At one point during a work's story, either as part of its central plot or as a Story Arc, a character wishes to reach to the sky. Not in a spiritual sense when the character dies (that would be The Journey Through Death), but in a physical sense while the character is still alive. They wish to reach there for a specific purpose, be it to find a Plot Coupon, to find something or someone who might help them in the adventure, or it's mere curiosity. So the story shows the character undetaking a trip to the sky. They may do it by climbing a ladder or beanstalk, or reaching the highest floor of a building or tower (in this case, the clouds have to be seen around or beneath the floor's height, to ensure it is within the domain of the sky). As a last resort, the character might need to build something (such as a tower or a vehicle). The objective is the same regardless of the means.
The character may end up finding an Ominous Floating Castle or a Floating Continent. On rare occasions, the character might reach so high they find themselves in outer space or an otherworldly landscape.
This trope is Older Than Feudalism, and its popularity is attributed to religious and mythical lore as well as man's desire to learn what lies above everyday ground. It has become a frequent instance in high fantasy and science fiction media.
Compare Climbing Climax. Sister Trope to The Journey Through Death (for cases when the character dies and manifests themself afterwards as a soul aiming to either come back to life or reach the angelic sky to rest peacefully) and Stairway to Heaven (when the character's soul walks upstairs to reach the spirit realm); both of them, especially the latter, are often combined with Ending by Ascending.
- Scaling the Summit: When a character aims to climb a mountain to reach its top.
- Tower of Babel: When an entire society tries to build a tower leading to Heaven to meet God.
- Call of the Wild Blue Yonder: For cases when a character wishes specifically to fly through the skies and enjoy doing so, either by riding a plane or becoming a bird (namely one capable of flying).
- Battle Angel Alita: Alita's love interest Hugo dreams of going to Tiphares (Zalem), a literal city in the sky that Hugo believes is paradise. The city is supported by orbital rings, connected to a Space Elevator, and supplied by the Scrapyard below using Factory tubes that connect the ground to the sky. Hugo is so obsessed with reaching Tiphares that he falls for a scammer's false promises to take him there and steals spines trying to raise the money. He gets a bounty on his head for his crimes, and is mentally shattered by the scammer's admission that he was never going to take Hugo there. When Hugo tries to climb up to Tiphares via the Factory tubes, he gets torn to pieces by its security measures until he can't hold on and falls to his death.
- Dragon Ball features two instances, both in the original series preceding Z:
- During the Red Ribbon Story Arc, after Goku loses a fight to Tao Pai Pai, he's told about a sacred tower where a wise, 800-year-old anthropomorphic cat known as Karin (Korin in the English dub) lives and holds the secret to enhance one's strength. Goku, wishing to defeat Tao Pai Pai to avenge the murder of Upa's father, proceeds to climb the tower and eventually meets Karin at the very top.
- After defeating Piccolo Sr. but being unable to revive his fallen friends due to the murder of Shenron (by Piccolo Sr. himself), Goku is told by Karin that his Power Pole was originally designed to be placed at the very tip of the tower's ceiling and then enlarged to its fullest extent so one could climb even higher and reach The Lookout, the homeland of Earth guardian Kamisama. Goku then uses the Pole to do the extra climb, as meeting Kamisama will be the only way to revive Shenron (and, subsequently, his friends) and train with him and Mr. Popo to fight and defeat Piccolo's son one day.
- One Piece: The first half of the Skypiea Saga concerns itself with this kind of plot, as the protagonists are attempting to reach the aforementioned Skypiea, which is a island in the sky (floating above a dense mass of clouds). They manage to do so by sailing through a gigantic water spout that is conveniently timed to erupt just below the cloud mass where the island is.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann begins in a society of people forced to live underground. Kamina's dream is to reach the surface and see the sky, with the help of Simon, whose Arc Words are "The drill that will pierce the heavens". Over the course of the show, they not only reach the surface and see the sky but eventually reach space, using Humongous Mechas.
