2000 steps. No seriously, I counted, and other people counted, and it is what they say on the website. And even if it really is only 1,999 steps, you can go ahead and round it up by the time you finish the climb up this lung-and-leg-burning stair stepper.
To access the track, start your hike on the Kea Point Track
. Sealy Tarns Track branches off to the west and starts easily enough, although there are signs warning of the strenuous nature and potentially hazardous terrain that you are about to encounter.
Once the stairs start, they are unrelenting. The logistics and labor involved in the construction of this staircase is fairly staggering—the higher you climb, the more impressive it becomes as the stairs contour along the steep hillside, winding in and out of sections of trees and bush that become more and more sparse as you climb.
The good news is that the views are outstanding, so you'll have plenty of excuses to stop and catch your breath. The higher you climb, the better your vantage point for views of Mueller Lake, Hooker Valley, Hooker Lake, and the impressive summit of Mt. Cook / Aoraki. As Mt. Cook Village recedes to a small speck on the valley floor, expansive views open up to the south as well, as the braided Tasman River winds its way across the plain back toward the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki.
The trail does eventually leave the stairs behind and levels out briefly to pass by the tarns themselves. The trail ends at a picnic table with another outstanding view, so bring a snack to enjoy before the punishing descent back down all those stairs.
If you are lucky, you may enjoy the company of Kea. These cheeky high alpine parrots like to hang out around the picnic areas and cause mischief. They make for a great photo opportunity, but keep an eye on your snacks and your packs as they enjoy causing trouble.