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What's a Trip to Sydney Without Climbing the Harbor Bridge?
by Dez Bartelt

I began my career as a climber when I was 10 ½ years old when at 12 midnight I climbed a 250 foot water tower. The next day I climbed a 500 foot trussed bridge and slept overnight hanging from a bivwack underneath. It was amazing. Climbing the Harbor Bridge was like being 10 1/2 again.

I decided to try the Discovery Climb, a variation introduced in November 2006 in which, instead of walking along the top of one of the arches, we made our way along steel paths through the substantial metal structures supporting them. This climb too emerges at the top of the bridge and affords plenty of time to enjoy the views and have photographs taken of you. In addition, what the climb offers is the chance to see close up one of the worldapostrophes great suspension bridges: huge great girders and pylons, solid panels and bearing pins, endless rows of rivets. It is a triumph of engineering; I just want to unhook my line and climb higher. However I have a suspicion they are keeping an eye on me.

We were lucky with Melissa, our tour guide who, although a veteran of countless bridge climbs, remained totally enthused by the experience. What an amazing job to go to on a Monday morning and how alive she makes you feel. Melissa raced us through the history of the building of the bridge from the turning of the first sod in July 1923 to the grand opening on March 19, 1932. She threw in some of the statistics (total bridge length: 1,149 metres; height: 134 metres; weight of steelwork: 53,140 tons; number of rivets: six million; number of deaths during construction: 16. It is a long way down however one man fell and lived! Good on ya mate!

There were plenty of sights to look at along the way. Looking back towards the Rocks area close to where we started out, she said: "Thatapostrophes where the convicts arriving on the first ships were told to put up their tents." Humm Melissa told us she was a sixth-generation Australian and that one of her ancestors from Ireland had been sentenced to seven yearsapostrophe hard labor in the colony for stealing a cow. “They were very harsh in those days," she said. I would say so!

Her joking eased what was in parts a fairly tiring climb for some, with lots of narrow passageways and ducking to avoid steel girders. I happen to be looking the wrong way and hit my head on one. The discovery climb is a bit more technical but in the end you reach the same height.

Although there is not really age limit on people doing the harbor bridge climbs, they do involve a reasonable degree of fitness and dexterity. The last thing you want is a fear of heights- lucky for me I have a thing for them. I asked our guide what was the oldest person to climb the bridge - “I believe 100," said Melissa. "Our older climbers tend to train for several months beforehand, but then the sense of achievement when they get to the top is all the greater.” I hope when I’m 100 I’m still climbing.

Over all this was an amazing day for me. I got to relive fond memories of when I started out and enjoy some of the best views Australia has to offer. If you ever get a chance to come to Sydney take some time- GO CLIMB!