When you hear the word “Sydney”, what do you instantly think of?
For 99% of people, I assume the answer is the iconic view of Circular Quay, where you can find the world famous Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The bridge is where the vast majority of the New Year’s Eve fireworks are set off from, and is an instantly recognisable structure.
Once the hectic Christmas and New Year period was over, we found ourselves with six days left in Sydney and very few plans. The main focus of our trip had, of course, been the aforementioned festive period and we could quite happily have spent the next six days recovering on Bondi Beach but there was one more item on our to-do list: to climb the Harbour Bridge.
There are various packages starting at around the $150 mark for a ‘taster’ climb; however we opted to pay a little more and shelled out $250 for the full bridge climb – it’s not every day you’re in Sydney I guess (well, unless you live there…but don’t be a pedant). For our $250, we got all our equipment – including an incredibly flattering branded onesie – and around a three hour climb to the peak of the bridge and back down again.
No, not the shitty X Factor song.
After a safety briefing and an alcohol breath test (they actually do this – so a quiet night before is advised!) we were ready to get kitted up and start our climb. Shortly after this we were introduced to our guide Dean, who took great pleasure in referring to the four of us as ‘convicts’ and making continuous jibes about us coming to Australia on the prison boats and whatnot. It was all lighthearted and – seeing as he was in charge of our wellbeing at the top of the bridge – we felt it was probably best just to laugh along and give a bit back!
Carrying on from the last point, all the staff we encountered were really helpful and informative. There were a couple of people on our climb who were a little nervous of the height, but Dean did a great job of steadying the nerves and ensuring everyone had a great time. I know for a fact that Danny was particularly pleased when Dean placed me and James at the front of the pack and him at the back. In the weeks building up to the climb Danny had been keen to ensure that we went in this particular order due to mine and James’ tendency to be ever so slightly childish and his own slight fear of heights. Damn you Dean!
In addition to this, it also turned out to be quite a good learning experience, as we found out what the Aussie nickname for the Brits ‘Pom’ stands for (prisoner of mother England!), as well as lots of stuff about the history of Sydney and indeed the rest of Australia.
The climb itself wasn’t so much a climb as a steady walk – there’s certainly no scaling of the bridge or abseiling down. I’d go as far as to say that our particular group may have been a little smaller had that been the case!
You start off on some rather rickety railings under the road which was something of a tight squeeze even for me. Shortly after this you approach the only real climb in the form of four ladders. I’d go as far as to say that the ladders were the toughest bit of the climb in terms of nerves. It takes quite a lot to unnerve me, but climbing up a bunch of narrow ladders over eight or so lanes of oncoming traffic as well as a couple of train lines definitely had me feeling a little jumpy. Of course, you’re attached to a railing at all times by your harness, but it’s still easy to let the odd negative thought enter your mind!
Once we were up the ladder it was all plain sailing – it was literally a case of walking up a load of steps until we reached the top. The higher we got, the more spectacular the view was. There were moments where we just stood in silence and thought about the situation: we were stood on top of the Harbour Bridge overlooking the Opera House and just about everything else in the city – pretty special!
One such moment was interrupted by a police helicopter, which blared its sirens out whilst the coppers waved to us. A nice touch we thought, made even nicer by the fact that Dean said he’d never seen that in 13 years of climbing the bridge!
There were plenty of photo opportunities on the way up and, of course, Dean was our designated photographer. You really aren’t allowed to take anything up there with you which was a shame as it would have made for some awesome Go Pro footage, but it was completely understandable. I dread to think what a falling camera could do to the cars and passengers below! We certainly had some fun with the camera and we got all 10 of our photos and two videos on to a USB stick for an extra $60 which, when split four ways, didn’t seem like too much!
Once we reached the top it was impossible not to look down. The cars and the people below seemed absolutely tiny and we realised just how high we were – I can’t even begin to say how glad I was to not be scared of heights at this point! After recording a ‘happy new year’ video with very questionable Aussie accents at Dean’s request it was time to begin our descent. This really didn’t seem to take too long and, in all honesty, the entire three hours or so flew by.
We descended, got changed in to some normal clothes, filled out a questionnaire about our experience, picked up our USB, scouted out some Thai food then rested up before one last big night in Sydney. It was the perfect end to an awesome three and a half weeks.