If you’re looking for wheelchair accessible things to do in London, I have just the thing for you: an Up at The O2 wheelchair climb experience. It may be a slightly unusual choice, but it’s such a fun activity that guarantees an unforgettable adventure.
I love accessible, adrenaline-rush activities, so climbing the O2 was right up my street. I had an amazing time, and I couldn’t wait to share this review of my Up at The O2 wheelchair climb with you. And the best part? I got to do it with my partner, my mum and my 10 year old nephew.
What is Up at The O2 Wheelchair Climb
The O2 Arena, also known as The O2 (originally constructed as the Millennium Dome), is a world-famous music and entertainment venue on the Greenwich Peninsula in southeast London. It hosts some of the world’s biggest stars and events including Ed Sheeran, Madonna, Beyoncé, to name a few.
But the action at The O2 also takes place on the roof, not only on the stage. Up at The O2 allows you to climb over The O2 roof via a fabric walkway and enjoy 360 degree panoramic views across London at the 52 metre high summit.
The walkway is suspended two metres above the surface of The O2 roof and is 380 metres long. The walkway’s steepest point has an incline of 28 degrees going up and 30 degrees going down.
So, what made me want to climb the O2?
As a big fan of Eastenders, I have that to thank for showing me that climbing the O2 is even a thing. It was a 2019 episode of Eastenders where Jean Slater climbed the O2 to face her fear of heights before going for chemotherapy.
While watching it, Allan mentioned how cool it looked, but we never imagined it would be accessible. We looked online and were surprised to see that it was, in fact, wheelchair accessible. We immediately sent an email for more information.
Fast forward to the year 2023 and having just completed my Up at the O2 wheelchair climb, I’m so excited to share with you what an unforgettable and unique experience this was.
Keep reading, I’ll explain it all.
Up at The O2 Wheelchair Climb Waiting List
Up at The O2 wheelchair climbs take place from late spring to early autumn on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (except school holidays) at 10.30am, and take up to 3 hours. As a result, there is a long waiting list for wheelchair climbs.
In fact, I was on the waiting list for 4 years before I was contacted and offered a slot. Typically, I think the waiting list is around two and a half years. But in my situation, I believe the pandemic played a small role in creating a backlog. The waiting list operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information on accessible climbs and to add your name to the waiting list, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Much is the Up at the O2 Wheelchair Climb?
The O2 Wheelchair Climb experience can accommodate 1 wheelchair user and up to 9 friends and family members, including a personal assistant/carer.
Tickets are £35 per person, and the personal assistant/carer climbs for free.
Payment for wheelchair climb tickets can only be made over the phone. A member of staff from Up at The O2 called me, and I paid for my ticket plus my mum and nephew’s tickets. I received one free ticket for Allan, as he was my carer.
Children must be 8 years old and measure at least 1.2m to be allowed to climb.
How to Climb The O2 as a Wheelchair User
Wheelchair users cannot use their own wheelchairs for the O2 climb. Instead, a specialist wheelchair is provided. The wheelchair measurements are as follows:
- Seat Width: 45cm /18 inches
- Seat Depth: 40cm / 16 inches
- Frame width: 70cm / 28 inches
- Frame height: 99cm / 39 inches (from the floor to the top of the backrest)
There is a weight limit of 21 stone, and the harness measures a maximum waist measurement of 50 inches (125cm) and a maximum upper thigh measurement of 30 inches (75cm).
How to Get to Up at The O2
If you are planning to visit Up at The O2, which is located in North Greenwich, I’d recommend planning ahead to avoid traffic and arrive on time, especially as the wheelchair climb start at 10:30am (must arrive at 10:15am).
If like us, you are travelling from central London, it may be best to take public transport. There are so many ways to get to The O2 – tube, taxi, bus, or even the Uber Boat by Thames Clipper service.
We stayed at a hotel in Waterloo and took the Jubilee Line from Waterloo Station to North Greenwich Station. This direct underground ride took only twelve minutes, and both stations had step-free access on the platform.
After the climb, we took a ride on the Uber Boat back to Central London. More on this in an upcoming blog post.
If you need more information on accessible public transport in London, you can visit tfl.gov.uk.
Arriving at The O2 Arena
As we exited North Greenwich station, we immediately saw the O2 Arena in front of us. It’s huge, so you won’t miss it. Head toward the O2 Arena main entrance, but don’t go in; instead, take a left and you’ll see the Up the O2 office ‘Base Camp’ located outside the main building.
We arrived a little early, so my nephew had a great time running around in the sunshine. While we were waiting, a staff member came up to us and asked if we were climbing with them today. He was friendly and interested in chatting.
The O2 Arena and the grounds surrounding it are filled with restaurants, shops, a cinema, and other entertainment activities. So it’s easy to spend a day here if you are looking for things to do in London.
Up at The O2 – Base Camp
It was time to check in for our wheelchair climb experience at the Up at The O2 reception.
You must fill out a waiver form, essentially signing away your life. You can fill out the form on the climb day, but I had already completed this form online before arriving.
The form required our contact information and an emergency contact name and number, which cannot be anyone on the climb with you.
