Stairway to heaven? Not quite. But it's a stairway to fitness.
The 13 flights of stairs connecting East Howe Street on Capitol Hill with Lakeview Boulevard East below I-5 are a favorite training site for runners, mountain climbers, firefighters and fitness buffs.
There are 282 steps, each about 6 1/2 inches high. The total elevation gain from Lakeview Boulevard to East Howe is nearly 153 feet.
Jamie Storm, a runner, lives just off the Howe Street steps and has seen thousands of individuals and some groups such as firefighters and P.E. classes from Seattle Prep use them.
Charles Magnusson, a 65-year-old retired Boeing engineer who lives on Lake Union, walks the Howe Street stairs daily with 3-pound weights in his hands.
"I decided 8-9 months ago that my legs were getting all the attention," he said of his decision to give his arms a workout, too.
Magnusson usually goes up and down the stairs six to eight times.
His Walkman is tuned to National Public Radio, which he says "is for the soul."
Magnusson has seen the UW basketball team run the stairs and mountain climbers with packs full of rocks hike them. Candidates for the fire department have lugged hose up and down them.
One block south, at East Blaine Street, are 13 flights of stairs with a total of 293 steps. However, there is a 24-yard level interval between the second and third flights. That interval might be considered too much of a break for some hard-core fitness buffs.
Some run down the Blaine Street stairs and up the Howe Street stairs.
`A great cardio workout'
On a recent morning, Janet Berman of Mercer Island was training on the Blaine Street stairs. She prefers them to the Howe Street stairs because of a garden near the middle.
"I used them this summer to train to climb Mount Adams," she said. "It's a great cardio workout in a short amount of time and it's not pounding on your joints and your back."
Jamshid Khajavi, 43, is a ultra-marathoner and long-distance swimmer who often trains on the stairs and may have some kind of record on them. On two occasions, he has run up and down the Howe Street stairs 100 times (100 up, 100 down). His record time: 7 hours, 21 minutes.
"I had about 4-5 water bottles and power bars and bananas," he said. "Every three sets I had a sip of drink," he said.