Sunday, 22 September 2013

I survived climbing Up at the O2!

Last weekend my siblings and I embarked on an epic climb, no, not up a mountain, but over the O2 arena. Up at the O2 is a fantastic experience, where you can pretend to be an intrepid explorer and scale the O2, or as I like to fondly remember it, the Millennium Dome

I think it's very reasonably priced at £25 for around an hour's experience. This includes the rather fetching blue jumpsuits, Ecco boots and climbing equipment. Unfortunately you don't get to keep any of it, but the memories of that blue jumpsuit will haunt me forever.

Feeling very accomplished

Upon entering the 'base camp' as they call it, you are treated to a very silly safety video, where an 'explorer' (in the loosest possible sense of the word) explains all the health and safety info all the while pretending to be a bit ~quirky~. It's eye-roll worthy stuff, but it didn't last that long. He does tell you some fun facts about the O2 while you're there- there are 12 spikes, it's 364 metres in circumference and 52 metres high, thus representing a year. Pretty cool stuff.

If I had instagram on my phone, I would have instagrammed this

You're then  introduced to your guide, who shows you how to put your gear on. Next, you're ushered through to another room to collect your climb gear and get dressed. There's lockers for your stuff and you can only take a mobile phone or small camera with you on the climb. Your guide is there to help you put the harness off and checks it a few times before you get going, so no worrying about it falling off! 

The jumpsuits are pretty thick, so you don't need to leave a coat on or anything. I took my jumper off and wasn't cold at all.

Then, once the group is ready, it's time to climb! Before you get going, a professional photographer takes your picture (£12 for one print if you're wondering) and off you go. 

What a logo...

In order to climb, you attach yourself to a rail and climb up and up and up. This ended up making my hands ache because I didn't listen to the guide and tried to do it 'my way' and ended up hurting my hands. Top tip- actually listen to the safety instructor!

You won't actually be walking on the O2, rather a blue purpose-built walkway. The material that you climb on looks a bit like the material that bouncy castles are made out of, but is hopefully a bit thicker! It's steepest at the beginning and end, where it's a thirty degree angle climb, but it does straighten out towards the middle, where there's a viewing platform, which is made of solid metal. A blissful relief for me!

Making our slow progress up to the top

Climbing itself can be as easy or as strenuous as you want to make it. You're provided with Ecco boots, which I'd advise you to wear as they have fantastic grip. You could wear your own trainers, but to be on the safe side, go with what they give you. If you're a little nervous, like I was, the temptation is to cling onto the rail and drag yourself up by the arm, hunched over like an old woman.

The most important thing to remember when climbing is to stand up straight- it makes the climb so much easier. Using the harness and climb gear takes a little bit of getting used to, but it's not complicated at all. In fact, the minimum age is 10, so if 10 year olds can cope, I'm sure you can too! I did not do this at first and I was aching. The guide told me to stand up, and I listened (after a bit of persuasion) and it was so much easier.

The viewing platform and the 360 degree info on the landscape

I have to be honest here, I was more than a little nervous once my feet touched the material. I was fine up until that part, but since it's quite steep and was slippery (due to the rain that day) I was more than a little scared. However, once I realised that it was pretty much impossible for me to plummet to my death, I was fine. Yes, I am a little bit of a hypochondriac, but what you gon' do?

Once we got to the top, we were unleashed onto the viewing platform and had fantastic 360 degree views of London. Despite it being a drizzly day, it was still very impressive and I bet that it looks stunning at nighttime. You get about 15 minutes on the platform, which is more than enough time to take in the view and take  pictures. Then it's time to get reattached to the rail and descend towards the ground. 

The way down...
The climb down was a little scarier for me, because I could see myself tumbling down to the ground, but I took my time and took small steps and was fine. Despite the fact that it was really wet and slippery, nobody in our group fell over, so it's perfectly safe, so long as you're sensible.

I really enjoyed Up at the O2, despite my initial nervousness. Once my feet touched solid ground I was really proud of myself and couldn't stop smiling. It was exhilarating and yes, I know, it wasn't exactly a difficult climb, but I've never done anything like it before and found it really exciting. 

Exterior mode. 52 metres high apparently

I would definitely remind the O2 climb to anyone, with the exception of people with a fear of heights, obviously. I don't have a fear of heights and was a bit freaked out, but you know your own limits, so go for it if you think you'd enjoy it. I certainly did.

We took the clipper back to the station, so spent some time on the Thames

Tips when climbing the O2 arena


1. Take a small digital camera

It says on the website that you can only take a mobile phone up with you, but this isn't true. You are allowed to take a digital camera when climbing the O2, so long as it fits into the pocket provided, which is mobile phone sized. So, no DSLRs, but you will be able to take a standard point and shoot.

2. Take your time to climb

Do not worry about the other people in your group. If you're nervous at all, go at the back, so that you won't hold people up, or if you're nervous about falling, go in the middle. You are completely safe and will not fall over unless you do something silly. Take the shoes they offer you, be careful and you'll be fine. I was and I am very clompy.

3. If you want to go at the front, say it's your birthday

Or anniversary, or divorce party, or whatever. You'll also get happy birthday sung to you at the top, which is a nice touch. If you don't want the attention, keep your mouth shut

4. Go when the weather is good (if you can)

The O2 climbs operate in all weather, except for thunderstorms/snowstorms, so be prepared to climb if it's raining. It was when I did it and it was slippery. You do get given Ecco boots to wear, which are very good, but it is a little slippery when wet. If you're nervous about slipping, then I'd advise against going when the weather's bad. Although you can't guarantee anything where the English weather's concerned.

5. Talk to your guide

Maybe an obvious one, but utilise the expertise of your guide once you're at the viewing platform. They will be able to point out all the London sites and tell you all sorts of gossip. They're not just there to be your personal photographer!
I hope you found this useful. Let me know in the comment if you've climbed the O2 too!
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  1. That seems amazing, I've seen people do it and I think I'll try to work up the courage to do it myself too- but I'm a tad scared of heights

    1. It was incredible! But yeah, quite high up!!


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