When in London, you’ve got to get up high to get the best views of this urban jungle. While I’ve ‘conquered’ the Shard and the ArcelorMittal Orbit (albeit with the help of a swift lift), I’ve always been tempted by the Up at the O2 walk, which takes you up over the iconic O2 arena, giving you pretty spectacular views out across East London.
I almost did it a few years ago, but I chickened out at the last minute when I saw it up close and realised just how steep it actually looked. However, having now placed it on my #25before25 list, when I saw cheap tickets online, I realised I absolutely HAD to do it.
The first part of the adventure involves a short video in a space-age style room detailing all the fun facts about the O2 – for instance, that it’s 52 feet tall (to reflect the number of weeks in a year) and its diameter is 365 metres (i.e. the number of days in a non-leap year).
After the video, your tour leader will lead you into a separate back room where you can change into either a jumpsuit if it’s cold, or a vest if it’s on the warm side. Non-slip shoes are also provided, plus storage for all your bits and bobs.
A few flights of stairs takes you up to the first platform where you have a couple of photos taken by the professional photographer.
It’s here where you get a full demonstration on how to actually climb the big tent. Attached to your harness is a full-proof (I mean it – even I could work it out) harness and latch, which simply ‘rolls’ onto the continuous cable system. I was a little bit panicky about losing my footing and then just bouncing down to my death, but it turns out that if you don’t hold the latch down it will automatically lock – meaning it’ll keep you safely in one place.
The ‘climb’ itself is actually more like going up a semi-steep flight of stairs. Broken down into a few sections, the first is the steepest of them all, but once you get over this it’s pretty much smooth-sailing. The blue material is designed to be pretty bouncy to give the feeling that you’re actually walking on the O2’s tent, but you’re politely asked by staff (and terrified people like me, gripping on to my harness for dear life) not to trampoline too much…
After less than 10 minutes – and before you even have a chance to realise where you actually are – you’re right up at the top.
Once you’ve scaled the tented beast, you have a good 15/20 minutes to catch your breath, admire the view and take a few selfies where you try not to look too windswept. The time spent at the top felt a little bit too long, but if it’s your first time in this part of London you’ll be wowed by the views of the Emirates cable cars, Canary Wharf, and even the Shard in the distance.
Top tip: you’re allowed to take your camera/phone up with you, as long as it remains in your pocket during the climb up and down. Definitely leave the DSLR cameras at home!
The feeling of having actually conquered the O2 is pretty satisfying in itself – you really feel like you’ve earned that view. And if you’re a non-adventurous person like me, the climb will give you enough adrenaline to last you for the next month.
And then, just as you’ve perfected your selfie face, it’s time to make your way back down to solid ground. The slope starts off easy enough, but the steepest bit at the bottom requires some stealthy repositioning. It’s nothing too difficult, and if I can do it then you definitely can!