Up at The O2 Wheelchair Review & How it Works

Up at The O2 Review

Since James and I started dating we’ve really enjoyed purchasing an experience for one another for a Birthday or Christmas gift. So far we’ve done Go Ape, London Theatre and Gigs. I love doing this as these are things we may otherwise not spend our money on. These are things we can do together. In our unconventional busy life having time to do something really fun just the two of us is super important! Plus, James is really difficult to buy gifts for so this helps me out a lot!

Christmas 2016 James purchased Up at The O2 vouchers! I was SO excited and it was only something we’d been recently discussing one day doing. Skip ahead a few months and a lot of health deterioration and I became a wheelchair user. At this point I was so upset and frustrated because James had bought us an amazing experience and I couldn’t do it!

Well actually I WAS WRONG! Up a The O2 actually do accessible climbs too. They have a specialist wheelchair and you are hoisted up and over the O2.

Just before our vouchers expired James called the O2 to book our experience. Little did we know that the waiting list for an accessible climb is LONG!

However, two and half years later and James and I have completed our walk over the O2!

We had an incredible time and it was a lovely day.

The guys Up at The O2 were amazing and so helpful and they really added to our experience.

I had such an incredible climb that I thought I would share my experience here in a form of a review. I know I had a lot of questions before arriving so I hope this helps at least one person. Whether that’s to answer some questions you have about the experience or it’s the little push you needed to try it out for yourself!

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Up at The O2 Review

Time and Tickets:

Up at The O2 (UaTO2) run wheelchair climbs from late spring to early autumn due to weather conditions. They also only run them on weekday mornings.

It can take up to 3 hours for the whole experience. The intro, putting on a harness, the walk and getting out of the harnesses.

A wheelchair climbs accommodates 1 wheelchair user and up to 9 friend’s/family members. This also includes a Personal Assistant/Carer/Companion. When doing the climb in a wheelchair you transfer into their specialist wheelchair. You are then manually hoisted to the top and back down again. Although you are manually hoisted it works very similarly to the regular walk and you remain attached to the usual course.

Tickets start from £30 each and your Personal Assistant/Carer/Companion climbs for free.

 The Waiting List:

As wheelchair climbs are only run from late Spring to early Autumn, twice a week in the mornings there is quite a substantial waiting list.

James and I were called to see if we wanted to take a last minute cancellation spot. We took this spot which meant we were waiting to climb for two and half years.

If the cancellation spot hadn’t opened up or we were unavailable, then our climb wasn’t due to take place until 2020. This would have made our climb a three and a half year wait.

When it comes to booking your climb you will be placed on a waiting list. You will be called to book your climb earlier in the year of your climb. For example, if we hadn’t of taken a cancellation they would have called us in early 2020 to book a climb for the Spring-Autumn climb.

When You Arrive:

When you arrive you will be welcomed at the UaTO2 reception. You will be asked to fill out a double sided sheet of paper with your contact information and emergency contact number (it cannot be anyone who is on the climb with you) – everyone has to fill out one of these.

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You will then be taken into the next room where a video plays and you will learn a little bit about the structure of the O2. You will meet one of the guides climbing with you. The person you meet here will most likely be pushing the wheelchair and they are more of your personal contact for the climb.

The video will also go through a lot of the safety aspects too.

Then you will head through to be kitted up.

The Accessible Climb Wheelchair:

Once you are taken through to the kit room you will need to transfer into their wheelchair. The chair has a full height back rest and an optional head rest. I personally found the wheelchair really comfortable although this is personal preference.

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I will leave the measurements of the wheelchair here in case you are interested: Seat Width – 45cm/18 inches. Seat Depth – 40cm/16 inches. Frame Measurements: Width 7cm/28 inches. Height – 99cm/39 inches (from the floor to the top of the back rest).

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O2 staff cannot help you transfer into a wheelchair you need to be able to do so independently or with the help of someone with you i.e. PA/Carer/Companion or with the use of a tracking hoist.

They have a room with a tracking hoist available. You will need to bring your own sling for transfer though.

Your harness is built into the wheelchair so once you’re in and ready your guide will set up the harness. There is a shoulder strap on each side which your arms will go through – this are later clipped together with a carabiner clip. A strap will then be put around each thigh.

