When I started planning my trip to Sydney the first activity at the top of my `to do` list was to climb the Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an iconic structure known throughout the world. Images of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations including the brilliant firework displays on the harbour bridge are flashed around the world as Australia heralds in another year. I felt i knew the bridge before I arrived in Sydney because it was so familiar to me.
Who could forget the Sydney 2000 Olympics when the harbour bridge was adorned with the six Olympic Rings. The bridge was also included in the Olympic torch’s route to the Olympic stadium and the men’s and women’s Olympic marathon crossed the bridge as part of their route to the Olympic stadium. A stunning fireworks display at the end of the closing ceremony concluded at the bridge.
Sydney Harbour Photo: Geoff Jones 2013
The dramatic view of the bridge from the harbour looming high over the diminutive Sydney Opera House is an iconic image of Sydney and of Australia and I was so looking forward to climbing it and soaking up the views from the summit.
The Harbour Bridge nicknamed The Coat Hanger by locals because of its arch-based design can be seen from all over the city. It keeps popping up into view when you turn a corner or are sitting in a restaurant, catching a train or taking a ferry across the harbour. You can`t escape the bridge!
It towers over every part of the city and is a beloved symbol of Sydney to the thousands of visitors and to more than 4 million Sydneysiders who call the Harbour City home as much today as it was on 19 March 1932 when it first opened to the public.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is also a major transport link providing rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian access for traffic between the Sydney central business district and the North Shore. The main roadway across the bridge is known as the Bradfield Highway and is about 2.4 km (1.5 mi) long, making it one of the shortest highways in Australia.
Sydney Harbour Bridge Photo: Geoff Jones 2013
It is a record breaking bridge. The facts speak for themselves! It is the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world and the tallest steel arch bridge in the world measuring 134 m (440 ft.) from top to sea level. It was also the world’s widest long-span bridge at 48.8 m (160 ft.) wide until the Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver was opened in 2012.
`From a distance it has a kind of gallant restraint, majestic but not assertive, but up close it is all might. It soars above you, so high that you could pass a ten-storey building beneath it, and looks like the heaviest thing on earth. Everything that is in it – the stone blocks in its four towers, the latticework of girders, the metal plates, the six-million rivets (with heads like halved apples) – is the biggest of its type you have ever seen… This is a great bridge`
Bill Bryson – Down Under (2000)
During the 1950s and 1960s several people illegally climbed the bridge usually during the dark of night and it was not until 1998 that BridgeClimb made it possible for tourists to legally climb the southern half of the bridge. Climbs run throughout the day from dawn to night and are only cancelled due to electrical storms or high winds.
I arrived at the bridge full of expectation and excitement. There was a lot of preparation before the climb took place. Safety on the bridge is given the highest priority and all climbers are briefed on safety procedures including how to climb stairs safely without twisting the wire lifeline. Climbers are also given a simple breath test to ensure climbers have not been drinking because if you fail you are not allowed to climb.We were dressed in blue protective clothing appropriate for the weather conditions which on the day I climbed were perfect with bright sunshine, warm temperatures and it was dry under foot.
The suits could best be described as romper suits or onesies and represents the height of bridge climb fashion. The suits were not only super comfortable but I was also told they are specially designed to reduce the visual impact on the Bridge and minimise traffic distraction. The blue and grey blends in with the bridge colour and sky above.
During the climb, we were all secured to the bridge by a wire lifeline so there really was no chance of anyone falling from the bridge. Our climb began on the eastern side of the bridge and we climbed slowly to the summit. When we got to the highest point on the bridge we made a short video and crossed over to the western side of the arch for the long descent.
The climb was simply stunning the views of the city phenomenal. No better way to view the city? Our guide Brad (he told us to remember Brad Pitt!) was well informed and he told us he had climbed the bridge over 600 times so I felt safe in his hands. He took great care to ensure everyone was comfortable and felt happy with the arrangements for climbing the bridge. We were not allowed to carry any loose items such as phones or cameras for obvious reasons so he took several pictures as individuals and groups at various points on the climb which could be purchased at the end of the climb.
Our guide pointed out prominent features across the harbour and provided some historical information and amusing anecdotes as we climbed. The views of the Opera House and the city from on high were breath taking. We stopped at regular intervals so that we could take in the sights all around and below us!
I stood watching numerous small and large boats darting across the harbour and the eight lanes of moving traffic and trains a long way below us. I even spotted low flying seaplanes skirting the top of the bridge which all added to the drama of our climb. The climb took about three-and-a-half-hours including the preparations and orientation procedures.
If you are visiting Sydney and have never climbed the bridge before I would recommend you do so for the experience of a lifetime. Since returning to England I have not stopped talking about the day I climbed Sydney harbour bridge.
The BridgeClimb website is also excellent providing an exhaustive collection of information including photographs, the history of the bridge, the climb experience, pre-climb checklist, prices and even celebrity spotting to ensure you have the best day possible.
It truly was a day to remember.
3 Cumberland St, The Rocks NSW 2000
Call: +61 (2) 8274 7777
Photographs: The Travel Locker & Geoff Jones as noted for BridgeClimb 2013
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