On Friday, I’d gone up to The Rocks to check out the location of BridgeClimb, as we’d booked ourselves a climb a few weeks earlier.
We set off early on Saturday morning to make sure we didn’t get held up, and actually made it there with around 45 minutes to spare…so once we’d registered and got our tickets, we wandered round the corner for a coffee in a café, in the sunshine.
At the appointed time (actually 5 minutes before it, as instructed –we’re so compliant!) we returned and took a seat in the waiting area. At 9:45, the first of several people who would help us with the climb invited us in to stand in a room, on marked spots, and got us our first bit of equipment: the all-in-one suit. This is worn over your street clothes, but it’s advisable to remove your jacket as they’ll later supply all you need to keep warm. We went through to the changing rooms, put these on, put all our valuables into lockers, and then proceeded to the next stage of kitting out. We were variously equipped with such items as elastic to keep glasses on, hankies to tuck up your sleeve, and headgear attached by a lanyard to the suit. Then we got to our belts; the belt is the essential safety harness, and has a clip by which you attach yourself to the safety wire which runs throughout the climb. It’s the same thing that ocean-going yachtsmen (and women) use. We then had various other items attached to the belt, including a fleece (it’s chilly at the top), and also radioed and headsetted up, so we could hear the commentary and instructions from our climb leader, Mike.
Fully kitted out, we then headed for the practice area where we were drilled in how to safely ascend and descend a ladder: only one person at a time, three points of contact, which way to face, that sort of thing. The whole kitting-out process and practice took about 45 minutes.
And we were ready! Mike led us out into the internal area of the South right tower. Those towers are hollow, and made from concrete, with a granite cladding on the outside. We clipped onto the safety line, and walked along various gantries and walkways under the bridge, before emerging out onto the bridge proper, and starting the ascent, via ladders, of the top arch. Mike kept up a commentary all the time about the history of the bridge and stuff about the building. The climb isn’t particularly strenuous and once we’d emerged onto the top arch it was just plain walking, on metal steps that gradually got shallower. As we approached the top we stopped for a photo session:
Then we had another group photo once we reached the top, and another individual one as we crossed from the right side of the bridge to the left, over the roadway and trains below. The centre of the bridge is now available for weddings, apparently, as well as being a common spot for proposals. You still have to wear the bridge gear, so Mike told us, so he reckoned it was a good way of doing it on the cheap. Down below, it being a sunny Saturday, there were no less than three wedding couples being photographed under the bridge.
The descent is down the left side of the bridge, so that you end up on the same side of the harbour that you started from…which is handy, because that’s where we’d left our valuables. We heard more history as we descended, including the story of a 10-year-old boy who rode from his farm to Sydney for four days to get to the opening ceremony.
Once we’d made it down, we did the dressing process in reverse (much quicker!), then exited via the gift shop, picking up our photos and a t-shirt each along the way. We were also presented with certificates - I am now a BridgeClimb Master, as this is my second ascent.
We’d spent about 3½ hours in total, and by this time we were pretty hungry (despite having had a good breakfast, which they check before you head up – they don’t want people fainting out on the bridge!) so we headed back into The Rocks to acquire some lunch. It being a sunny Saturday, the place was packed, but we managed to find a place that fitted the bill, and had a burger washed down with a glass or two of the local brew.