HALF MOON BAY, Calif., November 14, 2011—As we waited to get outfitted for a walk on the outer ledge of the SkyTower in Auckland, New Zealand, we glanced at the wind speed monitor. It was, my two friends and I agreed, a little windy. But we didn’t want to bail out on the SkyWalk.
Perched 629 feet above downtown Auckland, the SkyTower ledge is less than 4 feet wide—with no handrails. It circles the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere (1,076 feet) like a halo, and seems fit for nobody but Spider-Man to take a stroll along the wire mesh walkway. On my first day in New Zealand, that’s exactly what I planned to do.
After signing up, the three of us (plus a couple from Australia) donned orange jumpsuits and climbing harnesses. I had to add a pair of borrowed tennis shoes, because the leather boots I’d been wearing didn’t have “sticky” soles. Before we took a speedy elevator ride up to the SkyWalk ledge, we also had to take a Breathalyzer test. Not one person in our group had resorted to liquid courage.
It’s a little unsettling at first to walk outside of the glass windows toward the ledge. Once I stepped onto the walkway, I immediately looked down. Aside from being able to see the surrounding buildings and tiny cars and people when I looked over the side of the wire mesh, I could also see them straight down—between my feet.
Soon afterward, we edged out toward the end of the platform to where two safety tethers per person were hanging. Once we were clipped in to the overhead rail, we closed the gate behind us and ventured out onto the ledge.
The 360-degree walk was slow going at first. It took everyone a few minutes to get used to walking without shuffling. After a while, it felt like we were walking at a normal pace, but a later look at the video footage make us realize that we were still shuffling—just a little faster than we thought we were.
About a quarter-turn around the walkway, we started the tricks. First, we tried walking while looking up at the overhead rail. Next, we placed our toes on the edge and leaned out over empty air. Finally, we turned around, put our heels on the edge, and leaned backwards over downtown Auckland. Some in the group were a little apprehensive at first, but soon we were all leaning out from the edge—and the time on the walkway ended far too quickly.
The next time you’re in Auckland, try it yourself. You can do the SkyWalk alone, or pair the exciting experience with the SkyJump—where you base jump from the walkway with supporting wires (and no parachute).
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill and her husband are avid kayakers and own Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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