When you visit London, there are a few things on the must-do list: Changing of the Guard, the London Eye, the Tower of London. If you have a hunger for danger, there’s one more spot to add to your to-do list: Climbing the O2 Dome on the Greenwich Peninsula. You won’t simply be climbing a manufactured rock wall inside an air conditioned building. Oh no. This climb involves special suits, climbing harnesses and the chance to climb over the roof off a major entertainment venue.
You’re Going To Visit London to Climb What?
One of London’s slightly off-the-beaten-track attractions is the O2, a major entertainment complex that seats up to 20,000 people. An entrepreneur looked at the giant domed roof and thought, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s build a walkway over the entire roof and then get slightly daffy people (Daffy is a British word I wanted to include in this article!) to climb on the walkway. Oh yes. We’ll build an observation tower on the top so they can take off their safety harnesses and roam around, checking out the view.” And that’s how my husband and I ended up making the ascent of the O2 Dome.
Is It Safe?
Perfectly. Actually the buildup is worse than the actual climb. After entering “Base Camp” you watch a short, funny and pertinent video explaining all the safety features. Of course I’m thinking that out of the hundreds of safety harnesses available, mine will be the only defective one, failing to catch me when I slip off the edge of the roof.
The friendly staff explain that because of the light rain, we’ll be issued special shoes and rain gear, which makes the climb seem more than a casual walk in the park. Next, we clumsily get into our harnesses that attach at the top of our legs and over our shoulders like an extra heavy duty backpack. After getting gloves we were headed up! (And up and up and up!)
The Climb Begins:
A three-foot wide ribbed walkway made of tensile fabric stretches above the actual roof of the O2 Dome. One end of our safety harness is attached to a cable stretching the length of the climb. Even a simple slip would be stopped as the harness locks in place and you would barely fall to your knees. (Unless of course, you had the one defective harness I previously mentioned!)
The first section of the climb is steep. I walk at least five miles a day, but my knees weren’t used to the sharp uphill climb. Soon, however, the incline gradually reduces. Think of the walkway as a suspension bridge stretched over a giant mushroom. Yes, that’s one giant mushroom! The only frustrating part of the climb was a rather annoying and clumsy man behind me who continuously swayed back and forth, causing the walkway to bounce as I cautiously climbed upward. Wait! That man was my husband, deliberately trying to annoy me. He succeeded.
You Made It!
Your reward at reaching the summit of Mount Everest…sorry, the summit of the O2, is an observation platform giving a 360-degree view of the London area. Because the platform has a safety rail, you are free to unhook your safety harness. There’s a feeling of exhilaration at reaching your goal with the bonus of having the view as the payoff.
On a clear day, the view stretches for miles. Metal signs all around the observation deck have sketches, pointing out distinctive landmarks. You might be able to see the closest RV Campground to London, the Lee Valley Caravan Park. The campground is close to public transportation that gets you to London in 30 minutes. Even if you are a risk taker and climbing the O2, you don’t want to take the risk of driving into London with an RV!
As with most things, what comes up must come down. We attached our safety harnesses and proceeded down the side of our gigantic mushroom. The steepness was a bit disconcerting as you needed to keep one hand on the cable to avoid going so fast you bumped the person in front of you.
Good For Families?
This could be the highlight of your children’s trip to London. Yes, all the historical buildings, museums and double decker buses
are interesting. While most teenagers won’t send pictures of themselves next to a painting at the National Gallery, they will proudly text their friends about their climbing experience. In order to climb, you must be at least 11 years old and not have a blood alcohol reading of 0.05% or less. I’m hoping all your children meet that requirement.
Here’s my idea for a great compromise when it comes to budgeting. Instead of paying the steep admission fee to Westminster Abbey, tell your children you’ll expect them to sit quietly for the free Westminster Evensong program. They’ll experience what it’s like to sit in a massive church and the money you save from that admission will go towards their climb!
So if you need a break from traditional sightseeing activities, add a little upward mobility to your London experience by walking over the O2.