Written by Denny Custer.
Going “down under”? Going to Sydney? Want to add a neat activity?
Try the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb! That’s right, up and over the top of it- and – back down (safely)! “Wait a minute,” say you! Hhmmmm, sounds a bit foreboding, a bit too adventuresome? Think you can’t do it? Hogwash- if you are reasonably fit, not concerned about climbing a vertical ladder, and not intimidated by the steps (while they are many, they are gentle steps in a gentle gradient), you can do it! It is NOT strenuous!
Karen and I scheduled our climb for an 8:30 am start and as it turned out, in a pouring rain with winds of 67 knots! Tough break for us? Nah, it was a ball! WE will return and do it again, next time- a night climb!
The tours start every 10 minutes, with a group of 10-12 people and guide, from about 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, every day, rain or shine (the only weather they don’t is in a lightning storm). That this has been done for over two years now, with no accidents, is no accident.
When you arrive, 20 minutes or so before your scheduled time, you watch a video describing the climb to get you “informed, mentally prepared, and in the mood”. When your group is called, you go to a locker area and put all of your valuables (no cameras allowed) in a basket, lock them up and put the key around your neck. Then everyone dons coveralls, or in the case of our group, foul weather gear. The only thing you need to provide for yourself is a good pair of rubber-soled shoes. Next the group goes over to the equipment area and you pick up the hardware that goes with you. The main thing is the “come-a-long” which you will later slip into a static wire and pull along with you the entire journey. Incidentally, the static wire is at the same height as the railings (on both sides), which is comfortable, and comforting waist-level or perhaps a bit higher.
Next you all go over to the “training” platform where you slip the “come-a-long” on the test apparatus and you climb a vertical ladder of perhaps 8′, walk across a platform, which is about 2′-30″ wide and down the other side. This confidence builder will give you an excellent idea as to whether or not you need to be concerned sufficiently to toss in the towel. Won’t happen.
With everyone now eager, because this has been a piece of cake so far… you hookup a lanyard for your glasses if you need one and a headset with mike so you can all communicate with each other. Time to go!
You step out onto the bridge structure and walk, underneath the deck of the bridge, yet 30-50 feett off the ground for perhaps a nice city block or two, only the last part of which do you go out over the water. When you reach the main pier, you go one at a time up the vertical ladders. I’d guess the total height over the three ladders is probably 60′ or so. They have spotters at the bottom and the top of each section and your “come-a-long” trails happily along with you. The vertical climb up and down was just not a problem. There is nothing but concrete or steelwork in front of your eyes. At the top of the pier, you climb out onto the arch of the bridge itself and start the stairs upward. You stop a couple of times so the guide can tell you how many rivets are in the bridge and how much it weighs and a lot of that very important stuff. The stops also allow for a little rest for any that might need it and a chance to just pause and enjoy the view. Can’t stop to smell the roses, they don’t bloom up here! When you get to the top, the group crosses over to the other side for the trip down. On the span crossing over, you can look down on the car and train traffic below and enjoy a superb view of Sydney. At one stop on the way up, on the way down, and two at the top, pictures are taken of the group and of singles and couples. The same routine is followed on the descent, with the views being in front of you and simply outstanding.
When you reach the end of the catwalk, where the adventure began, the “come-a-long” is detached and- you have arrived. Everything is turned back in and your articles are retrieved and you have earned the right to go to the gift shop and buy some of the pictures that were taken, t-shirts proclaiming your accomplishments to the world, and lots of other souvenirs to consider. Incidentally, one of the t-shirts has a message on the back giving the number of rivets and total weight, etc., so you don’t really need to pay rapt attention to the guide.
The whole adventure has taken three hours.
It is safe… and you just know that before you go. The guides and other staff people involved are the cheeriest and friendliest group of folks. Best of all, you have the super sense of having done something that is special and probably a bit of a stretcher in terms of other activities you might do. We heartily recommend it. You need to book reservations a month or two before you go. Ask Joy how to do it.
If for physical or other reasons you choose not to do the climb, we can also recommend walking across the bridge and back. There is a nice broad concrete sidewalk on the Opera House side with excellent views of the harbor, the Opera House, and the Sydney skyline. This is a very popular thing to do. Enjoy!