x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

At home on top of the Harbour Bridge

From where I stand Melissa Duane shows off the Australian city by leading tours climbing the iconic Sydney landmark.

Melissa Duane atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Melissa Duane atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I've been working with BridgeClimb for nine years. When it first opened, I just couldn't believe that people were actually climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I remember hearing about the climb leaders and telling my mum, "I'm going to do that". When I applied, I hadn't even done the climb once. Becoming a fully fledged climb leader takes about three months from start to finish. You have to learn the safety procedures, and about the history of Sydney and the Harbour Bridge. Even with all the training, you learn something new everyday from the people you take up. Some of them are from countries I've never even heard of, while others are locals who know a lot about the city and the bridge.

We have four different climbs: dawn, midmorning, twilight, and night. The climb you choose depends on what you want to see. At dawn you can see the sunrise over the water as night changes into day, while at night the air is crisp and Sydney is at its brightest with all the city lights. The midmorning climb shows off the colours of Sydney: from its buildings, parks, beaches and wharves, the harbour and the Blue Mountains in the distance. The twilight climb has a bit of everything as the sun sets over the city throughout.

We've had just under 3,000 marriage proposals on the bridge since BridgeClimb opened. We've also had half a dozen weddings take place up on the top. Twilight climbs are the most popular for proposals and one of my favourite memories was when I took a group where a couple got engaged. Their parents were on the climb and they and the girlfriend had no idea what was about to happen. When he proposed, everyone was so surprised. It was really amazing to be part of that.

The only time we don't climb the bridge is during thunderstorms. We're constantly in contact with the Bureau of Meteorology, so if there's any indication of a thunderstorm heading towards the city, we'll come down. If it's raining, people still enjoy the climb. It gives them a sense of adventure and they feel like they've conquered the conditions at the end. I've taken Robert De Niro and Prince Harry up. A lot of celebrities climb the bridge when they're in Sydney. Teri Hatcher went just last week. With this job, you take so many different people, and each has their own reason for being there, whether it's a birthday, an engagement, a holiday, or just for the experience. There's no better job than showing off your city. A lot of locals climb the bridge and say, "I drive over the bridge every day but I've never actually looked at it properly."