I was back in London again, but this time for a good cause. I was climbing up the O2 arena, the old Millennium Dome to raise money for Canine Partners, an amazing charity which helps to train puppies to become assistance dogs to help people with disabilities. The climb up the O2 was great fun actually, although I was nervous at first, and coming down was steeper than I thought! Before I talk about the climb itself I want to share more information about Canine Partners and the incredible work they do.
About Canine Partners
Canine Partners is a registered charity that transforms the lives of people with physical disabilities by partnering them with assistance dogs. These amazing dogs bring a greater independence and quality of life to their partners, offering security, companionship, and practical help with everyday household tasks. These life-changing dogs also provide psychological and social benefits including increased independence, confidence, social interaction and self-esteem.
The dogs perform tasks which are too difficult, painful or impossible for their human partners to do by themselves – things which many of us might take for granted like getting out of bed in the morning or loading the washing machine. Take a look at this video from Canine Partners to see what these amazing dogs can do!
How You Can Help!
You can also sign up for various challenges to do some fundraising yourself! How about abseiling down the UK’s tallest structure? Or sky-diving? Challenge yourself, and raise money to help train new assistance dogs for Canine Partners. Bear in mind that Canine Partners don’t get any government funding and rely solely on donations from the public and legacies to help them continue their life-transforming work, so every penny counts! Take a look at upcoming challenges here.
My “Up at the O2” Challenge for Canine Partners
I will generally try anything once, and when I heard about the challenge to climb up the outside of the O2 arena in London to raise money for Canine Partners I immediately signed up. If you aren’t sure what the O2 arena is, you might know it better as the Millennium Dome, which featured in the 1999 Bond film the World is Not Enough. The dome is now known as the O2 or the O2 arena, and is an entertainment centre and music venue which has hosted world-famous bands and musicians including Bon Jovi, Prince, the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac as well as hundreds of other live music and sporting events in the 11 years since it opened as a venue. “Up at the O2” is a branch of the O2 where you can climb up the O2.
I arrived at the O2 early enough to take a few photographs before I noticed a group gathered by the entrance. Or rather they noticed me thanks to my snazzy Canine Partners t-shirt. We were a small group, but a friendly one, and we all introduce ourselves. From down here, the top of the O2 didn’t seem that far up, but a few people had a serious fear of heights so were already noticeably nervous.
Also in our group was Paralympian & World Champion sailor Hannah Stodel, who is the Challenge Ambassador for Canine Partners, and in between training for a solo round the world sailing trip is also fundraising for Canine Partners.
Safety at Up at the O2
Understandably, safety is strict at Up at the O2, and we were given a safety briefing, a special harness, shoes, and a gilet jacket that we all had to wear to climb the O2. On cooler days you are also given an all in one boiler suit, but as it was so hot when we went up, we just had our regular clothes. Don’t forget to bring socks for the safety shoes. Our guide explained how to put on all our kit, and gave us a special metal clip which attached our harness to the safety line on the walkway.
We also weren’t allowed to take anything with us up the O2, only a phone or small camera. And our very fetching furry Canine Partners headbands. I zipped my phone into the climb jacket so it wouldn’t fall – as well as for our safety the guide explained that dropped phones could cause serious damage to anyone walking around underneath us! You can leave a small bag in a locker at the O2, which will be waiting for you on the other side when you finish the climb.
Due to the steep ascents & descents, you need to be physically and mentally fit to climb up the O2. Children must be at least 9 years old, and accompanied by an adult, and pregnant ladies cannot take part. There are also restrictions for height, weight and waist and thigh measurements due to the size of the harnesses, so check the FAQ questions on the O2 website to make sure you can take part. Up at the O2 can also arrange accessible climbs for wheelchair users.
And don’t drink alcohol or take illicit substances before the climb.
The Climb up the O2
We started nice and easy, climbing up a few steps to the platform where the roof of the O2 arena begins. We had chance for some photographs, and our guide clipped us all one by one onto the safety rail, explaining that the special clips would grip the rail if we lost our balance and fell, so we wouldn’t end up rolling down the walkway. The roof of the O2 arena is a slightly flexible canvas material, and the walkway above it which we would be climbing is made of similar material, a bit like a trampoline. However, bouncing on the walkway is not allowed! It did feel springy underfoot though!
The first section of the climb was quite steep, with an incline of 30°, so it was a challenging start! It got easier though, and gradually decreases as the dome levels out. The climb up the O2 actually didn’t take very long, as the first person in our group set quite a pace! I still took some time to admire the views on the way up, as the people below got smaller and smaller.
The Top of the O2
At the top of the O2 is a viewing platform, so here we could unclip ourselves from the safety line, and walk around to admire the views from all sides. We had about 15 minutes at the top, so plenty of time for photographs. You can also buy a glass of champagne to celebrate your achievement too!
Climbing Down the O2
I actually found this the hardest part, as I am always more scared of falling down as I climb down. The descent gradually got steeper, as it had on the way up, so I found it easy to walk down backwards. The special shoes Up at the O2 provide kept grip on the walkway quite nicely, but as I was the last one down I took my time and didn’t rush.
Went I made it back to solid ground my legs were shaking a little, and I was very hot and sweaty but happy and proud that we had all done so well! We took a few more photos and returned the climbing equipment to get back our own belongings.
How to Get to the O2
I took the DLR from my hostel (Wombat’s London) at Tower Bridge to the underground at Canning Town, then took the Jubilee line one stop to North Greenwich. That line also runs into the centre of London so you can hop on from there. You can also get to the O2 by bus, river bus, cable car, or normal car. Check here for directions.
How Much does Up at the O2 Cost?
The standard climb costs £30 per adult, with discounts for children. You can also arrange a climb at sunset or at twilight to see the stars – these special climbs cost a little more, but certainly make your trip to London unique!
What to Take With You
As little as possible! You are only allowed to take a phone or small camera up with you, in the pocket of your climb jacket, and you can’t wear a go-pro harness or other camera equipment.
Bring your own socks for the safety shoes. Wear comfortable clothes, I had shorts as it was hot, but the harness was quite snug so leggings or sports shorts would be a good option. In cold weather a hat and gloves are also recommended.
Would I Recommend Up at the O2?
Yes! I really enjoyed the climb up the O2, the views were great and it was certainly a different experience in London compared to the typical touristy activities. If you can do it to raise money for a charity like Canine Partners, I highly recommend doing that, so you can enjoy the thrill of the climb while knowing you are supporting a great cause. Check out upcoming challenges for Canine Partners.
Where to Stay in London
I stayed at Wombat’s London, where I had been a couple of weeks before on my #WombatsTraveller trip. The hostel is in a great location close to Tower Bridge, and it is easy to get to the O2 from here. I stayed in a dorm room this time, but there are also private rooms available.
If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to London, get a quote now from World Nomads.
Would you like to raise money for Canine Partners? Would you be brave enough to climb the O2? I’d love to hear your comments below!
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