Review: Up at The O2

Looking towards Stratford from Up at The O2.

I’m sitting on a cold, hard bench in a dark room. On screen a video is about to start – it’s shaky for a few seconds and then a man comes into focus.

He looks like he’s just been caught in a gust of wind, and he starts talking dramatically about a journey he has just undertaken, and which I am about to go on.

Okay, I’m not scaling Everest, and neither is Rupert, the guy in the video. Instead, I’m climbing over the roof of The O2, as part of the entertainment venue’s latest venture – Up at The O2.

The experience involves walking on a blue tensile fabric walkway – I would describe it as bouncy plastic – over the roof of The O2. In the centre is a viewing platform, where you can take in views across London in all directions.

But first, there’s the safety video starring Rupert (I imagine this is now a bit boring for the instructors, who have probably seen it a hundred times), and an introduction by our guide for the climb, a fresh-faced guy called Adam.

After signing a waiver (eek) the group I’m in is led through to a corridor to pick up our kit. There’s an attractive black and blue jumpsuit, hiking boots (it’s been raining so Adam recommends we wear their boots instead of our own trainers), and a harness, as well as the equipment we’ll be using to hook ourselves up to the walkway’s rail.

Once we’re all kitted up, it’s time for another safety check before we climb the stairs up to the start of walkway, where we practice for a few minutes hooking ourselves up with a carabiner type thing to the rail.

And then we’re off. Walking up is simple. You hook the metal thing onto a rail and pull it along with you as you climb, holding on to the handrail if you wish. We go up in stages, stopping every few sections so everyone can catch up.

The climb is pretty easy, although the walkway surface itself takes some getting used to, as it’s not often you walk on bouncy surfaces.

It looks like we’ve reached the top a few times, but there’s always more walkway ahead, until finally we’re at the viewing platform. It’s pretty big – there’s a group of 15 already there, and there’s still loads of room to move around and get the photographs we want.

The views are stunning, especially since we lucked out with the weather. You can see the Olympic Park – the ArcelorMittal Orbit and Aquatics Centre are clearly visible, with the Stadium tucked in between two skyscrapers in the distance.

A panorama of the view from the viewing platform of Up at The O2 (click to view bigger).

Maritime Greenwich is close by, and you can also see the ExCeL popping up, as well as the Shard (although you can see the Shard from a distance without climbing up the roof of a building), and further out in every direction.

Adam tells us that he spoke to someone who could even see the arch of Wembley on a good day, which is some distance.

Once we’ve all photographed the view to our heart’s content, it’s back down, this time on the other side.

The vast majority of the descent is pretty easy going, and at a good angle. But the final section is much steeper, and requires a sideways crab-style walk to get down. That’s because the walkway goes right down to the ground, unlike at the start of the journey, where we began on a walkway suspended above the ground.

As we get to the bottom and look back up, there’s no sign of the platform, indicating just how high up we climbed.

Up at The O2 is a great experience, although hardcore adventurers may be left wanting. For a novice climber though, it’s enough excitement, and the main draw is the views, which will leave anyone impressed.

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