The first 100m of the Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb are the hardest.
Not the climb to the peak, not the pose at the top, the first steps you take out of the safety of the training area are the ones that will have you gripping the railing tightest.
When you exit the staging area inside one of the big stone pillars at the south end of the bridge, you are on a catwalk. A clear grill catwalk high above the road below that extends out over the water. Your knees knock a little, you take a deep breath, and as much as you want to keep your eye on your tether or the person in front of you, you look down.
The Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb is a rigidly serious affair when it comes to safety. You sit through numerous briefings and training areas. You take a breathalyzer (even 9 yr old Zacharie had to blow to show he was sober and would pay attention to directions). You have to remove any and all loose items of clothing, you toss a flight suit-esque jumpsuit to cover yourself, and everything you need from hats to gloves to headphones are tethered to you. Nothing is going over the edge on this climb, not your hat, not you, nothing.Yet despite all those assurances, despite all the safety briefings, despite the fact your belt is firmly locked into the railing on a cable and you know you’re not going anywhere … you look down.
I took an extra deep breath. I wasn’t scared, but I was. I wanted my son closer to me, I knew I was belted in, but I wasn’t confident in the security of it all yet, and besides .. I could see straight down.
After those first few hundred metres, your tour group will be met by a second member of the BridgeClimb team. Not many people turn back, but if they do, this is where it happens. That team member is there to take you back should you want to wave the white flag after not climbing the bridge but simply walking out to it.
Yes, the scariest part of the Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb that takes you some 134 metres to the top of the 84 year old span, is the flat bit at the beginning.
Once you get into the “skeleton” of the bridge, the climb is easy. You’re focused on the stair in front of you and whizzing your tether along the cable attached to the bridge. A few times it gets a little hectic as you stand on a pillar watching 8 lanes of traffic whiz past on the deck below, but that’s about it.
It’s amazing that nearly 100 years ago they had the foresight to build a bridge this wide. Think about the infrastructure demands back then. They ran a couple of buggies and trains over it, that was it. In 2010, the average daily traffic included 204 trains, 160,435 vehicles and 1650 bicycles (not to mention a few hundred climbers).
The whole climb up the bridge your leader will regale you with stories about the bridge’s construction, and interesting facts and stories about this Sydney landmark. Before you know it, you’re at the top!
Zacharie and I didn’t turn back, nobody in our group did as we took the more than 1000 steps on an express climb on the inner arch of the bridge!
From dawn to dusk groups will climb the inner and outer arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The only way they’ll stop is if it’s too cold, too hot, or too windy. A few times a year they’ll cancel climbs, but for the most part if you’re anywhere near the harbour and you look towards the bridge, you’ll see the silhouetted figures climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
What: BridgeClimb Sampler goes halfway, 90 minutes. BridgeClimb Express takes inner arch, 2 hrs. BridgeClimb goes up outer arch, 3 1/2 hours.
Cost: $163 – $373 (depending on age, time of day – twilight and dawn climbs are more expensive)
Disclosure: We were guests of Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb for our visit.