Brisbane Story Bridge

"Climbing" Brisbane's Story Bridge by Hillary Kane

I’m kind of a dork. I love factoids. I turn straight away to the “let’s do the numbers” part of every newsletter that I forgot I signed up for on the internet. I must not be alone because every person visiting Brisbane is bombarded with Story Bridge Statistics such as: “The Story Bridge is the largest steel bridge designed, fabricated and constructed in Australia by Australians.” [That is a direct quote from the site.]

I also learned that just like the Hoover Dam, the Story Bridge was a public works project that created years of employment during the Great Depression. I must include the engineering numbers as well: The Bridge is over 1,072 meters long [.67 miles to you and me]; 22 stories high; 39,100 cubic meters excavated for foundations; and four men lost their lives during construction. OH yeah, it cost about £ 1.5 million but then sold by the State Government to the Brisbane City Council for £750,000.

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. By far the best tidbit is that there is a bend in the bridge because it was built around a pub that would have had to be demolished if the bridge was built according to the original plan. You can see why I like Australia!!!

But WHY? Why climb the bridge? Why not simply observe it from the shore or from one of the many water tours? Sir Hillary [no relation :-)] understood that we climb things because they are there. We make lists just to cross things off. You go to Sydney - you climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. You go to Brisbane - you climb the Story Bridge. It’s just what we do.

So after a week of working in lovely Brisbane, I set out with a colleague and one of his friends to climb the Bridge. After a putting on a jumper and listening to a safety talk and passing a breathalyzer test [I’m serious] we clipped ourselves to the Story Bridge and started to climb. I had read every word on the Website. All the talk about heights and people being afraid of heights, made me anxious.

Brisbane Story Bridge - Australia

I am NOT afraid of heights, never have been, but WHAT IF the phobia struck me suddenly atop the Story Bridge? What if I had a panic attack smack dab in the middle of the Brisbane River? For two days I stressed and dreamt about the horrors that might come to greet me as I climbed the Bridge.

So…our little group of 10 [4 locals and 6 tourists], led by our guide, clipped on and began to climb. “Climb.” We were going UP. A steel staircase had been retro fitted to the bridge on either side – as well as the guideline to which we remained attached for the duration. We climbed, we moved forward…forward and up…we climbed very steep tiny steps and not-so-steep big ass steps. Stopping strategically to catch our breath or so the guide could direct our eyes to various points of interest. It was lovely. It was not strenuous. It was NOT climbing…but it was cool.

About half way into the climb, I realized that about ½ of the people I know would NOT even consider climbing the Story Bridge [or any bridge] including my colleague’s wife and one of his three sons. I suppose I too have things I categorically would NOT do… I just can’t think of one at the moment.

As we headed back up the other side, we realized that the sun had set and the lights of the city and the Bridge were now lit. It was breathtaking… I wanted to do it again. I just may…