BridgeClimb at Night!
Story & Photos Copyright by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet
The intrepid Travelling Gourmet goes ‘Down Under’ & climbs “The Coathanger”…
MAGNIFICENT Sydney has many fascinating attractions but arguably Sydney’s best attraction is one you must not miss. For those with an adventurous streak, to climb the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge at night gives you a chance to feast your eyes on the mesmerizing sunset over bustling Sydney Harbour. One cool evening when the sun was still bright, I strolled over to the historic Rocks to No. 3, Cumberland Street. The cheerful Climb Leader, Rob welcomed me and started my briefing for the climb.
Opened on March 19, 1932 by Premier Jack Lang after six years of construction, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is nicknamed “The Coathanger” by the natives! The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s LARGEST steel arch bridge and has become an unforgettable symbol ofAustralia. The arch span is 503m and including approach spans, the length is 1149m! The weight of the total steelwork is 52,800 tonnes while the 49m deck makes Sydney Harbour Bridge the widest Longspan bridge in the world. Approximately 6 million rivets were used in its construction! BridgeClimb was officially launched on 1st October 1998 in The Rocks, Sydney. Public access to the catwalks and ladders of theSydney Harbour Bridgewas provided for the very first time. Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge at night was introduced in April 1999.
Prelude to the Climb of your life…
The actual climb experience is a barrel of fun. First, I had to go to the changing room to lock up my titanium Breitling watch and other gear in the locker provided, because you cannot have pens, chains, jewellery, wallets and so forth while climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The simple ‘raison d’etre’ is because if you drop a pen or other object when you are high up, it could hit someone below like a deadly bullet. Next, I had to put on the BridgeSuit. This specially designed made in Fiji steel-grey nylon jumpsuit is like a fighter pilot’s jumpsuit and has NO pockets. Other accessories included a ‘beanie’ hat, handkerchief and head-lamp. I had to wear a special belt harness too. After signing a Medical Indemnity Form, I blew into a Breathalyser to confirm that I was not intoxicated with alcohol!
Let the Climb begin!
19:18 >>>Through a steel door and a narrow archway and the climb started…It was still bright but the sun was slowly beginning to set. BridgeClimb is not for those with Acrophobia (fear of heights) because the steel gratings and ladders you climb on have big holes in them so you can see right through to the ground far below if you look down. There were just the two of us doing the climb. I was securely linked on my right side to the steel girders of the Bridge with a specially designed ball “carabiner”. As I climbed higher and higher, I could see more and more of the amazing view, as well as the cars zooming across the Bridge below.
Along the route there are a few water fountains strategically placed for you to quench your taste. The strong gusty wind blew as the sun slowly set and twilight came upon us. The orange-gold rays of the sun shot out in between the mighty girders like laser missiles. I was in the heart of the mighty Bridge. Being inside the Bridge gives you a whole new understanding of its construction.
In the velvety night the magical Sydney Opera House glowed like an exotic shellfish as different colours on its façade changed every few minutes.
All the while, the Climb Leader told me stories about the Bridge and how difficult it was to build it, one red-hot rivet at a time.
At the SUMMIT!
After negotiating narrow gaps, catwalks and climbing up numerous steps…finally I reached theSummitof the Sydney Harbour Bridge! I was slightly out of breath and a little tired, but the feeling of elation and the adrenaline rush was absolutely fabulous! It reminded me of my parachuting days and if I had a parachute strapped to my back…yes, I would have been tempted to jump off the Bridge. The Climb Leader, Rob, confided in me in between taking photos, “We are at 135 meters high. That is 1 meter higher than those who do the climb in the day, but don’t tell them that!” At 141 meters there is a red light for aircraft approaching Sydney. The Australian and New South Wales flags flutter proudly in the strong and gusty wind.
20:31 >>> I was feasting my eyes on the panoramic 360 degree view when as if on cue…FIREWORKS exploded and lit up the night sky with bursts of brilliant psychedelic colours and stars! It was as the French say, “Voila! Un grand moment!”
The firework display was fired from barges floating on Sydney Harbour and was in commemoration of World AIDS Day on 1 December, 2011. It was the icing on the cake for me! I felt like I was on a magic carpet floating serenely over majestic Sydney Harbour.
After some time we began the descent. It is very strange but the descent always seems shorter than the ascent.
