Harbour Bridge Climb – 12 in 2 list

I finally did it! For a long time I’ve wanted to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, so I made it one of my 12 in 2 goals (12 things I wanted to achieve in two years).

It's on!
It’s on!

I have an incredibly generous boyfriend who took the hints… and bought me a voucher for my birthday to use.

Onsie... unisex... with enough D clips so that nothing falls on the traffic below
Onsie… unisex… with enough D clips so that nothing falls on the traffic below

The frugal minimalist in me did NOT want to pay for a photo, but after reflecting on it for 5-10 mins, I went back and paid for one of the eight photos they took on the trip. Yep, no BYO cameras allowed… Cars below etc.

$15 to prove I got to the top!
$15 to prove I got to the top!

To be honest, I wasn’t scared for a moment!

Here’s the view of our bridge in the early morning…

Thanks former polo coach/ref... stole this photo he took today!
Thanks former polo coach/ref… stole this photo he took today!

Some pretty famous people have climbed the bridge – and some pretty famous people have had their affairs come to light thanks to being on roof top pools…! We heard some AWESOME stories from our guide Billy. The usually group is 14 people, but I was lucky to be in a group of 7 – a couple (with grown up children) for California, who had chickens. A mother from Queensland and her son (who’d gifted her the climb) from Sydney. And a pair of sisters from Sutherland Shire, who’d climbed before. One of the sisters was doing it for her 18th.

The things we were told!  For example:

  • It took 8 years to build, starting in 1929
  • 16 people died during it’s construction, which is NOTHING given they had no fall arrest or protective gear like harnesses.
  • Families were given £800 for the death of the worker
  • Only one person feel from the bridge construction and lived – using his tool built to break the harbour’s surface tension before he entered the water.  He suffered some broken ribs amongst other things, but returned to work 12 days later.
  • When it was designed/built, there was five cars in Australia, and one in Sydney
  • It was designed with two ‘lanes’ for trams, two ‘lanes’ for trains, and four lanes for cars.  It now has no trams and more car lanes.
  • This bridge is SEVERELY over engineered!
  • Almost all the steel came from England (which is comical given Australia’s large steel mills now!)
  • The large sandstone pylons are ‘hollow’ and don’t actually support the bridge as you might think


  • It’s 145m from water to the base of the bridge – supposedly a Defense Force aircraft flew under it recently!!
  • The bridge is currently undergoing a treatment to remove the lead paint, and have a permanent polymer coating on it.  The projections on how long the project will take to complete are astronomical
  • Before the ‘Bridgeclimb’ business, all sorts of drunken fools can and did climb parts of the bridge
  • You are given a breath test prior to getting in your onsie… no drunks on the bridge now!
  • You walk through a metal detector before induction.  My bobby pins were rejected, and I was given hair elastics
  • Everything you take up (fleece, hat, beanie (or toboggan?!), gloves are all attached to you.  There are significant risks to traffic below should things fall, and we were told of some horrific accidents
  • You get put through a test climb with ladders and your harness – if you don’t pass you don’t climb the bridge
  • Some of the walkways are wooden – which just blows my mind, given how wood can rot etc
  • The whole time, you are continuously attached to a line, that naturally takes you up one side, across the middle, and down the other side.  Not once do you get unlatched.
  • Riveters used to throw hot bolts to their mate – just incredible in today’s workplace health and safety conditions!
  • One guy climbs the bridge every six months when his wife comes to town to go shoe shopping. He’s now got a personalised onsie!


  • Tour guides are part time employees, some being teachers, lawyers, and our guide is a photographer the rest of the time
  • Billy, our tour guide, kept telling me I should be a guide – I’m really not sure why (I do know I spent more time in awe, than giving smart alek comments, which is usually more my style on guided tours!)
  • The busiest time of year is between Christmas and 4 January
  • The bridgeclimb is suspended for the NYE fireworks display and preparation, which you can imagine eats into the profits of such popular days!
  • Our guide told some amazing stories – such as guiding a blind person the whole way, with multiple guides used to share what he would see; another person did the whole ‘climb’ on their bottom with their hands – they had some disability with their legs.


  • There’s been countless proposals (and one the day we climbed).  Only one has been rejected, and the groom had filled the tour with his mates.  Talk about tense!
  • The best time to climb, according to two staff, is winter.  The weather compresses the air, so we could see the Blue Mountains to the West.  It is also more comfortable, with a onsie etc
  • The flags fly all the time, one of the very few places to fly flags at full mast all the time.  We saw the damage to the flags at day 12 of their life – the winds up there just destroy them!  Their is the state flag and the national flag up there most times, with the state flag occasionally being swapped for the indigenous flag.
  • The Bridgeclimb owner was rejected 4 times in his applications, and each time, with a list of concerns. Supposedly, to each list, he ticked each off, and raised a larger list of things authorities hadn’t thought of.  It is, without a doubt, an incredibly well thought out business, and nothing is left to chance!

For someone who usually has poor fact recall, I think I did well!!

Any questions you have, I’d love to know!!

11 Replies to “Harbour Bridge Climb – 12 in 2 list”

  1. I'm just astounded that you weren't scared! The Bridge is HUGE! I would love to do the Bridge Climb, it would be amazing on a sunny day to look out over the city and the Harbour.

    The facts were so interesting – I love the one about the guy who thought to break the surface tension first and lived! (Will remember that if I ever fall from a great height into water!!)

    1. I'm a strange one – and then I get scared snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef?!

      The facts were pretty interesting weren't they? The guide was at times a little sexist, assuming only guys would find certain facts interesting – I suppose he didn't realise I was an engineer, which makes me very interested in 'how stuff's done'.

  2. Amazing! I would be so scared to do this, but can understand why you would want to. The views must be amazing. I'm glad you bought the photo, so worth it.

  3. That photo was totally worth it! Fascinating stuff. I am impressed by how detail-oriented the Bridge Climb business is. What do you think will be next on your 12-in-2 list?

    1. Hahah – the next was yesterday – my half marathon. In two/three weeks we've done the BF's sky diving (I've done it), my bridge climb, a fancy dinner (not in 12-in2) and the half marathon, with my pretty once in a lifetime trip to Japan starting in less than a week!! Nuts!

  4. Fantabolous! You look swell up there – you should be a guide. As someone with a great a version to heights, I know I'll never do the climb.

    And all the factoids you remember. Don't forget Paul Hogan worked on it before he became a comedian. And they wore shorts and a shirt with sleeves torn off. How's that for OHS? I read somewhere they are having difficulties painting the Bridge because of new OHS rules.

    1. There you go – that Paul Hogan is everywhere (having stopped by Byron Bay this weekend!). I can imagine in summer, his style would be more comfortable than the jump suit.

      I think OHS would make it incredibly hard to safely remove the lead residue/paint. A section of the southern end, between the water and the pylon, was practically wrapped in fabric like stuff for the new paint/polymer stuff, and naturally the lead paint removal. It's a mammoth operation!

  5. I love the photo of you at the top! What a great memento 🙂 The Bridge Climb is something I'd like to do when I (eventually) visit Australia. I like that you're attached to the bridge the whole time – that would ease my worries of something going awry!

    1. It is a great memory! You'd love the bridge climb, and (internet stranger) I'd do it again, on a sunrise or sunset climb with you! Being connected the whole time, and always having handrails really helped me stay calm.

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