An Urban Ascent
Australia, for me, has always been a place that I could not wait to visit, despite the fact that it is the deadliest country in the world, and around any corner there might be something that could kill me.
There are more deadly snakes there than any other country. It has the largest crocodiles in the world, Great White Sharks, box jelly fish that will kill you in eight minutes, hairy homicidal spiders, and of course Dingoes that will ‘eat your baby’. The untamed outback, the mysterious creatures that are unique to the island, and a history unlike any other place on the planet still make me realize that I will have to return to continue my own exploration.
But from an urban standpoint, and certainly less life threatening, the perfect starting place is Sydney. From the very trendy area known as The Rocks, where numerous pubs, restaurants, and boutique shops abound, to the culturally significant Sydney Opera House, you won’t have to venture very far to find the best of the best of whatever you happen to be searching for.
And although venturing West to the Blue Mountains for a bit of a ‘walkabout’ might be more satisfying to those who search for a more adventurous vacation, there is the possibility to do a bit of climbing right in the heart of the city.
Climbing Base Camp
Your climbing adventure with BridgeClimb starts the moment you walk in the door. If you’ve arrived more than the required 15 minutes before your scheduled ascent, then you’ll have time to spend in the Visitor Center and Cinema. Through the exhibition you have the chance to learn a bit before you start your climb, including history, preservation and celebration of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Generally, if you are somewhat fit and healthy, at least 8 years old, and roughly 4 feet tall with a sense of adventure; you’ll have an amazing experience that will be exceptionally difficult to ever beat. Keep in mind that the climb happens in all weather conditions, except for extreme conditions like electrical storms or extremely high wind, and as long as you wear appropriate shoes then you’ll be on your way.
I did arrive the mandatory 15 minutes prior to climbing and once I got checked in with reception, it was up the stairs to wait for the other climbers in my group to be checked in and arrive.
My group started with a briefing on safety and a bit of paperwork related to health and ability to climb. Once this was all signed and delivered from each one of us, we were escorted into a changing area where we were to completely change into a jumpsuit for climbing. BridgeClimb provides you with all of the outdoor gear you’ll need for the climb based on the weather for the day. All climbers are not allowed to bring anything with them, except for their shoes, and like myself, glasses.
Due to the safety issue of things being dropped on the roadway, everything that you need needs to be clipped to your body. The day we went it was sunny and not terribly cold so we were given hats. During the winter you’ll also receive gloves, earmuffs, jackets or even headlamps if you’re climbing at night. But nt matter what it is, everything is clipped to your body so it won’t fall from you while you’re on the bridge.
Once we had changed and left EVEYTHING in the lockers provided, it was now time for us to go through the second phase of the preparation stage. We each stepped into a climbing harness and got buckled in securely. It was at this point where we clipped on glasses, sunglasses, hats, handkerchiefs, radio headsets and anything else that we were outfitted with for the climb on that day.
Once outfitted, it was time for a practical application for practice. Inside the climbing center is a reproduction of some of the steepest and most narrow areas of the bridge so you can get accustomed to how it’s going to feel before you find yourself many feet above the ground. As long as everybody is feeling good with no climbing issues, the next step is across the elevated pathway of the welcome center and out to the underneath structural portion of the bridge.
Out and UP!
Securely tethered to a steel cable that ran the entire length of the climb, the group exited the South pylon of the approach to the Sydney Harbor Bridge with our Climb Leader as our guide. Almost instantly we began to realize just what an experience this was going to be. Eight lanes of traffic were only a few feet above our head and the ground was significantly further below us than what it was when we all woke up earlier in the morning.
We made our way along the underneath girders in a single file stepping over supports, and through small passageways that were clearly designed for maintenance rather than walking tours. As we pressed on, our Climb Leader was giving us tidbits of historical information about the bridge and the harbor, all of which afforded a unique perspective since we were looking at it either extremely up-close or from a birds-eye perspective.
As we came to the first concrete pylon of central span, we paused briefly for some safety information. We were told that at this point, we were now on the central span of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and were about to access the arch for our climb to the summit. To do this however, you will need to climb a short ladder that ultimately brings you up between lanes seven and eight of the Bradfield Highway running across the bridge.
As traffic whizzed past on either side, we all climbed the narrow ladder out of the substructure of the bridge and continued up from the roadway level to the wide, steel arch a few feet above the pavement. From there, the only place to go was up. As you climbed the arches the panoramic view of Sydney Harbor and the Opera House only improved with the elevation. As we reached the summit, the archway began to obviously flatten out, and at most, it felt as if we were walking up a sidewalk on a street that had a bit of a hill to it.
Summiting on Sydney
Finally reaching the top is an exhilarating experience. From the ground the arches look narrow and, even though completely exposed to the elements on every side, somewhat claustrophobic. When, in reality, they are massively wide and without the knowledge that you’re climbing to nearly 440 feet above the water, feel very much like any sidewalk in any city. At times, I found myself with my hands at my side with the mindset that I was just out for an afternoon stroll.
We paused for a group photo at the top and as part of the BridgeClimb experience, you get to record a short six-second video in front of the Australian flag flying high at the center. As I waited for the others to finish up their video, I did take some time to myself to have a grand look around. Part of me was very happy for an accomplishment that can only be described as a ‘bucket list’ activity, but there was also a bit of my inner self that thought, “Hmmm. I thought it’d be taller.”
It is deceptively high from the ground, but I guess once you make it that far, then everything else seems to be not so grand. We descended the opposite arch and made our way back down below traffic for the walk back to the Welcome Center among the I-beams and trusses.
Once unharnessed from the bridge and changed I said good-bye to my comrades of the afternoon. All of us with more smiles than anything about the entire experience. Each of us received an official BridgeClimb certificate along with the group photo and a souvenir hat.
‘Bridging’ the gap in experiences
The whole experience does take up a bit of time. I chose the standard BridgeClimb package which lasted three and a half hours, but there is an express version as well that also reaches the summit, but with a slightly shorter path and taking only two hours and fifteen minutes. If you’d like to give it a try but are afraid of heights, there is a BridgeClimb Sampler that you can choose which does not summit, but rather ends with an ascent through the inner arch but stops at a halfway vantage point taking only an hour and a half.
If you do have a fear of heights, let the staff know. Turning back is possible, but not easy due to the one-way path that needs to be taken. However, every guide is specially trained to help with this fear and BridgeClimb takes great pride in helping climbers conquer their fear through the years. More information about this can be found on their website.
Whether it is a sunrise or sunset climb or one done in Mandarin or for that special proposal to the crazy person that just climbed a bridge with you, BridgeClimb has an experience that will fit the kind of experience you want to do. Although, if you’re planning on that latter one, contact them beforehand. Remember, you can’t take anything with you, but they can help you out with that.
3 Cumberland St., The Rocks, Sydney
Reservations are REQUIRED
Online: BridgeClimb booking Page
Additional Climb Information: Click HERE
BridgeClimb / BridgeClimb Express
*Rates are per person and in Australian Dollars (including Goods & Services Tax (GST)) and are subject to change without notice from The Gentleman’s Choice.
Climb rates and periods are subject to change at the discretion of BridgeClimb. Prices are scaled by time of day you choose to climb.
** Child rates are for ages 8 to 15 inclusive and there must be one adult Climber per three child Climbers.
*** Dawn Climbs have limited departures: on the first Saturday of the month from June to September, and the first and third Saturday of the month from October to May. Please speak to our staff about availability.