- Castle in the Sky: The story is about the search for the lost kingdom of Laputa, which floats somewhere in the sky. Eventually the young protagonists (Pazu and Sheeta) have to team with a crew of Sky Pirates to get there before government agents do.
- Despicable Me centers around Felonius Gru, the Villain Protagonist, who wishes to buy a spacecraft in order to reach the moon and shrink it so it can be grabbed. This was derived from two experiences: His rival Vector having stolen the pyramid of Giza in a similar fashion and making him jealous, and more importantly, his frustrated dream of becoming an astronaut and reaching the moon due to his lack of support from his mothernote . After many struggles, including stealing Vector's shrinking ray and funding the construction of a spacecraft, he succeeds, but at the cost of losing the trust of his adopted daughters (whom he promised to see during a ballet event) and the need to rescue them from a revenge-seeking Vector.
- In The LEGO Movie, after Emmet and Wyldstyle meet up with Vitruvius in the Old West, the heroes venture towards Cloud Cuckoo Land, located in the skies of Middle Zealand, to assemble an army of Master Builders to defeat Lord Business.
- Puss in Boots spoofs the plot of the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. Puss, with the help of old friend Humpty Dumpty, steals the magic beans from Jack (who's an outlaw here) so they can plant them and climb to a castle in the sky where a goose laying golden eggs is said to live.
- The Aeronauts portrays a pair of balloonists making a high-altitude flight so one of them can prove his theories that weather follows predictable patterns.
- Angels & Demons: During the start of the climax, when the antimatter canister that was planted in the Vatican Necropolis is finally located, the Camerlengo quickly takes it out of its location and, once in the then-crowded St. Peter Square, mounts an helicopter with the canister at hand to fly upward as far as possible. In the book, Robert Langdon is accompanying him, and mistakenly believes that the Camerlengo tries to drop it in a lake; the real plan is to make the helicopter take the canister so high into the sky that its explosion wouldn't damage the Vatican too much. There is only one parachute in the vehicle, which the Camerlengo takes to escape (at that point, he plans to let Langdon die with the explosion because he was fearing that Langdon would find out that the whole Illuminati conspiracy was his idea all along; Langdon survives and, with the Camerlengo's betrayal fresh in his mind, eventually finds out the truth anyway). In the film adaptation, the Camerlengo drives to the sky alone, and Langdon discovers his evil plan alongside Vitoria in a different way.
- In The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton, the titular magical tree grows right up into the clouds, and climbing to its top usually leads to some Magical Land (a different one every week), although the length of time each land stays can vary from days to hours, which can result in characters being stuck there. On one occasion, in order to rescue someone who had become trapped in the Land of Marvels, the others have to get there via the adjoining Land of Giants, which they access by climbing Jack's beanstalk.
- Jack and the Beanstalk has the eponymous protagonist climb the magical beanstalk that grew overnight out of a set of magical beans he obtained by trading a cow he was supposed to sell for money. When Jack reaches the top, he discovers a castle inhabited by giants.
- The Bible has a unified, single-language civilization attempt to build a tower in Shinar, the Tower of Babel, in order to reach Heaven and meet God. God Himself does not approve of this, so He makes it so the builders end up speaking different languages to make communication impossible, thus rendering them unable to proceed with the tower's construction.
- In Classical Mythology, Bellerophon attempted to fly to Mount Olympus on Pegasus, but his mount was stung by a gadfly, causing Bellerophon to fall into a thorn bush and lose his eyesight as a result.
- In Mande Mythology, Ndomayiri fashioned an iron chain which he climbed up to the sky. In those days there was no moon, so Ndomayiri crafted one from iron. When the crescent moon appears, he is heating it up. When the full moon appears, it means he has finished his work. Unfortunately for mankind, the chain to heaven broke after Ndomayiris ascent and death came into the world.
- In Serer Mythology, the Mbos tree once grew until it reached heaven. Roog was displeased by this intrusion and cut off its head, demanding it stay closer to earth. The tree was ashamed and intertwined its branches so nobody could climb it. The first humans took refuge under it.
