I’ve been climbing the stairs at this outdoor temple for over 7 years now. I have met thousands of people on the steps, from over 100 countries around the world. It’s really become a sort of social physical fitness routine for me – and yesterday I decided that we should have an informal site about the Step Climbing at Wat Tum Sua because it’s really a WORLD CLASS place for gaining fitness through climbing steps.
What is the Thailand Vertical Mile Stair Climbing Challenge About? (click)
What is the Tum Sua Stair Climbing Experience About?
1,237 steps (update: 1,256) of varying height (5-22 inches) leading to the top of a small mountain rising 278 meters (900+ feet) from the ground level vertically, and 600 meters in horizontal distance traveled. Averaged, it’s about a 45 degree angle climb.
Wat Tum Sua was created by founder “Ajarn Jumnien” – a world famous master of meditation (Anapanasati) that travels to many countries each year to teach retreats and classes. It is located outside Krabi Town at the beginning of the mountain chain leading to the highest peak in the area – Khao Phanom Bencha which is 4,200+ feet vertical height. The stairs were built about 40 years ago and are concrete, and very stable.
The weather is always warm. Usually HOT. The humidity is always high. You will sweat a lot. Use the restroom before you go up, but, there are 2 small outhouses for your use – one at step 500 and one at step 1060. There is NOT a restroom at the top, don’t create one.
The top record, by anyone’s evaluation must go to “Alfred” a UK native, who last year at 71 yrs of age, and maybe 140 lbs., climbed the steps 4 times in 3 hours in the heat of the day. Alfred can frequently be seen at the temple steps between lunch and 3pm. You won’t mistake him – he has white hair and is very fit. He will probably pass you. Ha! Here is a video of Alfred climbing the steps.
Saturday June 4, 2011 – Vern (45 yrs) and Joe (36 yrs) climbed 6 times for their first vertical mile. Time: 255 minutes. I know, it doesn’t seem fast, but there’s no elevator to get down – we have to run down too.
Vern climbed it 4 times in 2 hours 20 minutes at 45 years old.
Over the past few years Vern climbed the stairs over 1,300 times. Usually once in a day, sometimes twice, and sometimes 3 times in a row.
A monk at the temple, Phra Pornpitak – has climbed the stairs over 1,700 times during the past 15 years.
A monk at the temple, Phra Gope – climbed the stairs 5 times in a row on a whim. He is 23 years old and maybe 120 lbs.
The fastest Vern has done the steps is 11 minutes and 21 seconds (11:21 to the top).
The fastest we have heard someone climbing to the top – is 10:45 – a friend of a friend did it while on vacation in Krabi.
Record attempts – if you want to have someone watch your attempt, contact me (Vern) at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see if I can make it over there to meet with you.
Tips /Rules / Etc.
Donate something – there are multiple donation cannisters near the step bottom, and on the top. Donate something so they can continue to make the steps available for us to use. Don’t be a tourist that doesn’t give… but just takes.
Best time to come? After 3pm the sun is not directly on the steps. Come in the morning and it is a VERY hot workout at 90F+.
Dress with a t-shirt and long shorts. Do not wear your swimsuit, whether you’re a triathlete or whatever you are – this is a Buddhist temple that is highly revered by Thais. You wouldn’t wear a bikini to the Vatican in Rome, so don’t do it at Buddhist temples in Thailand.
Men – do not take off your shirt to walk up the steps, it is also disrespectful.
Water – There is cold water at the top when the cooler is working (often). There is always at least warm water available at the top. Bring a plastic water bottle to fill up – the cups at the top are used by hundreds of people. The water is clean, it is pumped from the bottom of the mountain the whole way to the top, where it is filtered twice. It’s clean, I’ve never been sick in 4 years of drinking it 5-7 times per week.
Shoe Removal – there is a large pavilion at the top where removal of shoes is required.
Monkeys – will grab your loose things – put them under your shirt as you pass the monkeys and they don’t usually go try to find them up there.
Don’t stare at the monkeys – they take that as aggression. Don’t get between baby monkeys and the others.
Lights – there aren’t any working lights on the steps, so bring a flashlight (torch some say) if you’ll be there at night.
Sunset – at 6:30pm daily, the sun sets. By 7 pm, unless there is a good sized moon – you will not be able to see your feet or the steps without a flashlight or the light from a mobile phone.
Medical facilities – Honestly, if you have a medical emergency on the stairs – you could very well die there. I have seen medical teams try to make it up the steps with their equipment – at night even, when it was cooler – and it took them an hour for the first person to reach the top. If you need to be taken down the stairs and to an ambulance that could literally take hours. There is NO place for a helicopter to land. I have never seen any helicopter show up for any accident, I assume there isn’t one. If you had a heart attack or suffered heat exhaustion – you might die within the time it takes to get you the help you need. So, do NOT climb the steps if you have any medical problem or you are not fit enough to climb them.
Be respectful of others on the stairs. This isn’t a public park, it’s a Buddhist temple. Respect people on the stairs – it is not your own workout facility.