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2 August 2013

Up and Away

I last visited The O2 back when it was still the Millennium Dome, on New Year's Eve 2001–2. Back when I still liked clubbing. It was a fun night, but very cold, and the main thing I remember is the two-hour queue to get on the Tube.

Today, though, I was there to try something quite different: climbing over the top of The O2's tented, domed roof, an experience they call Up at the O2. Our climb was at 10.45 this morning and I was a bit worried when I woke up to torrential rain and thunder. Climbs go ahead whatever the weather, but obviously are rather more pleasant when it isn't raining cats and dogs. North Greenwich Tube is only a short yomp from where I live and we arrived a little earlier, so we were allowed to join an earlier tour.

We climbed over this. The O2 viewed from Greenwich.

Once we signed our lives away, we watched a short video and then got kitted up. They have special shoes with good grip, which, given the earlier rain, we were all recommended to wear. You can also wear one of their climbing suits, but because it was so warm and humid, I decided to take the risk and go suitless. You aren't allowed to take anything up with you apart from a mobile phone or a phone-sized camera, which goes in a special pocket in your suit (or the guide's backpack if you aren't wearing the suit).

Canary Wharf from the summit.

After a brief orientation, we were each harnessed on to the safety cable — the grips were pretty strong, so that even if you slipped you would be unlikely to fall more than a few centimetres. As for the climb, it was really fun. As The O2 is domed, the initial stages were pretty steep (a 30-degree incline at its steepest), but there is a handrail and the surface on which you walk is also made of bouncy blue rubber, with thousands of tiny foot-holds. The main problem is the temptation to want to bounce up and down on the walkway, which is not allowed, because it can disturb some visitors.



Once we reached the top, we were unhooked, and were free to walk around and take photos. I asked if I was allowed to leap, expecting to be told no, but as long as you don't climb on anything, leaping is fine. It's a little tricky to get the right pose when you are holding the heavy metal safety harness with your right hand.




Although it was a cloudy day, the clouds were pretty high and we had a great view of Canary Wharf, Greenwich, the Isle of Dogs, the Emirates Air Line, the countryside and even the City, on our way down. I would recommend wearing the suit unless it's a scorching day, as it means you can keep your camera for a bit longer on the ground and take a few shots of the preparations. Our guides were friendly and fun, and overall, we had a great time. I'd love to come back at sunset. Tickets cost about £25, although you can get a discount if you're an O2 customer.

Leaping at ground level.

We were tempted to have a go on the Emirates Air Line, when we had finished, which is another activity I've been meaning to do for yonks, but we decided we would save it for another day, as the view would be pretty similar. Instead, we walked along the river to Greenwich proper. I'd hoped to go to an Italian restaurant called Bianco 43, which The Bro says makes the best pizza he's ever had. Unfortunately, they were fully booked, so we had to settle for Byron instead. And when I say "settle," I mean "have a delicious, medium rare Byron burger and an Oreo milkshake." No, I suppose it wasn't too much of a compromise...

Byron Burger. The flags are a nice idea.

Up at the O2. The O2, Peninsula Square, London, SE10 0DX (Tube: North Greenwich). Website. Twitter.

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