It’s not difficult to fall in love with a city like Sydney. Also called the Emerald City, Sydney is best known for its enchanting harbour, a glittering expanse of emerald green that draws a multitude of activity to the city year in and year out. It’s no wonder Sydney is the largest and most populous city of Australia and is the center of commerce, arts, fashion, culture, entertainment, music, education and, of course, tourism.
Aside from the famous Sydney Opera House, another iconic landmark that adds to the endearing charm of Sydney Harbour is no other than the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the world’s largest steel arch bridge, which has become a renowned international symbol of Australia. Tell me, who hasn’t seen a television broadcast of the Sydney Harbour Bridge bursting ablaze with colorful fireworks in CNN’s annual New Year’s Eve around the globe coverage?
If you think seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in real life is already fascinating, then wait until you get the chance to actually climb it! Experiencing the magnificence of this man-made wonder is an exhilarating adventure. In fact, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been rated by Lonely Planet (the world’s leading travel authority) as one of the World’s Top Ten Experiences, along with running with the bulls in Spain and rock climbing in Yosemite Valley in the USA. Count me as among the over 2.6 million people who have climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney (www.bridgeclimb.com), including a 100-year old lady who is the oldest climber to date. Even celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Matt Damon, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Robert De Niro, Pierce Brosnan, Cate Blanchett, Teri Hatcher and even UK’s Prince Harry have all scaled the summit of the colossal bridge, majestically standing 440 feet above the beautiful Sydney Harbour.
Now a free-spirited tourist and adventure seeker like me surely could not miss a chance to climb this international landmark so I can share my experience and inspire all lovers of life out there to try and witness this unique, breathtaking spectacle for themselves.
Preparing for the climb
The BridgeClimb office at Cumberland Street in The Rocks, Sydney’s oldest suburb, is where the climb begins. We were oriented in groups of about 12 people and after a round of brief introductions, I learned that we came from different countries (America, Australia, Germany, South Africa and the Philippines!) and while we were of varying ages, we all had the same aspiration, to experience something extraordinary.
After the introductions, we were breath tested to make sure we are fit to climb and were later asked to get into our climb gear, which consists of the specially made BridgeSuit (a jumpsuit made of lightweight, weatherproof material); cap for sunny conditions or beanie for cold or windy conditions; non-slip, rubber soled, closed shoes for extra climbing comfort; BridgeFleece for cold or windy conditions; BridgeClimb latch to safely attach each climber to the static line while scaling the Bridge; scrunchie for tying long hair and keeping it off the face; headset so we can hear our Climb Leader’s commentary and even a handkerchief for those emotional moments (or in case we catch a cold, with the strong, high altitude winds blowing our way).
Another great thing about BridgeClimb Sydney is that they simulate the actual climbing of the Bridge from the ground, with actual steel stairs and ladders to properly instruct us in climbing safely as a team. This helps a great deal in dispensing whatever initial fears one has of climbing since it gives you a preview of what to expect once you are actually up there.
Armed in full battle gear and all psyched up from our climb simulation, we were ready to conquer the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The BridgeClimb office connects to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and after walking a few steps in single file always connected to the static line through our safety latch, we soon found ourselves inside the steel workings of the Bridge. After going up a couple of ladders and stairs, carefully watching our step along the way, we later emerged over the arch of the Bridge and were greeted by a magnificent view of the Sydney Harbour. Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge was definitely the highlight of my trip to Australia, I thought to myself. As we ascended towards the summit, our very engaging and professional BridgeClimb Leader Tim paused for while to allow us to take in the spectacular view all around us, before going on to proudly say, “Welcome to my office!” Now, how many of the world’s CEOs have an office view like this?
Atop the Bridge, we experienced a sense of calm as the cool wind kissed our faces, the blue sky and sparkling emerald green waters mesmerized our gaze, and the warm sunshine illuminated the harbour’s wide expanse. Tim also made sure we each got a photograph to record this moment for posterity.
As we continued on our Bridge expedition, our Climb Leader told us the story of how the bridge came to be. Built by over a thousand workers during the Great Depression, the Sydney Harbour Bridge became a symbol of hope for Australians because it attested that a return to prosperity was possible. The Bridge did not only bear national significance but was seen as a great engineering feat, having undergone various construction phases. It took over eight years to build the Bridge, between 1923 until its official opening in 1932, but planning for the construction of the Bridge began as early as 1912. The completion of the Bridge was widely covered by media, songs were composed as a tribute to it, souvenir booklets were produced and three postage stamps were issued to mark its grand opening.
We appreciated the workmanship that went into this Australian legacy. Designed by Dr JJC Bradfield, the massive Bridge has an arch span of 503 meters and a total length of 1149 meters. It is held by around 6 million rivets, 52,800 tonnes of steel and 17,000 cubic meters of granite. It is undeniably a vision turned into reality.
The 3 ½ hour Sydney Harbour bridge climb rewards every climber with an amazing sense of achievement and a deep sense of appreciation for the great things men can do even in times of great adversity. Climbing the Bridge is definitely an experience I will never forget! ###
[Acknowledgment: With information courtesy of BridgeClimb Sydney (www.bridgeclimb.com)]