A tough climb

The ‘Wentworth Stairs’ is one of five set’s of staircases that run down the Hamilton Escarpment. Consisting of 498 steps, it is the largest structure compared to the others, running from the bottom of Wentworth to Upper Wentworth and Mountain Park Avenue. But there was a time when traveling up and down the face of the escarpment was not so readily accessible.

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The East End Incline Railway (1900-1936) answered the need for quick, convenient and safe transportation between the communities below and above the escarpment. At Wentworth Street, the 90-second ride, a 2 cents fare at the time, was a popular and practical alternative to indirect, unreliable and at times dangerous roads.

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After a rock slide and improved mountain roads, the need for the incline was demolished. In March of 1983, metal steps were constructed just east of the platform to replace the original wooden steps built in 1903.

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Over the years, there little details have added by individuals that make doing the ascend enjoyable. For example, someone has put a series of names on a set of risers. On other flights, you can see faded numbers indicating what step you are on.

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Midway down, the stairs break at the Sherman Access. As one of the major transportation roads up the mountain, climbers must wait for a gap between the speeding cars to go up and down the escarpment. Some see this break on their ascent or descent, as a place to rest and gain one’s breathe, while others consider crossing the street a game of chicken.

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Seeing this as an important access point for recreation, Hamilton’s Bike Share program (Sobi Hamilton) has recently parked their rides at the bottom and top of the mountain to allow individuals the ability to take advantage of the many trails and paths to discover around the escarpment.

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As one of the best vantage points in Hamilton, this historic site is and now a popular recreational spot for locals. Benches, parking, and connections to quaint neighbourhoods have allowed a once utilitarian means of entry to transform into an enjoyable and likeable public space.

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