- In Etrian Odyssey II and V, this is the end result of reaching the top of the Yggdrail Labyrinth (I and III revolves around going downward instead, IV is about simply reaching the Yggdrasil and Nexus is about traveling around it to access it at the end). In II, the highest stratum is the Forbidden Wood, a sacred forest where the Overlord (the then-defeated Big Bad) encased his deadliest creations; it takes cues from the biblical Eden, and there are floating islands one can reach by using warp points. In V, the highest stratum is the Empyreal Bridge, which takes the player's character party to the realm of outer space, well beyond the atmosphere of the planet.
- Kirby Air Ride: This is actually quite easy to do. In City Trial mode, there are a few ramps- and a volcano- that will launch you straight to a transparent, circular object in the sky that you can climb on top of. Despite not looking much like a garden, it's referred to in-universe as "the garden in the sky". The first time you do it, you'll unlock an achievement.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Link has to climb to the top of the Veil Falls to find a tornado that takes him to the Cloud Tops. There, he has to traverse through a maze-like area (and hovering from one part to another with mini-tornadoes in the process) to find another big tornado and reach the Palace of Winds, where the last Plot Coupon (the Wind Element) can be found.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the Mirror of Twilight is shattered into four fragments, and the last such piece lies in the City in the Sky, homeland of the Oocca. To reach it, Link has to travel across Hyrule to find some ancient statues and move them with the Dominion Rod (which in turn needs to have its power restored by completing a prior task) to acquire the characters in sky language written beneath them. Doing this will complete a text that, once read by Shad in the basement of Renado's sanctuary, allows a nearby statue to be moved with the Rod and reveal a Sky Cannon. Unfortunately, the Cannon is broken, so Link and Midna have to transport it to Lake Hylia and pay 300 Rupees to Fyer so he repair it. Only then can the young hero use it to launch himself skyward and reach the City in the Sky.
- In Ōkami, as Amaterasu and Issun explore the islands of West Ryoshima Coast, they eventually reach one in which the fabled Catcall Tower was erected. As they try to figure out the origin of the meows (audible even in the surroundings of the island), they proceed to climb it thanks to the luminous golden marks left by Kabegami, the god of walls and one of the 13 brush gods. It's a very tall tower divided into eight levels (the number is not a coincidence), its top is shrouded into the clouds and has a large cat statue. Reaching there and feeding the nearby cat (the one who is meowing) summons Kabegami, who proceeds to grant Amaterasu the Catwalk ability; this skill proves useful later for the location of the Dragon Palace, the homeland of the now-enraged Water Dragon.
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team: The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is Sky Tower which, as the name implies, is a tower floating in the sky and is made up of clouds. It has a total of 34 floors, of which the last nine comprise the Sky Tower Summit. The heroes need to head there and reach the highest floor to request help from Rayquaza, one of the Olympus Mons, in stopping a meteor from destroying the planet, for which they have to defeat it in battle. The first arrival can be done with the Teleport Gem, but in the postame the object is damaged so the tower can only be reached with the Fly ability (this is no longer necessary in the game's remake).
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Super Mario Bros. 2: The last level of World 6 has Mario and his friends climb a series of tall beanstalks that take them well above the usual Shifting Sand Land of that world, and reach a pyramid in the sky where the boss (Tryclyde) awaits. This part of the game is not only important for the conclusion of the world, but also because it leads to the next world, set in Bubbly Clouds, as it's there where Big Bad Wart lies.
- Super Mario Bros. 3: One of the invaded kingdoms is located in the Sky. World 5 starts as Mario and Luigi venture through a few land-based levels and then reach a spiral tower whose top has a blue beanstalk leading to the sky portion of the world's map. The spiral tower is played as if it was a Fortress, but Boom Boom (the usual Mini-Boss who would guard it) is absent.
- Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins: Space Zone takes it further. To get there, Mario has to reach the top of a tall plateau in the overworld map and enter a level where he uses a hovering Hippo bubble to travel upward (and gather coins in the process) until he reaches outer space. This procedure has to be repeated whenever he wants to return there.
- Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: While searching for the sixth Star Piece, Mario and his team are sent to Bean Valley, at the end of which is a series of beanstalks that leads to Nimbus Land, a city in in the clouds where Mallow was born.
- Paper Mario:
- Paper Mario 64: Since the villainous Huff N. Puff is clouding the sky with his Puff Puff machine during Chapter 6, sunlight isn't reaching the plants. Mario aims to reach the sky to challenge Huff N. Puff and revert the situation, but to do so he needs to gather some items first: a Miracle Bean that can grow into a tall beanstalk, a Fertile Soil to plant the bean onto, and some Miracle Water to make it grow. With the items gathered and the beanstalk grown, Mario climbs it to reach the Cloudy Climb and look for the boss. At the end of the ordeal, he frees the sixth Star Spirit and continues on his adventure.
- Paper Mario: The Origami King: The Great Sea segment focuses chiefly on Mario completing a series of puzzles needed to unlock the Sea Tower, followed by ascending it in order to reach Shangri-Spa, an earthly paradise/spa resort mix floating high up in the sky.
- Newer Super Mario Bros. Wii, a fanmade game, has World 7 divided into two parts: The first is Sky Mountain, in whose last level (Beanstalk Ascent) Mario has to climb a series of beanstalks to reach outer space. This is revealed to be the setting of the world's second half, Starry Skies, and it's there where one of Bowser's Koopalings (Ludwig von Koopa) awaits.
- A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: The starting Sibling Team, after fighting their first boss, climbs the titular rope to a Floating Continent.
- Adventure Time: In an episode after the introduction of Finn's father ("The Tower", from Season 6), Finn attempts to build a tower using whatever he can get his hands on so he can find his dad and take revenge on him. He starts to asphyxiate as he gets higher into the atmosphere, passing out once he hits space.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: The Season 4 episode "They Call Him Mr. Ed" revolves around the Eds trying to build a tower of junk (the Sky Elevator) to reach the moon, for which they start a business known as Ed Co. and convince people from the cul-de-sac to help this cause. They actually do end up reaching the moon, but their attempts to grab it cause the tower to fall, ending the episode with them holding on for dear life.
- The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: In the Season 3 episode "Pooh Skies", the animals who live in the Hundred Acre Woods believe erroneously that the sky is tearing apart (the misunderstanding originated when Pooh tried to grab a beehive from a tree and ends up knocking a cracked eggshell instead). So they travel into the clouds to figure out what's going on.
- Ninjago: In the fifth episode of Season 5, "Peak-a-Boo", the ninja use their mechs to climb the tallest mountain in Ninjago, the Wailing Alps, to reach the "Blind Man's Eye", a storm cyclone which is one of the only ways to travel to the alternate realm known as the "Cloud Kingdom".
- South Park: In Episode 12 of Season 6 ("A Ladder To Heaven"), the boys (Stan, Kyle and Cartman) decide to build a ladder so they can meet Kenny (who died at the end of Season 5 and, for the longest time, hadn't done his usual revival, making everybody believe he died for real). They want to see him so they can retrieve a ticket he won alongside them in a contest, but since the adults are unaware of this intent they think the boys are still sorely missing Kenny and build the ladder to to see him again, which moves them emotionally. This becomes international news, to the point the Japanese plan to build their own ladder while the US military soldiers believe the soul of Saddam Hussein is building a chemical warfare plant in Heaven. At the end of the episode, and upon Cartman discovering that Kenny had placed the ticket in his house before dying (he learned this by reliving Kenny's memories due to having eaten his cremated remains), they decide to suspend the ladder's building. The adults, still unaware of why they wanted to build the ladder in the first place, interpret this as the boys having accepted Kenny's death and moved on, so the whole international story ends. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, it turns out Saddam's soul is building a chemical warfare plant in Heaven.
- Steven Universe: In the Season 1 episode "Ocean Gem", Lapis steals the Earth's ocean and makes it into a tower so she can reach Homeworld. When Steven convinces her to have a polite conversation with him, Lapis admits she knows it's not going to work, as Homeworld is galaxies away and the tower is barely able to break into space, but she had to try anyway.