Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Up at the O2!

Never being one to shy away from adventure, I was excited last summer to read about "Up at the O2" opening, and immediately added it to my wishlist. For the uninitiated, Up at the O2 is a walkway up and over the O2 ("Millennium") Dome in North Greenwich.

A few months after its opening (I like to give other people a chance to safety test these things first) I finally got my chance to scale the heights of one of London's most iconic structures, as a joint birthday outing between my dad and I. Due to my dad's disability, our party of four were the only ones taking part in our particular climb, which allowed us a good chance of speaking to the guides as we ascended, and meant that there was nobody to photo-bomb out pictures at the top.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. As we entered the Base Camp centre buzzing with nervous anticipation, our first task was to sign a disclaimer form - never a good thing- and watch a short safety video of things to come.

 When our briefing was over, it was time to suit up into the breathtakingly stylish boiler suits* provided.
(* I would like to take this opportunity to point out that NOBODY LOOKS GOOD IN A BOILER SUIT)

And we were off. Having spent a good half hour before leaving solid ground discussing how springy the canvas walkway was, we were surprised to find that it really was as springy as it looked! We were clipped on at all times of the ascent to a rail down the centre of the walkway, a total of about 45 minutes. As predicted from the ground, the first part was the steepest, and we were relieved to get it out of the way first. As we got further from the ground, we took a couple of breaks to change the wheelchair ropes, and to survey our surroundings, as more and more of the centre of London came into view, spotting landmarks such as the London Eye, St. Paul's, and the Tate Modern tower.

Once we reached the centre, we were able to release ourselves from the safety rail and wander freely around the viewing platform, which gave a stunning view of the twists and turns of the murky Thames below, stretching from the flood barrier out East, to the centre of the city, despite being partially obscured by Canary Wharf and the surrounding forest of towers. A quick photoshoot later, we were on our way back down the other side. Somehow I drew the short straw and ended up at the front- not a problem for the first part of the descent, but a little heart-stopping as we got closer to the ground and the gradient began to feel practically vertical!

The whole experience took around two and a half hours from start to finish, and is well worth doing for seeing London from a different perspective. It will challenge the orientation and geographical knowledge of even the most seasoned Londoner. We were lucky that we went on a day that was neither too hot nor too wet, and had clear views.

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