On a colder day you may be asked to wear a poncho and on a warmer day you will have the option of a gillet to wear. It was really hot when we did our climb so we decided I didn’t need either and actually I was ok. If I had I would’ve over heated as on this particular day, the O2 had it’s vents open so the platform at the top was super warm!

Before you head out for your climb the carabiner will be hook through the shoulder straps bringing them together. On the end of is an attachment which is used to keep you secure on the climb. There will be another guide there to operate this for you. Those not in a wheelchair will operate theirs themselves.

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Going Up:

You will head outside and up a lift on the outside of the building to the start of the climb. There will be someone there to take some photos for you which you can purchase at the end, like most London attractions.

You will then see the blue path way over the O2. It is very light and bouncy, almost trampoline like. One rule of the walk is not to bounce like many want to so don’t worry there will be no bouncing!

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If any one knows what a freewheel is then a larger version of this with handle bars is added to the chair. It is essentially one large wheelchair with handle bars which is attached to the front of the wheelchair to bring the castors up. This allows you a smoother climb and to be able to get over the ridges on the path way. The wheelchair will then be attached to the hoist. The carabiner attachment will then be added to the line as well. Your guide will stand behind you to direct the wheelchair as you go up. On the other side of the line will be another guide who operates your carabiner.

Much further up the path way will be two other guides who are manually hoisting you up with the use of a pulley system.

Your friends/family will then be stood behind the guide directing the wheelchair.

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As you are being pulled up the wheelchair will tip back. I personally didn’t find it uncomfortable, if anything the wheelchair is designed more so for this position. I also have a fear of falling backwards but I was absolutely fine! (Yes, I can go forwards down a rollercoaster but I cannot stand when you’re going up and you are practically at a 90° angle, I just need to be able to see what’s going on!).

As you are moving, if you are able to your guides may ask you to steer the front wheel with either the handle bars or the ropes attached. It depends which you find easier/what you can reach. There’s a far amount of steering involved as it is a very soft surface.

As you reach certain points you will stop as they tidy up the lines as they go. Once you reach the guides using the pulley system you will stop again. You will be made secure where you are and they will move up so you can continue.

When you reach the summit (the top) there is a platform where you will be disconnected from the lines and you have time to roam about and take any photos you want.

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Coming Down

On your way back down the other side it works the same part from the fact you will go down backwards, again personally I felt okay with this.

Once you reach the bottom and you are disconnected there is an area for some photos to say you’ve completed the climb!

You will now be on the other side of the O2. There is another room to get out of your harness and someone will have bought your belongings over in crates as well as your wheelchair ready for you.

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Conclusion:

We had an amazing time and I am so pleased we finally got to do this. Although I wasn’t exactly climbing with James it still felt very personal and we were able to take photos at the top together.

The guides absolutely added to our experience they were telling us stories and things about London and the O2.

One of the guides and I got into a very big discussion surround accessibility and I discovered the Orbit has an accessible abseil (this has been added to my adventure to do list!). We also all just had a good laugh and such a wonderful time.

I will say the views were great especially as it was such a beautiful day however, there are definitely better views of London.

I really didn’t find the climb uncomfortable at all. The only thing I would have done differently is taking part in the steering. I found going down using the handle bars were easier for me than the ropes however, either way I got a little lost in it so I did subluxate a lot of fingers and flared by CRPS in my wrist. This being said though it was my own choice and I was very much lost in the moment.  It was entirely worth it and they are doing better now.

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The one thing I do dislike about the climb isn’t actually about the climb itself but the waiting list. I understand that safety wise they can only run sessions between late spring and early autumn. However, only running accessible session on a weekday morning just screams of this idea that ‘disabled people don’t leave the house apart from Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 5.00pm’.

UaTO2 also run sessions every 15 minutes during weekends and other busy periods and then up to every 30 minutes in quieter times. I feel given the quantity of climbs they do that there could easily be a few more accessible climbs available. A two and a half year waiting list just seems a bit excessive and quite frankly unfair as I assume the wait for a regular climb is no where near this long.

Overall though, I would highly recommend this experience whether it’s just for yourself or a group adventure with friends or family. I had such a wonderful time, so thank you James for an amazing Christmas gift and to the wonderful team at Up at The O2!

I’ve never been to the O2 before so we had a wonder past the restaurants and shops. We stopped off at Byron Burgers for lunch which was great – I basically had a patty of fried cheese in a bun! – There was lettuce too.

Have you been Up at The O2 before? If not, do you think you’ll give it a go?

 

 

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