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Stairs of Death at Huayna Picchu Mountain

May 3, 2024
stairs of death 2024 - 69explorer

Atop the famous Incan Citadel of Machu Picchu sits Huayna Picchu Mountain a rewarding hike with great views of Machu Picchu. Although summiting the mountain is well worth the effort it is no simple task. Among the steep switchbacks and stone steps is a notorious death-defying section of the trail. This section is known as The Stairs of Death! Okay, it’s really not that badbut, it’s fun to exaggerate.

Where are the Stairs of death located?

The stairs of death are just north of Machu Picchu and make up the last section of Huayna Picchu Mountain. Situated at 2700 meters above sea level (8,858 ft), the altitude is not as high as that of Cusco.

Huayna Picchu Mountain (Montaña Huayna Picchu)

Huayna Picchu is one of the three mountains in the complex of Machu Picchu and has the most famous views of Machu Picchu when compared to the other two mountains. At the top resides a simple dwelling structure and a few small terraces. Legends say that the high priest of Machu Picchu lived in the structure.

On the side of the mountain is the impressive Temple of the Moon which has an adventurous approach. Just before the temple is a narrow tunnel in which you’ll have to crawl on your hands and knees in order to get to the other side. Upon exciting the tunnel you’ll come to a large cave opening, inside lies the Temple of the Moon. Although the name suggests veneration for the moon took place in this location there is no evidence to suggest this was actually the case.

Attractions at the Stairs of Death

Although the hike is difficult the rewards are well worth it there are various attraction along the way and at the top of the hike.

Difficulty of The Stairs of Death

Considered the most difficult section of the Huayna Picchu hike the stairs of death are moderately difficult to difficult. There are handrails and metal cables to assist with the ascent however, if you have knee problems or problems with stairs in general then stay away from this hike. Because of the relatively low altitude you don’t necessarily need to be in great or even good physical shape to complete the stairs. It’s more of a mental battle because there are many sections where the path is very narrow with steep cliffs just a step or two away. Generally speaking, most people can complete The Stairs of Death but it may take some effort.

***PLEASE NOTE: If you have a fear of heights or heart problems DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS HIKE!

Distance and Duration

The hike generally takes 1 hour to ascend and around 45 mins to come back down. Depending on your experience, fitness level, and fear of heights times can very. Huayna Picchu is a short hike, only 4km (2.5m) round trip. The steepness of the hike is what makes it difficult as you will ascend 360m (1,000 ft). Know yourself and your limits, if you keep a slow steady pace, you should have no problems and will be rewarded with some of the best views of Machu Picchu!

Has Anyone Ever Died on the Stairs of Death?

People have been hiking Huyan Picchu and the stairs of death for a long time. Over the decades accidents have happened. There are multiple reports of people having fallen to their deaths but, many of these reports have not been officially confirmed. Although it seems some accidents might be rumors or exaggerations there certainly have been fatalities at The Stairs of Death.

It’s important to consider that although there have been fatalities the percentage is extremely low when compared to the number of people who climb The Stairs of Death. Hundreds of people make the hike every day from young to old and fit to unfit with no problems at all. Along the steeper and more narrow sections of the stairs of death there are metal cables fixed to the stone walls to assist hikers. Although the dangers are real and a fall at certain sections could lead to severe injuries and possibly death, as long as you take it slow you should be fine.

Machu Picchu brings tourists from all over the world and from all walks of life. The issue with the Stairs of Death is that many inexperienced hikers attempt the hike. There are definitely many more dangerous hikes in the world, however, they are generally only hiked by experienced outdoorsmen. When you combine steep sections, narrow paths, with inexperience that’s when problems start to arise. If you have experience and are confident in your abilities you will have no problems at all.

What to bring to The Stairs of Death

Make sure you are prepared for this hike as it can be difficult for some individuals

Traveling and hiking comes with risks and as the saying goes “the greater risk the greater the reward”. If you are afraid of the potential risks that traveling comes with then it’s better to stay at home where you know you’ll be safe. However, you’re way more likely to die in an auto accident in your home town than climbing The Stairs of Death. If you’re an adventure seeker and want to live life to the fullest then Carpe Diem yourself up The Stairs of Death!