“Please remove all jewelry, loose articles of clothing, and accessories. Please make sure there is nothing in your pockets. No cameras will be allowed. You must wear closed toed shoes. Put on your jumper, fasten your safety harness, and sign this form stating that if you fall into the harbour, we basically don’t care.”
I’m about to experience one of the “must dos” here in Sydney—the Bridge Climb. At a whopping $130, it’s a little, er, steep, in more ways than one. But I heard it’s worth it and doubt I will be climbing many more bridges in my life. If you want to climb at sunset—you have to pay nearly $100 more! Wow—they don’t own Mother Nature, do they?
The Sydney Harbour Bridge was built in 1932 and is the world’s largest (but not the longest) steel arch bridge with the top of the bridge standing 134 meters above the harbour. Fondly known by the locals as the ‘Coathanger’, the Sydney Harbour Bridge celebrates its 75th birthday this coming new year. When the Bridge opened, it cost a horse and rider three pence and a car six pence to cross. Now horse and riders cannot cross, but you can bicycle or walk across the bridge for free. Cars cost around AU$3.30 for a southbound trip and it is free to go northbound. In 1932, the average annual daily traffic was around 11,000 and now it is around 160,000 vehicles per day.
The whole climb operation ran like a well oiled machine. One of the first things they actually do is a breathalyzer test! Alcohol readings over 0.05 will exclude you from the climb. Yeah, I’m thinking you do not want to be stumbling onto the top of a 450-foot high bridge. I’m assuming one of the reasons the climb is so expensive is they must have a huge liability insurance policy, so having tipsy climbers probably isn’t in their (or your) best interest. The climbing crew herded twelve of us from room to room gathering our specially made, bridge climbing suits, harnesses, headphones and radios, clipping on various accessories like rain shells, handkerchiefs, and fleeces (in case it gets cold at the 900 foot summit). After a small demo of what we needed to do on the bridge we were on our way.
The whole experience lasts three hours. It’s a surprisingly gentle walk, and perfectly safe, as long as you aren’t drunk, of course, and don’t have a problem with heights… because it is high. We went up several ladders and then ascended the eastern arch of the bridge. We were literally walking on the top of the bridge. Most of the areas we scampered across were formerly only accessible to bridge workers. Halfway into the tour it started to rain (of course!) and as we donned our special “bridge climb” rain gear, we reached the ‘summit’ of the bridge. This was pretty damn cool.
We had amazing 360 degree views, in between raindrops, of the harbour and stunning Sydney skyline. Looking down, you could see the rush hour commuters whizzing by to get home after a long day’s work. Every few minutes the bridge would rumble with the sound of the commuter train that also crossed the bridge. We snapped some photos, crossed over the top of the bridge and began our decent down the western arch. Again, when I say descent, we were literally just walking down steps, so it was not like we were scaling the bridge or repelling down its side—this was all very tame, but cool just the same.
What a great business idea! I’d like to write an open letter to Chicago‘s Mayor Daley:
Dear Richie M-
In the vein of Millennium Park, I have a great idea for a huge money maker for the city–The Watertower Climb. I’ll lease it from the city for millions of dollars, and then take out a huge million dollar insurance policy (maybe you have a ‘friend’ or cousin in the insurance biz?). We will attach climb wires to it and have people scale up and down the ‘only building in Chicago that survived the Chicago Fire of 1871.’ I will charge $150 a pop and, just like Sydney, they will come. What do ya think Rich? C’mon, you love tourism!