Once upon a time, I held a record, of sorts. For a few days in 2005, I was the first woman in the world to have climbed all three of the world’s legally climb-able bridges.
I was told this when I climbed the third of those bridges to open to climbers, Brisbane’s beautiful sweeping Story Bridge. I was doing a “preview” climb with a media group before the bridge climb officially opened – and I was the only woman in the group. As I had previously “climbed” the Sydney and Auckland harbour bridges, it seemed I’d made my mark. Ah…but records are made to be toppled and within days the bridge climb was open and the tourists were pouring in. Among them, I’m sure, were other women eager to tick off their third bridge!
I did the Story Bridge Adventure Climb again recently. It was the perfect day for it: clear blue skies, but not too hot and sticky.
I’ve always loved this bridge. It reminds me of a giant Meccano construction, and has quite different look to the arching Sydney and Auckland bridges.
Despite a latent fear of heights – which seems to reduce the older I get – I’ve tackled all three bridge climbs secure in the knowledge that I simply can’t fall off. In all three, climbers are secured to the bridge the whole way, and there’s so much to see and hear that your mind is taken off the height.
While there are similarities between the bridgeclimb experiences – the grey jumpsuits so we blend with the background, the safety harnesses and yes, the breathalyser before we set out (don’t even think about a tipple to steady the nerves, or a big night out on the eve of your climb) – each one is quite different.
The Sydney and Auckland bridges span stunning harbours, while Brisbane’s Story Bridge crosses the winding brown Brisbane River, with views across the city to Moreton Bay in the east and the green hills of the D’Aguilar Ranges to the west.
Below, traffic roars. Your guide explains the history of the bridge, and of the city and when you reach the top of your climb points out the various landmarks and tells some interesting stories. For example, the Story Bridge is the largest steel bridge designed, fabricated and constructed in Australia by Australians. It is named for John Story, a senior public servant who advocated strongly for its construction. The road which crosses it, the Bradfield Highway, is named for the engineer who designed it and oversaw the construction, and is the shortest highway in Australia.
I’ve climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge twice. Once on a perfect day in 2001, and another time on a very cold winter night, which for me at least took away some of the delight in the illuminated city views.
The Auckland Bridge Climb is a different experience again. One of the most interesting moments was when we walked under the traffic level on one of what are affectionately known as the “Nippon clip-ons” (Japanese-made extensions to the bridge which added lanes to each side after the original construction in 1959). You can now also bungy-jump from the bridge – but I will leave that to others! I may be brave enough to climb, but bungy I will not!