When we travel, we get to experience life outside of our comfort zone. This forces us to view life from someone else’s point of view. You can’t see things more differently than from 134m (440 feet) above Sydney Harbour from the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge like I did during my bridge climb with BridgeClimb Sydney.
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. — Harper Lee
With Harper Lee back in the news about writing a sequel to her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I thought it only fitting to use one of her quotes. To me this quote sums up what travel is all about. Don’t you agree?
BridgeClimb Sydney History
Before I detail my climb, how did BridgeClimb Sydney get its start? After the construction of the bridge was completed, the official opening day of the bridge was on March 19, 1932. This drew crowds from all over to mark this momentous occasion. The public was allowed to walk across the roadway and some quite enthusiastic people decided to climb up the arch. This became the preview of BridgeClimb, which became official 66 years later in October 1998.
In 1989, BridgeClimb’s Founder and Chairman, Paul Cave AM, was involved in organizing a group from the Young Presidents Organization World Congress to climb over the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the world’s largest steel arch bridge. This successful climb was the impetus for creating BridgeClimb Sydney which allows everyone to make that same trek up the bridge since 1998. Since that time, 3.2 million people have climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney.
TSG Tip: The oldest climber to date on BridgeClimb Sydney was 100 year old Mrs. Chris Muller. What’s your excuse for not making the trek up the bridge now?
What Type of Climb Will You Take?
Climbers can choose from four different climbs as well as different times of day to do the BridgeClimb (day, twilight, night, or dawn):
- BridgeClimb: The original climb along the upper arch. At the pinnacle, climbers will behold 360° uninterrupted views of Sydney and its beautiful harbour, from the Pacific Ocean in the east, to as far out as the Blue Mountains in the west. Total time: 3 1/2 hours, 1,332 steps
- BridgeClimb Express: Accelerate your ascent to the summit.This energetic experience is the fastest trip to the top of the Bridge. Total time: 2 1/4 hours, 1,002 steps
- BridgeClimb Sampler: Short on time? Try the Sampler that lets you ascend the inner arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to a spectacular vantage point halfway to the top. Total time: 1.5 hours, 556 steps
- BridgeClimb Mandarin: Launched in 2013, this climb takes climbed on a journey to the summit of the bridge with a Mandarin speaking climb leader with commentary tailored to their cultural interests.
TSG Tip: Did you know that there have been 25 weddings on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and one in the Pylon Lookout? Even more fascinating is that over 4000 couples have become engaged while climbing the Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney!
My Arrival at BridgeClimb Sydney
After arriving at BridgeClimb Sydney, I was checked in and ushered to a waiting area to wait with other climbers for my scheduled climb. The number of people in your climb group will vary, but will always be no more than 12-14, depending on the climb you’ve chosen.
With tickets in hand, there was no turning back now! Off I went to begin my journey up the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Waivers and Gear
Sara, a petite blonde who looked and sounded like she was from California, but was actually from Sweden, introduced herself to our group. Then she had us sign our waivers before taking us to get our gear. We received our one piece suits, rain pants, hats, handkerchiefs, and were sent off to change in the locker rooms. Why rain pants? Despite the gloriously sunny weather the day before, on this day it was cold, grey, and rainy, but no worries. Nothing was going to prevent me from making my way to the top of the bridge.
You can’t bring cameras or phones with you due to safety issues, so everything you own goes inside a locker and you wear the key around your neck. All this before passing through a metal detector and getting a breathalyzer to ensure no one is under the influence before taking part in the BridgeClimb.
Once outfitted and ready to go, we were handed off to our guide. Richard is an experienced, knowledgeable, and entertaining guide who has worked at BridgeClimb Sydney since they first opened.
Your harness and gear are checked multiple times by different people and you’re given a chance to try out how things work inside before ascending the bridge itself. You’re tethered the entire time to keep you safe and since you are part of a small group, your guide is there at all times to ensure your safety. Best part is that everyone is provided with headphones and the guide wears a microphone that enables you to hear all of the commentary no matter where you are in the lineup. Then it’s off through the tunnel (pictured above) and out onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Climb Itself
What’s it like climbing up the Sydney Harbour Bridge? The BridgeClimb itself isn’t done all in one straight shot. You’ll find yourself walking, climbing over, under, and through the bridge’s steel structure to get to where you need to go. You’ll feel your heart rate accelerate as you meander your way up to the summit, 134m above sea level in the middle of Sydney Harbour. All along the way and at every turn are some of the best views you can find of Sydney. There are several photo ops along the way for you to have your picture taken up high on the bridge with Sydney as the backdrop. Can it get any better than that?
While the bridge itself may be high up, for some reason I wasn’t nervous about going up. The climb up was fun as I looked all around. I couldn’t believe that I was so high up on the bridge. The climb down, on the other hand, was a little different. For some reason that was a little harder. You’re no longer climbing on the outside and over the bridge, but on the inside structure on ladders. You climb down facing the ladder so you don’t see where you’re going till you get there. If you’re a control freak (not saying that I am or anything…) then this can be a little unnerving for some, but still fun.
However, there were a few members of our group that were afraid of heights. I have to give them major credit for facing their fears. Why? Because it wasn’t for a few minutes that we were out their above the harbour ascending the bridge. What I really liked is that the guides from BridgeClimb Sydney aren’t only familiar with people’s fear of heights. They embrace those fears and work with them to make it a far less traumatic experience. Those that were afraid of heights were at the front of the line near our tour guide, Richard. He was so kind as he coaxed and encouraged them every step of the way.
Photo Op and Climber Certificate
In addition to your photos and video, you get a super cool climber certificate. Now you can prove you made the trek all the way up to the summit.
A big thank you to BridgeClimb Sydney and to my guide. Richard definitely provided me with a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Gift Shop Stop
Before you leave, you can stop in at the gift shop. Visitors can purchase clothing, souvenir items, books, and even coffee or snacks.
Take a peek at the celebrity photographs posted who have also completed the BridgeClimb before you leave. While you’re there, you should definitely stop by the visitor centre and cinema. You can learn more about the history, preservation, and celebration of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.