The Sydney Harbour Bridge: Our writer’s about to climb it. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Risking understatement, I have to say that I am really afraid of heights. If you were to go to the top of a tall building right now, I’d be the girl in the middle of the floor not even daring to look out the window for fear that doing so would throw off the balance of the entire structure and we’d all topple over and plummet to our demise.
Which is why it makes perfect sense that on a recent trip to Australia, I signed up to do the Sydney Bridge Climb, a popular sightseeing activity in which you scale the 440-foot-tall Sydney Harbour Bridge, the largest steel arch bridge in the world. With my killer track record, I knew I was just the girl for the job!
All kidding aside, though, I did it in an attempt to conquer my fears, expand my horizons, snap a selfie (#DownUnderDuh), and take in one of Australia’s most famous and most photographed landmarks. The bridge’s construction began in 1924, and it took eight years and $4.2 million to build it. Now, it has lanes for traffic, trains, bikers, and pedestrians.
My climbing guide’s name was Scott, and he was everything you’d think an Australian climbing guy would be: charming, heavily accented, and quick to drop a whole bunch of Aussie slang. Yet even though he calmly and confidently assured me that the climb is completely safe — and I knew in my heart that it was — I was still totally bugging at first:
Annie suffering from some jitters before the bridge climb. (Photo: Annie Daly)
But as with most things that take you out of your comfort zone, I’m very happy that I did the climb in the end (and I’m not just saying that for the sake of this story). Here’s how it all went down.
The Sydney Bridge Climb has three options: day, twilight, and night (a climb leaves every 10 minutes). I signed up to do the twilight tour on a Sunday night, thinking that even if I almost peed in my pants out of fear, I would at least get some sweet aerial sunset shots of Sydney. That logic turned out to be a total bust, since it was really cloudy on my climb day. But as they say Down Under, “No worries, mate!” Scott was super cheerful and definitely brightened the potentially ominous mood:
Related: Smackdown: Sydney vs. Melbourne
Scott had me suit up in a Bridge Climb jumpsuit, which, surprisingly, was cute enough to pass for an ironic “I-paid-$75-to-look-like-I-just-left-jail” hipster onesie from American Apparel. He also belted me to a pole that spanned most of the 3,770-foot-long bridge so I wouldn’t fall, and even though I felt a little bit like a puppy on a leash, I was more than happy to be tied down securely. Translation: I have never been so thankful for a piece of metal in my entire life (except maybe my braces, but that’s only in retrospect).
Annie’s new leash on life (Photo: Annie Daly)
Once I was all rigged up, Scott led me to the beginning of the bridge, which was definitely the scariest part. That’s because you have to climb through all these narrow passageways first before you reach the main part of the bridge. And by narrow, I mean “walk in single file or ELSE” narrow:
Luckily, things started looking up as we, well, climbed up. The bridge gets wider as you get higher, which made me feel safer. And it also started looking really, really cool — so much so that I began to pay more attention to the view and less attention to my gradually waning fears. There are even a couple parts where you’re climbing directly over the bridge traffic below.
Annie breaking the first rule of bridge climbing: Don’t look down. (Photo: Annie Daly)
By the time we made it to the top of the bridge, I was pumped. Not only was I not scared anymore, I also had one of those epic “How is this my life?” moments when I looked down and saw the majestic Sydney Harbour directly below. Look how happy I am — me, a self-titled scaredy-cat!
If you’re going to conquer your fear of heights, it’s best to do it against a killer backdrop. (Photo: Annie Daly)
Side note: Scott also told me that they have lots of weddings on the very spot where I’m standing in the photo, which is awesome. Granted, your grandmother may not be able to make the trek, but isn’t that what Skype is for?
You can’t beat the view from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (Photo: Annie Daly)
On the way back down the bridge, I felt like a pro. I practically booked it down those steps:
And the best part? What little there was of the sun that day had set, so I got to take in some amazing night views. Here’s a view of Sydney’s famous amusement park, Luna Park:
Twilight view of Luna Park from Sydney Harbour Bridge. (Photo: Annie Daly)
I will leave you with this recommendation: If you ever make your way to Sydney, you must do the Bridge Climb. It’s completely worth it. That magical view of the Sydney Harbour, coupled with the feeling of accomplishment you get from climbing to the top, is everything. And if you’re scared, just think back to me…dear old scared, pitiful me. If I can do it, you can definitely do it, too!