The Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the most recognised and iconic steel landmarks of the world. Designed and built by British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd, the bridge was constructed over nine years and opened to the public on 19 March 1932. Today, at 1,149m in length and 134m in height, the steel structure is the tallest steel arch bridge in the world. The weight of the steelwork is 52,800 tons, bolted together with some six million rivets, ably supporting 200,000 cars which use the bridge daily. It is a significant landmark in Australia and the world.
As Australia began to develop in the 1920s, its industrial sector started to flourish. Despite First World War (when the bridge was built) and the Great Depression (when it opened to public), jobs and prosperity grew across Australia. The bridge was nicknamed “The Coat Hanger” because of its arch-based design. Yet world over, it is referred to as the “Iron Lung”, as the construction of the bridge kept workers employed during this difficult period.
On one of my recent trips to Sydney, I had the opportunity to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and to see for myself whether this was a worthwhile tourist attraction. After all, it was featured on the Oprah Australia series and is often on the Australian Bucket List, including mine.
The classic Bridge Climb, an adventure on the world’s most recognisable bridge, takes place in groups of up to 14 people, led by one of Bridge Climb’s professional Climb Leaders. It takes 3h 30m and traces a route along the famous arch of the bridge. This climb has 1,332 steps and is a good option for nervous climbers as it offers more support from Climb Leaders.
The steady incline to the summit left me free to focus my attention on 360-degree views of the city of Sydney.
When I reached the top, I had a sense of achievement that I will remember forever. I had conquered an Australian icon known the world over!
A Night Climb has a character of its own. There’s a quiet, magical quality to the city at night. The Bridge has a mysterious feel as you make your way to the summit, guided by the light of the specially provided headlamp for Night Climbers. You’re wrapped in a blanket of darkness, with just the Bridge lights illuminating the structure against huge shadows.
Then, at the top, Sydney blazes before you in an electric-light show. The Bridge Climb is the ultimate Sydney experience. Professional Climb Leaders take pictures of the group and at the end, everyone receives a commemorative Climber Certificate, Climber Cap and a complimentary group photograph. In addition to these souvenirs and the actual climb, the ticket also includes free entry to the Pylon Lookout.
However, the Tech and Policy guy in me again made me scratch my brain on issues of regulations and safety.
The Sydney Bridge Climb, if nothing else, is a lesson in sheer forcefulness. When its creator, Paul Cave, first put forward proposals for the climb, regulators replied with a list of 60-something reasons why it simply wasn’t possible. Cave’s proposed blue suits would distract drivers, they said. Dropped items would cause accidents, and climbers would fall and hurt themselves. The list went on.
Not one to accept defeat, Cave set out to systematically examine and eliminate each concern. The blue suits were made grey so as to not distract drivers; climbers were put in boiler suits to prevent items from falling; and safety harnesses were added to keep climbers clipped on.
In the end, from concept to launch, the Sydney Bridge Climb took longer than the construction of the bridge itself.
Curiously, of the 16 deaths that took place during construction, only one was caused by a fall off the bridge. There was a second fall, but the lucky Irishman in question hit the water feet first and escaped with a broken rib or two.
Today, safety is paramount, and climbers are clipped to the bridge at all times. All belongings including phones and cameras need to be stowed in a locker beforehand with the exception of sunglasses which are clipped onto climbers’ suits. Everything else is supplied at the climb. Hats, gloves, fleeces and even handkerchiefs are clipped on to prevent items from dropping onto the cars below.
So – all in all, was the Sydney Bridge Climb worth it? There’s no denying that the prices are steep ($303 AUD per person plus more for photos). We certainly balked at the prices before we arrived in the country, but we soon realised that everything is expensive in Australia.
The Sydney Bridge Climb is one of the most iconic things you can do in the country and for that reason alone, it’s worth it. Adrenaline junkies won’t be tested by the climb, but the sheer uniqueness of the experience combined with the insight from Climb Leaders and the resulting view of the harbour makes the Sydney Bridge Climb worth the cost and effort. From what I have learnt through travelling across the world, if in doubt, spend the money. In a year’s time you probably won’t remember the cost, but you will remember the experience – that I promise you.
Just as its nickname “the Iron Lung”….the Sydney Bridge is a vital part of experiencing Australia, and it should be visited at least once in one’s lifetime!
The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.