Conquering a fear of heights: Story Bridge Adventure Climb - Visit Brisbane

Conquering a fear of heights: Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Visit Brisbane's Graeme Wilson went to great heights on his Story Bridge Adventure Climb experience. Read about his sky high tour below.

Aimee knows the bright pink runners are a mistake the moment she sees the standard issue grey/blue overalls for the Story Bridge Adventure Climb. The baby blue ones she laments, why didn’t she wear the baby blue?

Fashion fails aside, as the name suggests this is a great adventure on one of only three bride adventure climbs in the world. And to me it’s also an ideal father/daughter exercise – tethered side-by-side for two hours, for once there’s no easy escape from probing questions into her private life.

High above the Brisbane River I learned a little, but as in Vegas, what happens on the bridge stays on the bridge.

Graeme Wilson and daughter Aimee climb the Story Bridge

Our twilight adventure begins at the Kangaroo Point climb headquarters with a safety briefing and summary of the adventure ahead. 

I’m immediately grateful I skipped after-work drinks as I’m first-up of our group of nine for the compulsory breathalyser. All climbers must register under 0.05% or forfeit their climb. For those who fail, as some compensation the nearby Story Bridge Hotel is perfectly located to finish what they’ve already started and drown their sorrows.

I’m also relieved I didn’t wear the traditional footwear of my native New Zealanders, as fully-enclosed shoes are mandatory. For those Kiwis whose three-tier footwear range consists of casual/smart casual/formal (with socks) jandals/thongs, bridge staff do supply on-trend black sandshoes.

I don’t think Barney Stinson had this in mind when he coined his legendary “suit up” motto, but we slip into our matching uniforms and after final safety instructions it’s time to literally step out on to the Story Bridge.

Story Bridge Adventure Climb at dusk

It’s a beautiful evening and we start to ascend the first of 1136 steps we’ll negotiate tonight, climbing to 80m above sea level for glorious views of the river city below, as well as 360-degree glimpses of Moreton Bay to the Scenic Rim. The steepest part of the climb takes us up to road level and then it’s a slow and steady ascent to the peak.

The vivacious young student positioned immediately behind our leader seems to be particularly comfortable in his presence. So much so that when the first photo opportunity arrives, the couple behind me with the evil sense of humour suggest we should relieve him of camera duties so they can feature together in a shot with the city lights as a romantic backdrop.

But remaining the consummate professional throughout, our leader focuses on making us all feel special as he provides interesting facts and figures on the bridge and throws in the odd dad joke (I’ve memorised a couple) to keep the mood light. There’s also a recorded commentary available via supplied iPods for those who like to be talked through the climb.

Among the things you learn is that the bridge, designed by chief engineer John Bradfield (also responsible for the Sydney Harbour Bridge), opened in 1940 after five years of construction during the period between The Great Depression and Second World War.

And its construction was not so much about a desperate need to build something to span the Brisbane River, but more about providing jobs at a time when roughly a third of the Australian workforce was unemployed. Numbers peaked at about 400, with three men falling to their deaths as they worked long hours traversing the steel beams without harnesses.

Despite equally hazardous underwater conditions (65 documented cases of The Bends), at least those constructing the support piers were entitled to three cold lunchtime beers. Workplace health and safety has come a long way since those dark days, and accordingly all climbing participants are attached to the railing throughout. So despite the lofty heights, there’s no real fear factor involved and my heart rate remained relatively stable throughout.

And this from a man who will readily admit to being not so great with heights. Somebody that I used to know (and unsuccessfully endeavoured to impress) will never realise the terror I felt teetering on a tall ladder while fixing her gutter).

Story Bridge 75 celebration

And if the climb tests your physical condition, there’s a lengthy pause at the peak to catch your breath and truly appreciate the vista. From this vantage point you see the multitude of cranes perched all over the buildings below, and realise that burgeoning Brisbane is indeed Australia’s New World City.

The relaxed pace makes it suitable for anyone with a basic level of fitness. Regular stops to take in the sights means there’s plenty of opportunity to catch your breath if all those steps do start to take their toll.

The twilight climb was a great choice, because as the light fades the city shines below and the bridge’s 500 LED lights highlight its graceful lines. The lights regularly change colour throughout the year to support charities and mark special days, and for some reason tonight’s emerald green scheme has me thinking of Spiderman (the Green Goblin thing maybe?).

High up above the glittering city skyline, the climb provides an almost surreal escape from reality, and in my mind I can picture a guest appearance from Spidey, swinging in an elegant arc from one side of the bridge to the other on his way to rescuing a damsel in distress.

But in the event of a no-show from the bloke in the clingy red and blue leotard, the regular staff can assist anyone battling nerves.

Apparently some people actually use the climb to confront and overcome their fear of heights, and from what I saw, they couldn’t be in better hands.

Find out more about the Story Bridge Adventure Climb. 

Fast Facts:

  • The bridge’s steel peaks were designed to resemble a mountain range to blend in with the city’s natural landscape.
  • The bridge surface is flat because cars in the early ’30s didn’t have the power to easily climb over a curved bridge.
  • Several names were suggested for the bridge, but it was finally named after long-serving public servant John Douglas Story. On learning of this unexpected honour, he promptly fainted.
  • The bridge was constructed using 12,000 tonnes of steel, 41,000 cubic metres of concrete, and 1.25 million rivets.
  • Every day, approximately 91,000 cars travel across the bridge, and the subsequent wear and tear means about every 15 years the asphalt surface is replaced.
  • The strip of road encompassed by the bridge is the shortest highway in Australia (the Bradfield Highway – named after Chief Engineer John Bradfield). 

Visit Brisbane was a guest of the Story Bridge Adventure Climb.

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