It’s the first vision of new year celebrations for millions around the world, a vital link connecting a city, and the central point of a beautiful harbour. But to really appreciate the Sydney Harbour Bridge you need to climb it.
With 21 years behind it BridgeClimb Sydney is a slick operation. Upon arrival you enter a room for the safety briefing and breath-test, change into your suit (you cannot take anything with you except sunglasses), step through specially-designed holders to put on the harness, test out your cable guide on a mini-climb and finally have your radio attached. Then the door opens and you step out onto the lower level of the bridge approaches.
If you’re worried about heights, this is as bad as it gets because you can see through the walkway, but you’ll soon be distracted learning about the history and construction of the bridge from your guide.
The first set of ladders may also be slightly daunting, but as well as your guide there are safety officers along the way who make sure everyone is OK.
Once you’re on the arch, you won’t even remember your fears. The views are spectacular and keep getting better the higher you go.
Guide Richard Dzikowski has been with BridgeClimb since it opened 21 years ago and has clocked up more than 8000 climbs. He has taken guided all sorts, including Usian Bolt, Oprah Winfrey, and a 100-year-old who walked across the bridge when it opened in 1932.
“Many people are a bit apprehensive at the start, but people from 8 to 100 have done the climb with many saying it is the best day of their lives.
“Taking your mind off it is very helpful – hence all my bad jokes. But really, most people who are nervous at the start realise the walkway is so wide and so solid on the arch, they come back down almost blase,” he said.
Some also worry whether they will be fit enough to do the climb, but Richard said there are many rest stops.
“Mid-summer is probably the most challenging time, so then early morning or later is a better time to walk,” he said. Even then, there are numerous bubblers along the way and even a misting hose near the top.
You don’t need to work at BridgeClimb to notch up multiple climbs. Lloyd Poulton in his 90s has climbed 133 times (you’ll see his name on the stairs as you enter). Close behind him is Geoff Schmidt, 79, who has climbed 85 times since March 2004. To make this more remarkable, Geoff lives in Melbourne.
“I tie it in with other activities when I come to Sydney. People ask why I do it, and I ask in reply ‘Why do people play golf every weekend, or play bowls?’ Because they enjoy it. When I come to Sydney I climb the bridge.
“It varies each time as every guide has a different technique and information. I also find it enjoyable meeting different people; in one group we had people counting to five for the breath-test in six different languages.”
Lloyd, Geoff and five others are known as BridgeClimb Masters – those who have completed more than 10 climbs. It’s easy to see how you can get hooked.
I’m lucky enough to work in an office with a view over Sydney, but it’s nothing compared to BridgeClimb Sydney. Using all your senses to take in the life of the city from the top of an international icon is something special.
There are several climbs available – not all go right to the top. Visit bridgeclimb.com