Kaymoor Miners Climb
I heard about the Kaymoor Miners Stair Climb from the Facebook page of the Stairclimbing Sport group that I belong to. A recent picture and short review by the climber were enough to get this firefighter interested in the challenge, but little did I know what I was really in store for. The staircase is tucked away in West Virginia in the New River Gorge area and surrounded by mountainous trails to challenge the most athletic.
My family and I were going to be driving through the area anyways on the way to vacation in Virginia Beach so that helped to make my mind up. Fortunately I had the foresight to leave my firefighter climbing gear at home, because this was NO place to be trying that on the first attempt (and I ran out room in the truck). Finding the area and the parking was no problem at all based upon the directions from the National Park Service, but how to FIND the stairs was the interesting part.
You see, you don’t just start at the top of a set of stairs and descend before making your climb up. You first have to descend your way through a rocky path that gets narrow at times before getting to the top of the steps. Perhaps that’s my own fault for not completely reading the NPS website too close, but a little better map might have helped.
As you traverse the beautiful mountainside you definitely can feel the burn in your legs. While the top section of the path would be decent for trail runners it quickly changed conditions. Granted, the area recently had rain for several days, but even in dry conditions might prove difficult.
A painted slogan of “Your Family Wants You to Work Safely” still adorns the beam above where the staircase begins the long drop down to the mine area. The ledge area at the top of the staircase still has a mine entrance and a few buildings to peek around if you want a break before/after your stairs.
The descent takes you 821 steps closer to the New River and does it quickly with some long intimidating staircases should you happen to lose your balance. While I didn’t count the steps, occasionally there were scratching of what I assume were stair numbers on some handrails.
There is decent width to the case for passing others and overall were in excellent condition. Only one handrail was missing the entire length from what appeared to be the recent storms and the felled tree. Word of caution, if you are allergic to poison ivy then you might want to be especially careful as it grows in abundance. As you travel the stairs if you pay attention you see more pieces of history, the rails, containers, other structures, and tanks that were using during mining.
After spending only a few brief moments at the bottom I turned to make my ascent back up the staircase. Due to the early evening and daylight running out I didn’t adventure around off the trail. Looking up from the bottom was a humbling experience to see the steps disappear off into the mountain. I continued to double step for a while before switching to single and keeping pace. The steps seemed to never end and took you through a significant change in altitude along the mountain.
If I do these stairs again, I will definitely go late afternoon to allow for a little more time along the way to enjoy the great view and to climb the staircase twice. Take some water and be prepared to challenge your body. By the end of one climb you will definitely feel the burn! Take your iPhone or a small camera in a pouch to grab some photos along the way and see some pieces of history that are off the beaten path.