As I walk up the slope, my calf muscles protest. It’s a steep incline of 28 degrees. Stepping forward, I place one foot in front of the other, flat on the rubbery surface of the walkway. I’m wearing climbing boots with an excellent grip and I feel secure. I’m attached to a cable above the walkway by a climb latch and a safety harness.
Up at The O2
I’m at London’s O2 arena with my husband, 14 other climbers and our friendly Slovenian instructor, Martin. We’re all wearing climbing suits and safety gear which was provided by the climb organisers, Up at The O2. My climbing suit is so enormous that the crotch was down by my knees when I first put it on, but the safety harness has hitched it up so that I can walk along without tripping up.
The O2 arena started life as the Millennium Dome, and it was built to house a year-long exhibition in the year 2000. It’s now a world-class entertainment venue which can host up to 20,000 people. The landmark building is right next to the river Thames, and features in a boat chase in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.
The roof of the dome is said to weigh less than the air inside it. This suggests to me that the roof canvas is delicate and flimsy although, logically, I know that this can’t be the case. Anyway, I’m pleased that we’re not actually climbing on the roof itself, but on a walkway which is suspended two metres above it.
The walkway feels bouncy but, before the start of the climb, Martin told us not to bounce on it, as the movement can make people very nervous. I don’t feel at all nervous, and would quite like to test the bounciness, but a woman behind me looks pale and worried, so bouncing would be unkind.
Before the climb we’re shown a safety video and are instructed how to use the safety harness and climb latch. The latch stays attached to the walkway cable for the whole of the climb. When you get to a cable post, you have to angle the latch and wiggle it to get past the post and continue to the next section of cable.
When we reach the viewing platform at the top of the walkway, Martin unclips us from the cable and we’re free to take photos and enjoy the views across the Thames and Canary Wharf, the city’s financial district. We’re 52 metres above ground level. I take some photos with my phone, the only piece of equipment which we’re allowed to bring on the climb – our climbing suits have a special phone pocket in one of the sleeves.
I realise that I’m cold, despite the climbing suit and my woolly hat and gloves. I put up my hood to give an extra layer of protection against the April morning chill.
After 15 minutes we walk down the other side of the dome. This part of the climb is even steeper than the ascent – it’s a 30-degree slope. Martin warns us to keep our distance from each other, just in case anyone falls over. I focus hard on walking down and wiggling the latch along the cable, and a few minutes later I’m back on the ground. The walkway is 380 metres long in total, and the whole experience has taken us 90 minutes, including the safety briefing.
Tickets for the Up at The O2 Original Climb cost £35.00 per person.
Climbers must be at least 10 years old, at least 1.2 metres tall, and weigh less than 21 stone. Under-18s must be with an adult, and there must be one adult for each two children. For full details go to the Up at The O2 website.
We drove to the O2 from Surrey and parked in one of the car parks next to the arena. You can also get there by tube – North Greenwich station takes you right to the site. MBNA Thames Clipper boats also stop at The O2.
My husband says: ‘It was a great experience to scale this iconic building.’
I enjoyed the Up at The O2 experience. It was well organised, I felt completely safe, and it was good to see London from a different perspective.
Disclosure: Our tickets for Up at The O2 were provided for the purposes of this review.
More on London
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