Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb – A Memorable Birthday Gift

Posted on Posted in Activities/Experiences, Sydney, Travel

I’ve never climbed a tree, a fence or the monkey bars in my childhood. As a kid in the city, I walked everywhere and played “Freedom” which involved running like crazy to avoid being caught.  Climbing a bridge was never something I thought possible but for my birthday visit to Sydney, it would become a reality for me.  This is a unique Sydney activity giving you an amazing view of the city, harbour and Opera House.  It seemed like a wonderful, albeit expensive, birthday gift to give myself as my twilight climb would cost AUS $308 (prices vary by climb type and day).

As we can take absolutely nothing with us on the climb, all of my photos are from the ground looking at other groups climbing in the sun, clouds and rain.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Harbour Bridge on a sunny day

After my 1/2 day chasing the sun, I was a bit disappointed that my climb wasn’t going to be in the warm sun but a bit hopeful that it wouldn’t rain either as the climb operates in all weather except for extreme winds and electrical storms.  While I know I wouldn’t melt in the rain (as my father has told me for years), I wasn’t excited to be a wet mess either.  In theory “climbing the bridge” sounds cool until you see the bridge in person and think “oh crap, that’s a big bridge, what was I thinking?” and then realize you dropped alot of money so you aren’t going to chicken out – if Oprah did it, so can you! (there would be an Oprah theme to my climb)

The Sydney Harbour Bridge on a cloudy day
The Harbour Bridge on a cloudy day of my climb – see the people on top?

The rain was holding off  when I arrived at Bridge Climb.  Climbing at Twilight was a popular timeslot as you start up in the sun (light) and climb down with nightime views of the city skyline/harbour – the best of both worlds.  I would wait upstairs looking at the information boards and photos of past guests including the famous Oprah visit.  The group max is 14 people and we would show our tickets and be escorted into the first of many rooms.  There are four types of climbs, I would choose the basic Bridge Climb which climbed on the upper arch of the bridge.  There is an express climb but who wants to fast track this experience?

Preparation

The group entered the first of many rooms/steps before we could start our climb.  We would also introduce ourselves as we would be tied together for the next few hours. We had a couple on honeymoon, celebrating an anniversary,  a mother/daughter/aussie host mother, girlfriends weekend group and me. One woman told us of how she met Oprah in Hawaii and invited her to visit when in Australia and she did!  She was featured on the show but didn’t climb with the group at that time so she was here with her daughter to climb.

For the next hour we would:

  • Complete the required paperwork
  • Have a breathalyzer to ensure we were ok to climb
  • Get lovely grey jumpsuits which zipped in the back, had no pockets and were not flattering to anyone with hips (um, me!).
  • Take the  jumpsuits to the changing area/locker room (aka the last bathroom stop before getting geared up)
  • Hook up various packs and gear on our belt – a fleece jacket, a rain jacket, radio and headset to listen to the guide, a hankerchief, hat or beanie and head lamp
  • Learn how to get into our harness and use the clips

The Ladder Test

We had three sets of ladders in a U shape to climb up, over and down.  We would see how the system worked hooked up along our climb.  If the guide felt you couldn’t handle the ladders, you could be denied climbing.  Lucky for our group, we all passed but I was a bit concerned because I didn’t know there were ladders involved – I remember reading about 1,332 steps but no ladders.

Once the group was all geared up we were ready to go – climbing time was about two hours outside.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
The beginning and end on the bridge climb – among the steel walkways

 

The Climb Up

We would hook up in the order we would keep for the climb – I had the Oprah lady in front of me and the anniversary couple from England behind me.  Walking through a tunnel we exited outside on the bottom of the bridge not that far from the ground.  We would walk along the straight walkways hooked up the whole way and ensuring that we kept together.  There were a few small spaces that I had to duck through and go slowly.  There was a staircase, nothing strenuous or scary at the beginning climbing throught the steel and then the ladders….

When we did our ladder test, it didn’t seem that bad, however in person looking straight up and thinking all negative thoughts – my big feet are always tripping up /down stairs so I was a bit scared and couldn’t turn back – the only way to go was up. The first set of ladders would go through the traffic lanes of the bridge about three flights up that caused me to sweat and focus on counting to keep my cool. Once the ladders were done, I was able to breathe while waiting on the rest of the group (I was in the middle)  and take a good look at the harbour below and the arch steps to the top where the Australian flags were flying.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb going up
Sydney Harbour Bridge climbing up

The actual steps were not steep (your home steps are more work) so the climb up went pretty smoothly.  Our guide would tell us the history and facts of the bridge on our climb up.  As it was not a hot day, we didn’t need to use the misting station (there are a few on the bridge).  It was getting cold and windy on the way up so I unzipped my fleece jacket pack and put that on (it was all hooked up so you can’t lose it) and wished I had taken the beanie hat as my hat was flying off.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb - at the top with the flags
Sydney Harbour bridge climb at the top with the flags
Sydney Opera House in the clouds
Sydney Opera House in the clouds – this is a street level view, the view from the bridge obviously a bit different

We would arrive at the top of the bridge pretty quickly.  The guide took a group photo as well as individual photos (of course, the photos are for sale, I bought a package for a slight savings when I booked my space).

Bridge Climb group at the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge
A fun group of climbers at the top of the bridge
copyright: Bridge Climb

 

Photo tip: If you buy a package of eight photos, make sure the guide takes at least eight photos (they don’t know who bought what)- I didn’t realize this so I got a photo with my eyes closed and an extra group photo in order to get eight photos.   I thought that there were cameras along the way but the guide is responsible for the photos. The eight photo package did include a few of the Bridge Climb photos in prettier weather.

Top of Bridge Climb view of Sydney Opera House and harbour
The reward at the top of the Bridge Climb – the view of the harbour and Opera House in my lovely jumpsuit
Copyright: Bridge Climb

The Climb Down

As we turned toward the city, we would see rain and lightning in the distance so we were keen to get back to base to avoid the deluge.  With no sun, we missed the sunset but as night fell, the city and the harbour were lit up in color.  It was a lovely sight to see – the Sydney skyline and the Opera House in the harbour.  We had seen both in the light and now both in the dark.  As we descended, we could see a group on the other side on the way up wearing their headlamps.  The climb down we were all chatting trying to forget we were cold and it was windy.

Sydney Bridge Climb
Climbing down with a view of the city

On the way down, I was thrilled to have been at the top, thrilled at the beauty of the skyline lit up at night and then I remembered the ladders….this set of ladders were straight down through the train tracks.   Despite climbing up the ladders ok, I was still a bit scared climbing down the ladders – I counted one, two, one two which equated to one foot down, two foot down and I kept at this for all the ladders until i reached the ladder guide at the bottom (there are separate staff/guides positioned at the ladders and other areas that need a bit of help or reassurance).

Sydney skyline at night
Sydney skyline at night

Climbing under and over we reached the end of our adventure and unclipped.  Our guide congratulated us and told us we burned about 600 calories (about one cookie!?). In our last room, the group shed our gear, dropping each piece in their chute and instantly feeling pounds lighter.  As I left Bridge Climb, I managed to walk about 5 minutes before the sky opened up and the sheets of rain began.

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge was a great birthday gift to myself, worth every penny for the memories, something I think everyone should do on their visit.

Twilight Bridge Climb view of Sydney skyline
Looking goofy on the Twilight Climb with view of city in background
copyright: Bridge Climb

 

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