Laura’s London: Climb Over The O2 Arena With Up at The O2

It’s the fifth birthday for The O2 in Greenwich, one of London’s most iconic landmarks and the world’s most popular entertainment venue. Some people throw a party but they’ve decided to create a new attraction: a skywalk over the top of the building, open from June 2012.

What is Up at The O2?

Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, who designed The O2, it’s a 90 minute “exhilarating outdoor challenge” with a completely unique 360 degree view of east London and beyond. Visitors reach 52 metres above ground level via a tensile fabric walkway for a guided expedition over the arena roof. There is an observation platform at the summit and the attraction is inspired by similar climbs at places including the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.

(What is The O2? It’s the world’s most popular music and entertainment venue, owned and operated by AEG in partnership with O2, the communications company. The O2 has a 20,000 seater arena, live music venue – indigO2, British Music Experience, 11 screen cinema complex and ‘Entertainment District’ with a variety of bars, restaurants and leisure facilities.)

Alistair Wood, AEG Europe, Senior Vice President for Real Estate, commented: “Up at The O2 is a demonstration of our continued commitment to developing and diversifying The O2.” While The O2 gets a lot of visitors in the evening, the hope is that Up at The O2 will attract more daytime visitors.

The Numbers

  • 52m above ground level
  • 360 degree views of London
  • 90 minutes ‘experience’
  • 190m long fabric walkway
  • 10 years minimum age
  • 15 people in each guided group
  • 2 guides
  • 30 people can climb at a time
  • 30 degree slope (steeper than the toughest section of the Tour de France)
  • £22 ticket price for adults and children

First Impressions

One of the first guests was Pam Woodgate, a senior citizen from London so don’t worry too much about how strenuous you may think the walk is as she said, “I’m coming up to 75 and if I can do it anyone can.” Another one of the first group, Johnny Minkley from London said, “The thing I found hardest to resist was the urge to bounce. It is like being on top of a giant trampoline!” He’s right but remember, no bouncing is allowed!

Start of the climb - don't bounce!

What Happens

‘Base Camp’ is to the left of the main entrance of The O2. Once tickets are sorted you go into a holding room – Expedition Climbers Training Hub – and in here everyone must read and sign a waiver before your Guide comes to say hello and starts the slightly humorous, yet very British, health and safety film.

You then move through to get your climb suit and safety equipment. Climb shoes (stiff walking boots) are available and recommended if you have smooth-soled shoes as you need the extra grip.

The blue climb suits are easy to put on – long zips and Velcro – and your Guide will demonstrate how to put on and tighten your safety harness. Basically, you step in and pull it up like a backpack, then tighten all the straps.

There is a pocket on each sleeve for a mobile phone for photos from the summit but actual cameras are not allowed. There are no other pockets on the climb suit so you have to leave your belongings in a locker and take the key on a wrist strap. You cannot take photos along the route – trust me, you want to be holding on – but on the circular platform at the top, photos are fine and encouraged.

You ascend via a short set of stairs or lift/elevator to the base of the tent ready to start the climb. Here you’ll learn how to attach your safety clip to the safety wire that runs the whole way up and down so you’re always safe. Pop on your gloves and it’s time to climb!

I volunteered to be “wingman” so I lead the group up! I’m not known for my bravery so I can assure you it’s not frightening. Exhilarating, not but scary. The steepest parts of the climb have a ridged walkway to help you get a grip and you always hold onto the central handrail too. The group climbs in a line and the Guide is on the other side of the handrail so he can move up and down to help all members of the group. The wind is a factor as you move up (and down) and you can feel yourself being buffeted about so always have one or two hands on the central handrail.

At the summit it’s flat, and there’s a barrier, so you can be unclipped and move around freely. It’s a circular observation platform suspended between The O2′s distinctive yellow masts. There are signs to help you recognise landmarks and the Guide is happy to point things out too. Do remember to wave at the people in the cable cars crossing the Thames as that’s open from end-June 2012.

The climb down is described as “exciting, but manageable” and I would say it’s a bit tougher in high winds so hold on and take it slowly. It rained slightly on our way down and that does make the walkway more slippery and our Guide slipped a few times dashing between us all.

At the bottom you get changed and exit through the gift shop with sadly no certificates, medals or badges to say “I climbed over The O2!” I guess that’ll be added to the merchandise in time. The exit route leads you through The O2 where there are plenty of cafes and restaurants.

What Can You See

Spectacular views of the capital and its many landmarks, including the Olympic Park – The Orbit is the easiest structure to spot, Historic Royal Greenwich, Thames Barrier, The Shard, City Hall by Tower Bridge (but you can’t see the famous bridge) and Canary Wharf. You can also see the regeneration taking place in this southeast area of London as unused docks from London’s maritime history are transformed.

Important Notes

  • Open to anyone who is medically fit and has a sense of personal adventure.
  • Children must be over 10 years old AND over 1.2m high.
  • You must wear sensible footwear.
  • You are advised to bring sunglasses.
  • Everyone has to wear the provided climb suits (all-in-one).
  • Accessible tours for those with disabilities, including wheelchair users, are planned.
  • Climbs will take place in all weather conditions other than gales, lightening, heavy snow or ice or extreme weather conditions which they reasonably believe will make it unsafe to climb.
  • Check more of the small print here.

Photo Gallery

Key Info about Up at The O2

Website: www.UpatTheO2.co.uk

Time:
Open all year round (weather permitting)
June to September: 10am-8pm
October to May: 10am-5pm

Phone: +44 (0)20 863 2000

Costs:
£22 for adults and children.
O2 customers get 15% off tickets with Priority Moments.
Tickets can be purchased at www.UpatTheO2.co.uk or on the day at The O2.
Packages including travel on Thames Clippers and entry to The British Music Experience will also be available.

Getting there:
The nearest Tube Station is North Greenwich and the new Emirates Air Line cable car also connects to and from The O2 and Royal Docks (across The Thames). From central London the Thames Clipper river boat is a fast and fun way to arrive.

Comments

  1. avatar says

    Thanks for the info – there’s not much about this online.

    Given the spectacular views I’m rather disappointed to discover that I can’t take my SLR up there but will have to rely on my smartphone – in fact scrub that, I’m deeply disappointed thinking about it! Some of us can be trusted to strap down our cameras until we get to the summit – I get a bit annoyed when people treat me like a rather dim sheep!

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