within the now-decommissioned OMEGA station. In the 1980s, after the radio antennas had been shut down and stair maintenance had ceased, it was operated by a coast guard and considered a popular hiking trail, according to an article in the Business Insider. Unfortunately- but with good reason- it was closed in 1987 after being deemed “too dangerous for the public.”
The stairs were reportedly repaired by 2003, although the public has not yet achieved legal access regardless of the numerous petitions that have surfaced. Nonetheless, thousands of tourists make the trek every year and manage to sneak past Honolulu Police in order to make the transcendent climb. YouTube is riddled with evidence of it.
Even though the stairs are considered dangerous and a risk to the public, there hasn’t been any reported injuries (even with tourists who start their trek in the dark). However there has been a fatality- 62-year-old comedian Fritz Hasenpusch who suffered from an unexpected heart attack while on the hike in 2012.
Ideally, the stairs will someday soon become open to the public, although the thrill of sneaking around to be rewarded with a limitless panorama has certain magic to it.