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Montserrat’s literal steps to daring selfie stardom

gypsea_lust / Instagram

A bizarre bit of Instagram mimicry has vaulted a little-known Catalonian sculpture into the daredevil-selfie spotlight.

After Lauren Bullen, 23, posted glamorous images of herself in scenic locations across Greece, Spain, Morocco and Italy to her gypsea_lust account, a nearly identical series emerged, with settings, poses, attire and even jewellery mimicking the popular blogger's shots down to the smallest detail.

Beyond the viral controversy surrounding the incident, one of the duplicated photos has drawn attention to the late Josep Maria Subirachs's Escala de l'Enteniment (Stairway to Understanding). Identified by Bullen only as being located "in the hills of Montserrat," Spain, the 40-year-old monument to 13th-century philosopher Ramon Llull is set on the edge of a scenic lookout just steps from the famous abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat. It can be reached by hiking trails or the Sant Joan funicular railway.

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Bullen is pictured sitting atop the dramatic spiral work – which in her photo seems to rise hundreds of feet from the bottom of a valley, offering the kind of skewed perspective that's ideal for daring-looking photo ops.

But as with many daredevil-selfie staples – dangling over the Grand Canyon, swimming to the lip of Victoria Falls – the risks are exaggerated. The monument is just 10 metres high and located on a terrace.

Reaching the topmost tier, it turns out, involves little more than clambering up the three-metre-wide blocks that represent Llull's eight stages of awareness: stone, flame, plant, animal, man, heaven, angel and God.

Still, falling 10 metres onto concrete or over the edge and down a cliff would not end well, which is likely why the sculpture has reportedly been fenced off in an apparently feeble attempt to deter selfie tragedies.

Not that there's a shortage of thrilling climbs in the area. Montserrat, located about an hour's drive northwest of Barcelona, is one of Spain's most famous rock-climbing destinations, with dozens of well-established routes criss-crossing the sawtooth profile of the 1,236-metre-high summit of Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome). It is the area's highest mountain and offers views worthy of Instagram shots – no risking of life required.

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