The iconic buildings of the campus skyline prompt the head to tilt, the spirit to lift … and the legs to burn. The stairs of UCLA serve as a constant amid the tides of an ever-moving campus. They bear witness to thousands of leisurely ascending visitors, to students following the tradition of skipping the sixth step on the Kuruvungna steps, and to the intrepid UCLA staff and faculty who take on the “12 Staircases of December” challenge. This integral aspect of campus life prompted Evelyn Luu ’21 to take a closer look at how stairs impact student life on the Hill –– the aptly named cluster of residence halls that quite literally signal a daily uphill battle. For students, simply getting breakfast presents a strenuous test of physical aptitude. As Luu catches her interviewees at the end of their ascent, her questions are met with a pause for breath as students contemplate which staircases they prefer and which they avoid. It’s a serious question, considering that a seemingly innocuous trip to get coffee might involve a perilous encounter with the “Death Stairs” –– a set of 60 steps so steep that the pilgrimage is marked only by the audible breathlessness of fellow climbers. Alternatively, a trip back from campus by way of the “Awkward Steps” may offer a little levity as the length of each step necessitates a lunging gait, a loping stride, even hopping. The old saying suggests that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. For those on the UCLA campus, it’s not a matter of where you’re going, but which mountain you’ll climb to get there.

Read more from UCLA Magazine’s Winter 2023 issue.