Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, you have to wear an unflattering grey jumpsuit. But if climbing the fourth-longest single-span steel arch bridge in the world is a should-see for out-of-towners and visiting celebrities (Nicole Kidman, Bruce Springsteen and Justin Timberlake have all opted in for the BridgeClimb), then it’s an absolute can’t-miss for locals.
Each of the three main climbs – Discovery, Bridge (210 minutes each) and Express (135 mins) – begins with a breath test, so you’ll have to forgo any dreams of a nerve-calming visit to a nearby Rocks pub beforehand. You then have to remove your clothes, put them in a locker and quick-change into that official (and endearingly daggy) BridgeClimb gear. After a quick practice session, climbers attach themselves to the Bridge with a belt and slider clip, which hooks onto a wire to keep you safe as you move among the beams. A radio headset allows you to hear your guide’s voice over the wind and traffic noise, and in about 45 minutes you’re standing with your group on the lead-in beams, ready to conquer that giant maze of steel.
The climb isn’t as arduous or scary as you’d think: much of it is just like ascending a (not-at-all-steep) staircase, and there are plenty of stops on the way so the guide can offer fascinating insights into the bridge’s construction. Did you know one of the jobs back in construction days was the ‘catcher’, who would balance on a two-foot wide beam sans safety harness and catch steel rivets tossed to him from another worker 80 feet away? More so than the height factor, it’s the views that are the real thrill. It’s hard to appreciate our ‘City of Villages’ as a cohesive single unit until you’ve stood atop the Bridge and taken it all in. The silhouette of the Blue Mountains frames the West, and the Pacific Ocean opens up the East. There are also Mandarin-language climbs at 3pm daily.