GT goes 'Up At The O2'
Benjamin Butterworth braves the most impressive roof terrace in London
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I have a number of fears: spiders, deep water and Mel C to name a few. But one that has particularly plagued me is a fear of heights. I can vividly remember getting to the top of the Scouts climbing wall, on numerous occasions, then bursting into tears at the thought of abseiling back down. Every inch of the 10 or 15 feet high I'd climbed would be terrifying. Which is why the friendly people at GT thought it would be a great idea for me to climb The 02 Arena.
Most of us have been inside The O2. Its eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, a pop museum and a 20,000 seater arena make it the busiest venue of its type in the world. Some two million music fans watched shows inside it last year, and if the rest of them were like me they probably looked up and thought how high the dome is. And it is really high: 164 feet, to be precise.
But as if climbing the dome isn't daunting enough, you can now do a special halloween themed 'climb of the cursed'. And, lucky me, got to be one the first.
The experience started with a 'briefing' at 'base camp'. Cheesy, for sure. But also chilling. Spooky music plays as various health and safety no-nos are explained, meanwhile ominous looking paper is passed around to confirm your mother won't complain if you fall off.
In my head, the whole thing was simply a case of doing as Led Zeppelin said and taking a little 'stairway to heaven'. A few carefully placed steps to be trod on, probably no more steep than Angel Tube station or a walk through the Lake District. In reality, it was a bouncy floored, step-less, cling-on-to-the-centre pole situation. Adorned in some sort of blue military onesie, just a few buckles clip climber and O2 together.
But once you've got past the dodgy outfit, the view is immediately inspiring. It took around twenty minutes to climb to the top. And whilst the slope gets progressively more acute, the nerves of each step are easily overshadowed by the excitement as more London icons comes into sight. You'd think doing the climb at night may obscure some of the excitement from the view. But in reality (and as our instructor confirmed) there's a real magic to a past-dark climb, as the whole city glistens in its own metropolis.
The walk back down is actually more exciting, for my money. You have to hold on tight to ensure you don't go head-first with the steep incline, and at times I was convinced it was the Thames not the cloakroom I was heading for.
Even for someone as previously afraid of heights as me, Up At The O2 provides an exhilarating, secure feeling experience which shows off London in a whole new way. Whilst there was little to indicate what's different about the 'climb of the cursed' theme, the pitch black definitely gave the whole experience an edge, and I would highly recommend it.
Booking in advance is recommended, as demand is high. Special climbs for those in wheelchairs (popular during the Paralympics) are also available; details of which can be found at theo2.co.uk/UpAtTheO2
Words: Benjamin Butterworth