Illegal Ascents of Sydney’s most Iconic Buildings

During 1963 and 1964 I continued my interest in building climbing, which I had begun in London. But I did not climb on our University buildings because there had been a serious climbing accident at Sydney University. So the penalties were serious if you were caught climbing there.

So why, you may ask, should anyone want to climb on buildings – particularly when there is so much rock for a person may climb on without anyone complaining.
Well the principle reason is that building-climbing gives a climber infinitely greater boasting prospects. If a person does a climb in the mountains, then a normal person will not know anything about it. So they will take no interest. But if you climb a well-known building, then they can actually follow the route. This person might take you for a raving nut-case, but they will certainly appreciate precisely what you have achieved. So the bragging potential of building-climbing is enormous. And I am a person who occasionally likes to boast.
I also actually quite enjoy the problems associated with making sure you don’t get caught. This problem just adds to the challenge and it is quite fun to work out a solution.
Building climbing gives rise to some very fine clean special problems. I have already described one of these types of problem in the “Man on the Wall” section of “My Climbing” page. A problem, which occurs a lot on ornate Victorian buildings we climbed on, are the many lintel ledges, which from below become sloping overhangs. These features can be very worrying if there is no protection close by. And besides this there are many different combinations of pillars and corners. So there many interesting moves to work out.

Finally most of these climbs involve two distinct parts. These are – first to get on top of the main building – and then to climb the tower. The first part is usually easier – but you are more likely to get caught. But, between these two parts, there is the scramble over the building top with all strange junk that resides there (sky lights, air condition vents and other gear). I love this little break between the two parts. And usually we take a short rest with a drink and a snack as we sort out our gear. One feels iniquitously wicked because you know you should not be there. But yet you are completely safe. And you are seeing all the private parts of the building. I get a perverse sexual pleasure out of the experience. And the moon is often shining on these various activities.
So are many reasons to go climbing on buildings at night.

My 5 major climbs were:

The “Illegal Ascent of Sydney Central Railway Clock-Tower”,

But, you my reader will say “What about the Opera House? Surely this the most iconic building in Sydney. What have you done in this regard?”
Well I have considered the opera house and I have even made some minor attempts. But there are problems.
Most modern buildings are highly functional. So they lack the ornamentations and the variety of the older building. So mostly they are almost impossible to climb. And when it is possible to climb them, then the movements are very repetitive. This applied to my “Illegal Ascent of Centre Point” (as you can read). This applies a little to the opera house. But of course opera house does have a very interesting shape. I have considered a full ascent.
You can click on these ascents to learn the full details. These accounts also include some minor ascents and attempts as well – the State Art Gallery and St Mary’s Cathedral. And one of these accounts relates what happens when you get caught and tossed in the clink.

The climbing route up the Opera House is very obvious.
One walks up the stairs to below the central roof slabs.
These slabs are unprotected but they should be easy.
Then one goes up the rib which contains a stair-case with rails.

The Opera House has been climbed once by a couple of people and they painted a large Anti-War sign on its side. I applauded this action but I didn’t want to suffer the penalties that they suffered. They were jailed for a period of time and they had to pay a huge fine. The normal ascent of the opera house is like the Harbour bridge – it is basically a walk up the rib as soon as you have overcome the barriers at the start. I think the couple who did this ascent were just a couple of agile guys – but not climbers. I didn’t want to do just this.
There are many possible real “climbs” on the building. But they are all the same and they are very, very hard. I have tried them a little.

Here I have my fingers in a such a crack.
But there is a lip at the back.
So it is not too bad.

The bottom walls of the Opera House consist of large, vertical, concrete slabs. But between these slabs there are thin cracks. If these cracks were wider they would be good for hand jams so they would be great climbs. But the cracks are not – they are only wide enough for finger jams. And finger jams are notoriously hard and hurt like hell. I was trying them in the early 80’s and couldn’t do them (and I wasn’t climbing much). But techniques have improved since then and small cams would offer good protection. So someone could climb the cracks a little. I, of course, can’t climb at all now.
This site page lacks a good photograph. It would be absolutely superb if a group of climbers got a photo of someone on such a crack – even if it was the climber was only a foot or two off the ground. It could look really good. Please think about this possibility.

You might now also like to look back at:
either my “Home Page” (which introduces this whole website lists all my webpages),
or “My Climbing” (which introduces this major set of webpages).

My next normal webpage is “Illegal Ascent of Sydney Central Railway Clock-Tower”.

Updated 14/11/2016.