Climbing the Cathedral of Learning as Cardio Training

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Cathedral of Learning

As part of training for the backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park (we need to go up 3,180ft in two days!), I'm climbing up the 36 flights of the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh's campus weekly. Around here, we fondly refer to it as "Stair Sunday." The first week I could only do 2.5 ascents (88 flights), the second week it was 4 ascents (144 flights), then 5 ascents (180 flights), 5 times again (I blame yoga), and 6 today. It's within the realm of possibility to get to 6 ascents in a row, with ~20 lbs of gear by August. But it'd also be nice if this took less than 3 hours to complete, so I need to start running the stairs. Ughhhhhhh.

Looking Up the Cathedral of Learning

The trick is to enter the Cathedral of Learning and find Stairwell A (hint: it's near the vending machines on the ground floor). If you can't find Stairwell A, just start going up any set of stairs. As you get higher and higher up, other stairwells will end, until there's only one left to take. Once you get to the top 'Honors Lounge' area (where it is relatively safe to store your belongings while you climb), you take the elevators all the way down, so as to not unduly stress your knees.

Cathedral of Learning Stair Sign
A sign in the stairwell welcomes you, preventing any lawsuits from exercise-induced stairwell tumbles: "Warning: These stairwells exist to provide safe egress from the building in cases of emergency. The stairwell is not designed or the area supervised to accommodate exercise or other athletic activity. Anyone using these facilities does so at their own risk."

I've regularly seen people climbing the stairs on weekends and weekdays. Two women were doing 12 ascents in a row, other times I've seen some men using weight vests, and once I ran into some guys in hiking backpacks and Camelbaks. You get to mingle with some tourists at the top, gawking at the view, while you try to steal the air conditioning.

View from the Top of the Cathedral of Learning Peregrine Falcon Atop the Cathedral of Learning


The Many Colours of Happiness said...

Wow. You are dedicated!! I think what you are already climbing is impressive!! Good luck with it, it definitely sounds like you will reach your target :)

Holly said...

Wow, that is a seriously amazing building! I Wikipedia'd it, because I thought it was an actual cathedral and wondered what it was doing on a university campus, lol! :D

I think I would die if I climbed up all those stairs!

k said...

that is totally cardio...and a good cultural kind :)

Brandi said...

I so admire you! I have a friend who ran stairs last fall in some sort of sick and twisted race. You're right, cardio here is the key. I'm sure you'll make it where you want to be. I can't wait to hear about it!

Jo said...

And the happy byproduct of all of this work will be thighs of steel!! :)
Yosemite is so beautiful! I'm so excited for you!!

Sarah said...

That seems so daunting! I don't think I could ever manage that! Incredibly impressive training. ♥

h said...

I didn't think I could ever manage climbing the stairs either, but I've found my week-to-week improvement to be really encouraging!

Mandy said...

Oh my goodness!! I walk up like two flights of stairs and I'm out of breath. So impressed :)


Anne said...

Hi Iris,
I used to climb the stairs to prep for mountain climbing. I already lived in the Northwest when I climbed Half Dome. I sure could have used training at the Cathedral of Learning first that time!

What did you climb at Yosemite?

By any chance do you know how may actual stairs are at the cathedral?


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