I kept looking at the time on my work computer. My deadlines were all done for the year and I was on my last half day before I broke up for the Christmas season. But another detail about today was the fact it was my 33rd birthday. The last couple of Birthdays have been ok, but sadly my last milestone Birthday of 30 was absolutely ruined. Getting over the initial depression of being in my 30s and after some reflecting I decided I was going to do something epic. I didn’t care if I was going to do it alone (but luckily so friends agreed to come) I was going to make my 33rd Birthday one for the books. I was going to climb up the O2 in London
I had been wanting to do this for a year or so after seeing the brightly coloured posters line the walls of the train platform. Something I looked forgot after a overly but not needed complicated commute from Brighton. When I made the decision to finally do it this year and investigated the logistics of getting they I was surprised how cheap it actually was (I was expecting 100£ not about 35£) but a little history of what the O2 is…
Thelarge dome shaped building built to house an exhibition celebrating the turn of the third millennium; as the dome shaped structure still stands over the arena, The Dome remains a name in common usage for the venue. The arena, as well as the total O2 complex, is named after its primary sponsor, the telecommunications company O2.
The O2 Arena has the second highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the United Kingdom, behind the Manchester Arena, but took the crown of the world’s busiest music arena from New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 2008. -Wikipedia
finally 1pm hit and I said my goodbyes to my workmates as I made my way to Embankment to get on the Thames Clippers. I meticulously planed out my travel route from work to the pier to see if I could in fact get to the O2 on plenty of time to not miss our 3:00 climb. I had always wanted to ride the Thames Clippers plus it was an excellent way to see the sites of London which I never get tired of 8 years later since moving to the UK.
Having plenty of time to spare and sighing a sigh of relief that my military operation planing paid off I made my way on the boat and was happy to see the onboard shop to get a drink and some pretzels. I was not going to have time to eat before our climb and the last thing I needed was the blood sugar to drop while over a 1000 feet high. (Don’t quote me on that the O2 may not be that high)
GoPro in hand I started to film the sites and sounds of central London waving back and forth to either side to catch the best shot. I have started to get into documenting my adventures to make my YouTube channel no longer inactive since luckily having a full time job as an VFX editor.
We were getting close to the O2 drop off point and it occurred to me that I do not get sea sick. Put me on a car and have me read anything, even the first 30 seconds in car entering the post code into a sat nav and I’m already turning green. But put me in a train or on a boat and I’m fine.
We arrived at the O2 as the ship hands threw the rope to the dock and gradually pulled us in fighting the tide. I exchanged my final pleasantries with the grandmother who was doing a fabulous job pointing out the sights of London to her grandchildren. I mean that sincerely as it made the ride quite relaxing and would have been informative if I hadn’t already done various tours over the years
I was relived when I spotted my friend Charlie and his girlfriend Ann-Marie. All three of us exchanged big bear hugs and me and Ann expressed how nice it was to finally meet each other.
We made our way to “Basecamp” filling out all the various release forms surrounded my mountain climbing decor. I loved it but I do love that kind of cheesy stuff.
all three of us sat in the front row for a small screening theatre and my attention was drawn straight ahead to the climbing suit fitted on a manikin. I desperately wanted and hoped we would be wearing those suits (remember I love gimmicks)
A lady and man entered the room and explained all that was going to happen and then showed a short information video. After it finished we were all escorted to the next room to be fitted with our harnesses and gilets. My heart sank when they didn’t say suits so my dreams of looking like a real explorer diminished.
We were all given a gilet, shoes, a harness and a numbered plastic box to put the rest of our belongings away. The two guides checked our harnesses and made sure our safety attachment clamp (that’s what I’m calling it) was operational.
We had another harness check before climbing up several flights of stairs and getting winded very quickly. I was already out of breath and wondering how the hell I was going to do a 30 degree incline! After reaching the end of the stairs we all waited our turn to take a photo op at the base of the climb.
After all the photos were taken the lady asked if there was anyone with a birthday or anniversary that wanted to go first. I hesitated initially and looked at my friends on what they wanted to do. They gave me a silent look of “go ahead” and I raised my hand in time with another gentleman who said it too was his birthday. We shared an awkward exchange trying to figure out who wanted to go first and I suggested he lead the way. Climbing those stairs and already feeling winded did not do anything for my confidence and I certainly wasn’t going to be the pace setter for the climb
once it was our turn to head up the steep ramp the lady guide helped us slide and attach our clamps to the right hand side of a large guidance cable. She has us let go from the bottom of our safety clamp demonstrating that is we let go it will lock in place. This revelation eased the slight worry about climbing up. My fear of falling from heights quickly melted away and I was excited.
After the demonstration we made our way up the 30 degree incline and it became apparent that my provided climbing shoes were a little to big as my feet were giving inside. This didn’t bother me as my upper quad muscles started the slow burning sensation of fatigue.
I was relieved when the climbing dark blue ramp started to level out allowing me a moment and pause looking out over the horizon. Our guide would come back up on our right side with her own harness and let us know it was ok to proceed. This resting breaks made the climb a lot easier. If it was a constant climb to the top I would have been in trouble. After an estimated 15 climb up we finally reached the viewing platform that was playing Christmas songs.
I didn’t mind this because more importantly there was a break in the overcast sky to let the sun break through (we booked the sunset climb) we all were given the go ahead to unlatch our safety clamps and take various photos, selfie, and videos.
Me and my pal Charlie being the film needs that we are and started to film all over. Giving updates on how we felt to add to a vlog at a later date. Meanwhile Ann-Marie suggested a Christmas conga on the platform but no one was having it. If it want for the slight swaying sensation on the platform I would have participated. Sadly it was only her and our female guide but everyone else to laugh slightly with enjoyment
After about 10 minute photo session it was time to climb down. Now usually I don’t mind declining and actually welcome it with open arms when running. But it didn’t occur to me we would be doing a 20 degree decline. Ann-Marie who was leading this time turned to me and Charlie suggesting we do a horse riding stance. Of course all three of us knew what she meant as we all had training backgrounds in martial arts.
I let go of my safety harness clamp from the bottom two levels to stop in place. Once again easing my anxiety as it felt like I was going to fall forward. The incline was so great that my toes were cramping forward in my slightly to big shoes. Now it was my calf muscles that had the slow burning sensation.
The group all finished at the bottom and we returned to base camp with a real sense of accomplishment. We all retuned the climbing equipment and made our way to gift shop. I got some patches to put on my cycling rucksack and we both got the two photos taken before our climb (even though they were slightly out of focus)
Once our transactions were made we made our way through the back of the O2. Luckily Charlie had been that way previously while at a concert otherwise I would have been lost. All of us were starving from our climb and my boat pretzels and drink had dissipated hours ago. We wrapped our night up after some gourmet burgers saying our goodbyes and made our separate ways Home.
I’m really glad I did it and it was certainly a birthday to remember. I was happy to have the lovely company as the original plan was to do it alone, but having friends made it ten times better. Hopefully soon I will be posting my vlog here showing the visual experience.