Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb
February 15, 2017
Today’s the day for the bridge climb, Barry and I decide over breakfast today. It’s not raining today, as it was yesterday and its not hot. Tomorrow and the next day will be very hot. “Lets do it!”
As I started researching for this trip, Sydney’s Harbor Bridge Climb kept coming up as a must-do. I thought it sounded fun, walk across the bridge, nice very, easy peasy. I learned lots since then. It isn’t just a walk across the bridge, as the Brooklyn Bridge. It really is a climb! AND they are very, very serious about safety.
We need to sign a medical questionnaire that ascertains that we are healthy enough to do it and various waivers, in which we promise that we will follow directions of the staff. There’s even a rule against joking about safety precautions! We sign a paper that states that we know we could die. Then everyone takes a breathalyzer test. How’s this for a fun morning?
I do admire the precision involved in the preparation, however. It does make me feel safe. We change out of our street cloths into a jumpsuit. We only wear our skivvies underneath this polyester, zippered suit with lots of hooks on it. We have to remove most jewelry, including my Fitbit, darned. We have to go through a metal detector, then start training! Training! We learn how to strap on our safety utility belt, not unlike Batman’s. There are hooks on it for our cable attachment, hooks if we want to wear a hat, glasses and a handkerchief (for wiping sweat says our guide, though at the start I thought I’d have to use it for a different bodily fluid! ) Then we do a short practice on a mock up of the ladder system. No problem at all. Radios are attached to our belts from behind and we get headsets to hear the guide, Jess. Everyone gets sunblock from a community bottle that is attached to the stairway.
Our guide gets radioed permission to proceed. Ok, this is serious. We each attach our cable hooks to the apparatus that will attach us to the bridge through out the whole climb. It slides along as we walk along a cable, we also have handrails on both sides. First we across some catwalks then some stairs. There are some places where we step over some structural pieces and have to duck under some low pieces, but I am generally feeling exhilarated by the beginning views. The metal grating that we are walking on allows us to view everything below our feet. We can see the structure of the bridge just above us. Then comes the first set of ladders. I didn’t like them at all. We each climbed a section on our own and I was startled by the noise of the car traffic and trains that I passed. It was steep, loud and scary. The worst part for me was moving from one ladder to the next on a small landing that jogged over a couple of feet. My cable got hung up on one of these and I had to focus on unlooping it rather than looking down. (I have to admit to some self talk which I am glad others couldn’t hear. “You’re ok, you can do this, one step at a time, just breathe…” I think there were 4-5 of these sets of ladders in all.
Things got much better for me as we reached the arch of the bridge. Oh yes, we climb over the top of the bridge. It has a wide arch that is a gradual hike. The opera house is just to the right of us, with all of Sydney spread out around us, 360 degree view! The steps are easy and I feel very relaxed and safe. I get it now, it is just amazing up here. The opera house is half the height of the bridge, the cruise ship in the terminal looks small. The boats sail by far below, the wind is cool and gentle. Though there are just a few sprinkles, we are blessed that it isn’t hot. All the way up to the summit, the guide gives us historical information, geography lessons and stories about how the bridge was built. She takes lots of photos and even a short video. Certainly observation towers give views similar to this, however, there is a very different feeling to be up here, open to the air on all sides, above it all. Only some rails and the cable attachment remind me that I am not a seabird perched here on the top of the bridge.
The climb back down on the ladders is as unnerving as the trip up. Jess, the guide said we’d be next to some trains that would be going by, and that she likes to shock the passengers by waving at them. Ok, I’m not taking a hand off the railing for anything!
Finally off the last set of ladders and I have to admit that my legs were really shaking. I feel like a wuz until I overhear the couple that comes down after me talking to the guide. They both have shaking legs as well. Jess says she used to shake too and that the muscles used to come down that way are weak in most people. Yeah well, that’s probably true, but also fear in my case. Jess tells us all that a pint will get rid of the shakes and Barry and I set off for one, three and a half hours and 1, 332 steps after we started this climb!
I’m really glad we did this, but don’t need to go again.