Back at the BridgeClimb center, I changed back in to my clothes, collected my souvenir photos and personalised Climber Certificate. The whole climb had taken three and a half hours!
At the BridgeClimb Center I could not resist the big assortment of very exclusive souvenirs like T-shirts, magnets, badges, rivets, baseball caps, Teddy Bears and lots more. There is also a small Café for you to buy coffee and snacks like pies and chocolate bars.
Next time you are in Sydney, I strongly recommend you try BridgeClimb! Life is like ice cream, eat it before it melts! Enjoy!
Interview with a true-blue Visionary, Paul Cave, Founder & Chairman of BridgeClimb!
The Travelling Gourmet (TTG): How did you get this brilliant ‘think out of the box’ idea to climb the HarbourBridge?
Paul Cave, BridgeClimb Founder: BridgeClimb began in 1989 when I helped conduct a YPO (Young Presidents Organisation) World Congress inSydney. Premier Nick Greiner, had asked me if I could assist with taking some of the YPO’s up on theSydneyHarbourBridge with the Government’s approval. After helping organise such a successful operation, I was so overwhelmed with the experience that I wanted to make climbing theSydneyHarbourBridge a possibility for everyone. However, this concept presented a huge challenge to me and involved many years of dealing with state and local government bodies, community groups and hundreds of experts on everything from safety and logistics to media, heritage and conservation issues. My vision, commitment, persistence and entrepreneurial skills were fundamental to making this dream of BridgeClimb a reality.
TheSydneyHarbourBridgeis particularly special to me because my late father-in-law, then a teenager, lined up overnight on 19th March, 1932, the day the Bridge was opened, and purchased the first rail ticket sold to the public crossing the bridge on 20th March 1932 – ticket number 00001, from Wynyard to Milson’s Point Station.
Having inherited this rail ticket, I will never forget the significance of this ticket, or indeed the journey it has subsequently taken me on.
TTG: Was it difficult to get all the permits and licences to do the climb?
Paul Cave: It took 9 years of challenges, research and development to launch BridgeClimb Sydney! There were occasions when indeed I was the only one who never let go of the dream of BridgeClimb becoming a reality.
Despite planning on two years to get BridgeClimb up and running, the years ticked by and investors grew restless. But I never gave up and regarded every problem I faced as an opportunitiy and every knock-back as a new challege.
TTG: Who are the celebrities that have done the BridgeClimb?
Paul Cave: The experience has also attracted many famous actors, musicians and members of royalty, including Geoffrey Rush, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Robert De Niro, Matt Damon, Prince Harry and more recently Oprah Winfrey. To find out who else has Climbed you can visit our website: http://www.bridgeclimb.com/Gallery/Celebrity-Pictures/
TTG: Does it have a 100% safety record?
Paul Cave: Safety is paramount at BridgeClimb. We have taken over 2.8 million climbers and not had a single serious injury resulting in long term illness or fatality.
Safety on the climb is the number one priority of BridgeClimb Sydney. Integration of responsible occupational health and safety system is core to the success and culture of the business. All climbers are breath tested (and must register a reading under 0.05% blood alcohol level), and sign a medical declaration form to satisfy the terms and conditions of BridgeClimb Sydney. As no personal items are permitted on the Bridge, climbers are asked to remove these items and store them in the lockers provided. All climbers must then pass through a metal detector.
The natural progression of our safety system overtime, we are proud to say, has developed to a best practice standard. We’ve built continuous improvement into our safety system by auditing ourselves annually both internally & externally. In 2008, our OHS Management System was certified against both the Australian AS/NZS 4801:2001 & International standards OHSAS 18001:2007 .
Ensuring a safe working environment and providing safe systems of work are non negotiable at BridgeClimb because, without constant commitment and focus on this, our business would cease to exist. Our positive safety performance is attributed to combining a safety system that evolves and responds to the demands of challenging times supported by a motivated and dynamic team culture.
TTG: Who was the oldest climber? Is there an age requirement?
Paul Cave: Anyone over ten years, in good health is invited to climb. There is no maximum age to climb, in fact the oldest climber to date was 100 year old Mrs Chris Muller!
TTG: Have any BASE jumpers parachuted off the bridge?
Paul Cave: For safety reasons, no base jumpers are permitted to parachute off the Bridge.
3, Cumberland Street
Tel: +61 2 8274 7777