Review: Journey to the top of the world on the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
An estimated one million Sydneysiders turned out to witness the official opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. Three times that number have climbed to the top of the iconic steel arches with Bridge Climb Sydney. Don a blue and grey onesie, and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I’ve admired its beauty and grandeur from practically every angle, and today I will add a tick to my bucket list by climbing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Bridge Climb Sydney began running this tour to the top of the bridge back in 1998 and I clearly remember the first time I saw the lemming-like line of tiny figures doing the climb. As I stood watching from below, I had no idea who they were — but I knew one day I would follow in their footsteps.
My heart rate starts to increase as I change into Bridge Climb’s trademark jumpsuit, but its rhythm steadies a little when our guide Alex tells us there is virtually no wind today. I catch sight of my reflection in a mirror. Standing in an oversized pair of blue and grey overalls, I look like a cross between a train conductor and a Trekkie!
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I’ve chosen to do the three-and-a-half-hour day climb. There’s an express option available, but I want to savour the experience; I want to spend as much time as I can exploring this incredible piece of human endeavour.
All six of our climbing group pass the Breathalyser test, and that’s followed by a comprehensive safety presentation (which includes practising on a climb simulator!). All the essentials are clipped on to my suit: a hanky, hat, sunglasses, and a headset. There’s also a clasp that will keep me attached to the safety cable that runs all the way to the top of the bridge.
Besides looking out for our safety, Alex is full of entertaining stories and historical facts about the bridge. He also has a knack for keeping us in suspense. He shares the story of Vincent Kelly — an Irishman who fell from the bridge during construction. Right at the pivotal point to the story, Alex advises us that we’ll have to wait until we complete the climb to find out how it ended. It was worth the wait. Vincent survived, but sadly, 16 of the 1,400 men who worked on the bridge lost their lives in the process. Surprisingly though, only two deaths occurred from falls.
We take our positions to begin the climb. I’m second in line, behind Connor from Ireland. I take that to mean that I’ve been designated the second bravest in the group, although I doubt I’m fooling anyone as I hold the handrail with a vice-like grip.
Putting one tentative foot in front of the other, we begin to climb the steep stairway. Just when I think my nerves are under control, we emerge at road level and car after car whizzes by. I feel like ducking back down the stairs, but the rest of the group are hot on my heels.
Fondly known by Sydneysiders as the ‘Coat Hanger’, Sydney Harbour Bridge was completed in 1932 during the Depression. Close up, its size and symmetry are awe-inspiring. Grey granite covers the giant supporting pylons and six million rivets hold the structure together. It holds the record for the widest long-span bridge in the world, but not the longest (that honour goes to the Chaotianmen Bridge in China).
With every step we take the views become more spectacular. Beneath me is the glittering blue harbour and the hum of Sydney’s Bradfield Highway. To my right is the Sydney Opera House with its majestic sails. Above me, the giant steel arch seems to go on to infinity. As the sun warms my shoulders, I begin to relax enough to appreciate the sweeping panorama.
Alex turns off the microphone and the final leg of the climb is completed in silence. Despite the commotion far below, it’s amazingly tranquil at this height. This really is a journey to the top of the world!
Vanessa O’Hanlon is an Australian television news and weather presenter, and an avid traveller. Her travels began with a flight to Egypt, a visit to the pyramids and a camel ride, and she knew there was no turning back. Since then, Vanessa’s backpack has seen a thing or two — from exploring relatively untouched Bhutan to braving the cold on the peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro.