Despite being afraid of heights, I feel an intense urge to climb every staircase I encounter. I’ve climbed stairs to walk along the ledge of the Musegg Wall in Lucerne. I climbed to the roof of the Alcazaba at the Alhambra in Granada. I took the dome tour at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City when I was in Rome. I climbed up the narrow, circular, steep, stone steps to the highest roof of the Alcazar in Segovia. And without fail, when I’m halfway up the stairs, I wonder – what am I doing? I press on to the top, and get out to enjoy the view – petrified with fear that the wind will surely blow me over the railing. I quickly snap my photos and dash the for stairs back down, promising myself that I won’t do that again! But alas, the next trip, the next set of stairs, up I go.
It doesn’t even have to be stairs – I just have a mad desire to get to the highest point – to see the most spectacular vista. I went to the top of the lookout at Clingman’s Dome – apparently I’m the only person afraid to be up there. I hiked up to a bench called “Smitten” to get pics looking down at the Rhatischen Bahn trains crossing the Landwasser Viaduct near Filisur in Switzerland. I mostly crawled along the trail, thankful that I was the only hiker there that day. Up to Taoguang Temple in Hangzhou for the scenery, and of course, I went up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.
The stairs to the high roof of the Alcazar in Segovia, Spain, were a tight solid stone spiral affair. Very steep. Despite there being no way to fall (other than down the stairs themselves, I felt frightened. I climbed slowly and steadily. There were a couple floors where one could get off the stairs for a break. I eventually made it to the top. Going back down, which I expected to be easier than going up, turned out to be worse. The riser height on the steps was probably around 10 inches and stepping down resulted in my thighs being very sore for a couple of days.
I continue to fantasize climbing mountains, living in a high tower room, or becoming a lighthouse keeper – despite knowing how much trouble this would cause me. I look at photos on the web of the world’s most dangerous hikes in Peru and China and wherever else – literally ledges hanging on the side of a sheer cliff – and drool at the thought of doing that hike. Hopefully my sanity will prevail against anything really dangerous or stupid.