Like pdxsailbordiver, I also thought about this a long time, and finally decided to go with aluminum
fixed steps. I installed my steps by tapping out the holes and using machine screws.
I went this way for a couple reasons....
1. I single-hand quite a bit. If I am alone and need to up the stick I can go up by myself (self-sufficiency is important to me)
2. I wanted secure footing if I have to go up the stick at sea
3. I use a climbing harness (NOT a bosun's chair) & safety
1. Halyard don't get wrapped round fixed steps if they are installed properly with a small line/wire rope
running town the outside of the steps.
2. Fixed steps do not have a single
point of failure.
3. I don't have to worry about my foot slipping off/out of a fixed step..more secure feeling
4. Any additional windage is insignificant on a cruising boat
5. I would not recommend steps on a tapered mast
6. There is also no appreciable noise
...when the winds are blowing there is more noise
from neighboring boat halyards slamming against their masts than wind
blowing through my mast steps.
7. Folding steps sometimes clatter in high wind
or rolling anchorages
8. Also, size of boat and mast must be a strong consideration.
Overall, just like a radar arch
it is a matter of personal preference.
I go up the stick once a year to inspect rigging
. Rarely more than that. But, when I go up I am secure.