Jacob’s Ladder

I shuddered when I first saw Jacob’s ladder. You can’t miss it really. As you look out from town to the sea it dominates the left hand bank of rock.

Jacob’s ladder is a construction of 699 steps which starts from the bottom of the town and leads up to Ladder Hill Fort. The staircase itself was built in 1829 and is all that remains of a cable railway. I think they lost a step along the way.

‘Designed by the local engineer J. W. Hoar, the Saint Helena Railway Company built a two-car inclined plane, 924 feet (281.6 m)-long, in 1829 to carry cargo between Jamestown and the fort. The cars rode on a pair of iron-plated fir rails, laid on wooden sleepers anchored into the rock of the valley wall, that were separated by a staircase of 700 steps for pedestrians.’ (Wikipedia)

The rails and cars were removed in 1871 due to termite damage but the steps were left and have since become a tourist attraction.

It looks unbelievably steep (between 39 & 41 degrees) and my first thoughts were how much of you would break if you slipped on one of those steps. All of you.. was the answer ended up with!

Lights were installed along the sides of the stairs in 2000 and the steps were refurbished in 2006. The staircase has also been given Grade 1 listed status.

I fear that Jacob’s Ladder is one of those phenomena that draws you in. My first thoughts were that there is no way I am going up there. No way at all. Then I saw it at night and it looks absolutely beautiful. A string of fairy lights running down the side of the rock. My attitude then turned to, oh I wish I could climb the steps but I know I definitely can’t. I saw it again last night and I must be warming to the idea. I actually said to Damian, I wonder if I could hold on to the railing and go up and down sideways. The thing is I heard that you get a certificate if you complete it. I have a thing for certificates! 😂

Our landlord Colin has lived on the island forever and he said that when he was a child, the school was at the top of the ladder so each day the school children would run up and down the ladder with ease. There was a fisherman that used the ladder twice daily he had one of those milkmaid type affairs where two buckets would be attached to a wooden brace full of fish that he wore across his shoulders. He would use a swinging technique with his legs to navigate the steps without having to hold on to the side railing.

Also, Colin was telling me that a lot of his old friends including his wife, Marlene would slide down the railing when they were much younger. This is where you have your hands on one rail and your legs on the other. It’s unbelievably steep and I cannot imagine how difficult that would be to do, but I guess there’s no fear in the young.

Colin said he had never attempted it but he was taking a group of tourists around the island a few years and one of his friends offered to try ‘the slide’ to see if he could still do it. Colin said he would have loved to have seen it again but he said that all he could imagine was a pile of broken bones at the bottom of the steps.

I asked how often people fell and surprisingly it’s very rarely. There was someone recently who had been drinking and fell some of the way down. Thank goodness they were ok, although they did end up in hospital with a few cuts and bruises!

There is an annual Festival of Running and this took place on the 7th November, the day we flew to and arrived in South Africa. Oh what a terrible shame I could have tried the Jacobs Ladder challenge 😂. The current record stands at 5 minutes 16 seconds!

So it’s yet to be seen whether I end up trying to navigate Jacob’s ladder or not. I still have another 12 days or so to make up my mind.

I won’t be breaking any records though or bones!

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