BridgeClimb is the realized vision of one clever man named Paul Cave, who first climbed the bridge in the 80s as part of a business conference. He saw that people really liked it, wanted to open it to the public, and committed himself to the project beginning March of 1990. Cave and his attorneys prepared well for their meetings with the stakeholders, including the Sydney City Counsel and Harbour Authority, in regard to heritage and environmental issues, safety, and maintenance of the structure. They also had to assure them that they would not affect bridge traffic, and after seven years and millions of dollars working on the concept, Cave finally secured a 20-year lease. Preview climbs started 1 October of 1998, and they officially began in November.
All climbs last 3 hours and 20 minutes. Groups of 12 go out every 10 minutes, from 06:30, and some end well after midnight. You climb to 134 meters above the harbor. The minimum climbing age is 12. Most of your cimb is done on 3-feet wide metal stairs. The steel action of the bridge is 10-feet wide.
Safety is, of course, their priority. You are attached to a rail (installed by BridgeClimb) by your harness, to which all of your equipment is attached.
They have a thermal garment, if needed, a rain garment, which is attached to your harness, as well as optional sunglasses, gloves, and handkerchief that would also be attached to you. Oh, and a cap that makes you feel like a burgler.
They climb in all weather with the exception of electrical storms, and do special climbs for the deaf.
Our BridgeClimb Experience
I originally had this as 'BrideClimb', which could also be fun, especially as a group activity at a wedding. Moving on.
Our bridge climb was at 18:05 Saturday, 23 December. We began with a short film, then signed a one-page legal form and took a breathalizer test. Next, we were fitted for suits, which are lightweight jumpsuits made of weatherproof material. We removed all clothes but undergarments in the changing room, and put on our suits. Then we met our climb leader, Simone, who showed us how to use the harness and our equipment. After we were all set with that, she led
us through a climb simulation, which consisted of a ladder,
a flat section, then two more ladders. After lining up near the door, we were handed radios (all but our channel blocked) and an earpiece, which we attached to the person in front of us. Once Simone knew that we could hear her through the radio, she took us around to the bridge.
At 19:20, just past the pylons and over the water, we watched the clarifying light of dusk slowly scan over the Opera House while waiting for the group ahead of us to do...whatever it was they were doing. It began to rain, and as we neared the top of the bridge, a bright rainbow appeared over the water, in a circle, rather than half an oval. Then another, fuzzy one showed up next to
it. All of us had individual photos taken right there, between the two rainbows and the Opera House. It was nifty. There were four birthdays in our group, so we sang Happy Birthday to them after the photos were taken.
The wind picked up when we reached the top and must have reached 40 knots by the time we crossed to the other side. As you cross under the Australian flag, you make a wish. I wished for Cowboy Neal to have peace in his heart. Okay, not really. Though I'm certainly not against it. Anyway, on the opposite side of the bridge from the Opera House we all stood with our arms outstretched, and leaned into the strong wind. As soon as I let go of the rail it nearly swept me off, but I have to fight against a strong breeze.
Y and I had the group leader photograph us in front of the Cisco Systems building, twice, though you can't even tell its says 'Cisco'.
The sun was setting while we were at the top, and most of the walk back was in the dark, so we actually had a day climb, evening climb, and night climb in one. After returning to the building, we removed our equipment, changed, and went over to the BridgeClimb shop. You get the group photo for free, and pay for any beyond that. We bought three 5x7s, and three softcopies of the same on three floppies. We also got T-shirts, a mug, and a drink insulator. The large certificates are free, and you write in your own name later on.
Climb leaders talk about the bridge, sights, and the company itself, during your time on the bridge. It was an amazing, unique experience. I don't think I met one Sydneysider who had climbed it, though.
The oldest person to do the climb was Chris Muller, who climbed the bridge on her 100th birthday, on July 4, 1999. She had actually crossed the bridge in a horse-drawn carriage on opening day, March 19, 1932, when her first husband had helped organize the celebration parade.
Chelsea Clinton did the climb with the U.S. Ambassador to Australia on 22 September, 2000. They have her photo on the wall, and she looks great. Very presidential-daughter-ish. There are also photos of Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Bill Paxton, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (they did that movie set in Sydney), the Playboy Bunnies (Playmates?), and a bunch of Olympic stars on the wall. I heard that some Penthouse pets wanted to be nude for their photos, but weren't allowed.
BridgeClimb uses a card access control system to restrict access to the administration areas and control access to the operational area, including bridge access. They supply two group leaders per group: the one in front uses an access card to open the entrance; the other locks it one the group has passed through. They can also control access by time and date. This system was provided by a company called HID, HQ'd in Irvine, California.
Ticket hotline: (02) 8274-7777
7am-7pm, seven days
The HID site
Chat Transcript of Paul Cave Interview
The official BridgeClimb site
Our lovely and charismatic climb leader, Simone