Saturday, May 15, 2004

Top of the world, ma!

Finally! After leaving you all hanging for so long, here is the rest of the story. The first part is here

Once fully kitted out and briefly trained, the first thing we had to do was brave an array of curious glances to walk along the road to get to the bridge, wondering if we looked kind of cool and intrepid, or just ridiculous. We stopped and entered a doorway, seeming to go back into the same building we had just come out of, a bit further down the street.

It was good to be back inside, away from prying eyes. We climbed some stairs and quickly emerged onto the catwalks running under the roadway, before the bridge actually reaches the water. I suddenly realised we were already quite high above the ground. Then came what turned out to be the trickiest part of the whole climb, a series of four ladders (almost vertical) of 20-ish rather closely placed steps each. We had all been paying attention back in the preparation phase, so only one person climbed a single ladder at a time. I was second last in line and Dad was last, and since we were all ‘clipped on’ the group was forced to keep the same order for the whole climb. So the whole time we felt like the ones everyone was waiting for!

As I started on the first ladder, I couldn’t help asking "Is this a good time to mention my fear of the ocean?" which got a nervous laugh from Dad. Somewhere on the second ladder a feeling washed over me that this actually might be quite scary. I wondered why the forms that we signed earlier hadn’t asked: “do you have occasional nightmares of enormous tidal waves?” The wind seemed strong even though we were partially sheltered, and I assumed it would be worse up at the top. But I stomped heavily on my fear, and lightly on the steps. By the time I got onto the third ladder I was feeling fine, though still wondering what else was to come.

As it turned out, the rest of it was pretty easy. There were a couple of very brief tight and/or low spaces, nothing that posed any of the group much difficulty, and there was nice foam padding on all the bits that heads (for the most part, taller than mine) might bump into. There were also some narrow catwalks where you could see the road or the water below. At all times there were railings on both sides of the path, and the cable that we were all tethered to continued around the whole route.

Without a doubt, the main event was climbing over the arch itself. This was not at all physically demanding, especially since we stopped at several points for a bit of commentary while taking in the views, and also for several group and individual photos. You can't take your own camera, and this is for genuine safety reasons, but I'm sure it also doesn't hurt the company's profits when it comes to selling their photos. We got one group photo each as part of the climb price. Unfortunately Dad and I both looked a bit dodgey in that one so we bought two others on CD for about $25.

The gentle pace couldn’t really be varied, because there were always several groups behind and ahead of us. I would very much have preferred to be up there with a few less people around everywhere you looked. The process of climbing the arch was just a series of steps at a gentle angle, forming a generous wide path, with railings on both sides. Since it wasn't very windy after all, it was quite easy to climb this without even holding on, though I did mostly keep one hand on the railing. I suppose you could maybe lose your balance and trip, but you you'd have to work pretty hard at it to actually fall off the bridge.

The Bridgeclimb route doesn’t go all the way over the bridge: it only goes to halfway, then crosses over at the middle, where the NSW and Australian flags are, and heads back on the other side. The distance travelled is equivalent to fully crossing the bridge and coming down the other side.

At the end we were told we had climbed a total of fourteen-hundred-and-something steps in all (yes, we were told the exact number but I forgot). The guide made a big deal of waiting to tell us this after we had finished all the steps, including the normal inside-the-building ones, and after a group that went past us on their way up were out of earshot. The highest point we reached was 134 metres above sea level. And it almost goes without saying that the view from up there was spectacular. You can see quite a long way, including a bit of Manly, and the big stadium at Homebush. Definitely a unique way to see Sydney.

It’s something I always thought would be fun to do, but I might never have gotten around to it if it wasn’t for Dad getting a voucher as a birthday present. And it was a lovely way to spend some time with Dad, we felt like we had achieved something really cool. We rewarded ourselves with beer and pizza. Who am I kidding, I would have had beer and pizza anyway, but it felt particularly deserved.

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