I had always thought that the Story Bridge climb
was tailored to tourists and overseas thrill-seekers wanting a unique climbing experience to talk about with their friends. However, after my first-hand experience, it is so much more interesting when you are a local as the climb provides you with ample knowledge about Brisbane history and sights.
The leader of our little group of 9, Ian, is passionate about the Story Bridge and its surrounds and provided us with stories about the creation of the bridge, the amazing engineering feats that happened when it was built, the lack of safety equipment in the olden days and little snippets about the buildings that have been constructed around the bridge.
It is not until you experience the climb first-hand that you realize all the little details that go into planning the climb. We had to blow into a breathalyser before the climb as it is unsafe to walk with even a bit of alcohol in your system. We were also given blue and grey suits to wear while we were on the bridge which was especially made to connect to our safety harnesses. I also found out that the reason for the uniform is to refrain from distracting the cars below although we did try to distract passing ferries by waving our arms madly in the air.
The safety brief was quite detailed again, with safety harnesses, radio equipment and a jacket pack in case of strong winds and to protect us from the cold. Everything was securely fastened to our suits, including glasses, hats and even hankerchiefs. Loose objects were not allowed as well which meant we couldn't take any photos. Instead, we had an option at the end to purchase a momento of our climb for around $15.
We started our ascend with heavy safety gear strapped to our suits, similar to an underground miner with all their safety apparatus descending underground. We creeped beneath the bridge and traffic and then climbed through a tunnel to the eastern side of the bridge. The passenger walkway we were on was built for maintenance purposes but has now been tailored with safety bars that we had to anchor our harnesses to as we walked.
As a Brisbane resident, it was interesting to hear about the level of the 1974 and 2011 floods in relation to the buildings we could see all around us as well as little stories about the tallest buildings in Brisbane and how they came about to that status. Climbing up the bridge is exhilarating as you can see the steep decline behind you as well as the bottom of the bridge and the cars whooshing past below your feet.
It is incredible being able to view as far as Mt Beerwah, Mt Tamborine and even New South Wales on a clear day. I also found out that the Story Bridge is actually taller than the Gateway Bridge but with a lower clearance at the bottom and that they built the bridge to ensure the historical Story Bridge building is kept in its original state.
At 80 metres above sea level, it is a wondrous view. Ian has been leading climbs for 3 years now and he told me that he will continue working until he ceases to be amazed by the amazing view. The day has not come yet as it is a huge thrill, standing up tall above the crowd teetering precariously at the edge but also knowing full well that it is absolutely safe and has been for the last seven years that the Bridge climb has been running. This Story Bridge climb has helped a variety of people with different levels of fear of heights, climbing to the top is an amazing feat when your legs are quavering under you.
All 9 of the climbers in our group lived in Brisbane so if you have the same perception that I did that climbing the bridge is just for tourists, hopefully this account will change that. In fact, only locals will be wowed by the little insights into Brisbane history. It is definitely a great way to learn more and to see a different view of your local city.