Meeting Our O2 Climb Guide and Safety Briefing
It was then time to prepare for the climb. We were taken into the next room, where we met Karl, our climb guide, who gave us a warm welcome and played a short introduction video giving some background information, safety instructions, and what to expect from the climb.
The room is filled with interesting facts about the O2, making it fun to learn before climbing over the iconic building. We learned that there are 12 steel masts representing the months of the year, the diameter is 365m representing the days of the year, and the summit is 52m high to represent the weeks of the year.
Getting Set Up / What to Wear for the Climb
After the video, we were taken to the changing room to get set up with the safety equipment. This is where I transferred into their specialist wheelchair and met the second climb guide, Anya.
The Up at The O2 staff can’t help you transfer into the wheelchair, so you need to be able to do this independently or have someone (PA/Carer/Companion) with you to help. However, if you require hoisted transfers, there is a large toilet with a ceiling track hoist available.
As a full-time power wheelchair user with complex seating needs, I was a little concerned about whether the O2 climb wheelchair would be comfortable and supportive. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The wheelchair had a high backrest and headrest, which was crucial for me as I have weak neck muscles.
Once I was in the wheelchair, Anya set up my harness and made sure I was secure and comfortable. The harness involves shoulder and thigh straps, which were easily put on and positioned while I was seated in the wheelchair.
Anya gently and respectively worked around my inability to lift my arms and legs independently, which I appreciated. A carabiner was attached to the harness, and extra foam padding was added on each side of my thighs to fill the gaps between me and the wheelchair.
My mum and nephew were provided with climbing shoes as their footwear didn’t have proper grips. Allan was able to wear his own shoes and was given a Gillet to wear so that he could safely keep his phone in the zipped pockets.
Cameras and mobile phones are not allowed to be used on the way up or down for safety reasons. However, they can be used at the top of the platform.
My O2 Wheelchair Climb Experience
Let’s get this show on the roof, or should I say, let’s get ourselves on the roof. We stepped outside and took a lift up to the starting point of the climb. My family took the stairs while Karl, Anya, and I got into the lift.
Like most attractions, the staff offered to take photos of us, which we could purchase later. I usually decline photos as they tend to be a bit gimmicky, but I liked these ones as they documented our unique O2 climb experience, so we happily bought them. All 30 of them!
After our mini photo shoot, it was time to begin our climb up the O2. A freewheel with handlebars was attached to the front of the wheelchair to lift the castor wheels off the ground, ensuring smoother travel on the walkway, which had ridges for grip.
The ropes from the pulley system were connected to the wheelchair, and the carabiner on my harness was attached to the line. Anya, one of the lead climb guides, operated the carabiner and steered the front of the wheelchair, while Karl stood behind me and directed us up the walkway. Two guides further up the walkway pulled me up with the pulley system.
My mum, nephew, and Allan, were behind me and Karl. Wheelchair users always go first on the climb and last on the descent.
I was a bit concerned about the steep inclines on the climb since I don’t have good upper body balance. The first incline had a gradient of 28 degrees, and the steepest gradient was 30 degrees.
However, once the wheelchair tilted back while being pulled up, gravity did all the work by leaning my body back into the wheelchair. The same was true on the way down. I felt comfortable and secure.
We stopped a few times to allow the guides to straighten the ropes and the wheelchair. We also stopped around the halfway mark when we reached the two guides using the pulley system. They moved the pulley system over and positioned themselves at the summit to begin pulling me up the remainder of the climb.
Reaching the Summit of The O2
Once at the summit, I was disconnected from the line, and we were free to move around the large platform. The view of London was incredible from the top of the O2.
Our guide, Karl, pointed out landmarks and told us fun, interesting facts about the area and what we were looking at. We then spent some time taking photos and enjoying the 360 degree panoramic views.
The summit is 52 metres high, which isn’t the tallest viewing point in London, but you’ll still get an amazing view of the city, and what makes it extra unique is that you’re outside on the roof of this giant dome-shaped structure.
When we were ready to head back down, the guides connected me and the wheelchair to the pulley system, and we repeated the same process. Once again, the wheelchair was tipped backwards, so I felt secure.
I wish I had worn sunglasses, though, as my head was facing upward directly in line with the sun, which meant I had to keep my eyes shut most of the way down.
After reaching the bottom, the guides disconnected me and my wheelchair from the line, and we found ourselves on the opposite side of the O2, having completed the entire climb up, over, and down the structure.
We were then taken to an area to have more photos taken to commemorate our climb. After that, we headed back inside to the kit room to remove our harnesses and collect our belongings, which were kept safely in a crate.
My wheelchair was waiting for me in this room, so I was able to transfer back into it. The accessible toilet, which has a ceiling track hoist, is located next door to this room for anyone needing it.
Watch My O2 Wheelchair Climb
Final Thoughts on Up at The O2 Wheelchair Climb
I loved my Up at The O2 wheelchair climb. Even though I didn’t physically climb, I still feel a great sense of achievement and appreciation that I got to experience it. The climb guides, especially Karl and Anya, were extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and my family and I felt very comfortable with them.
The accessibility of Up at The O2 was excellent, and it is great that there is a hoist and a large, accessible toilet. This made the climb experience inclusive and accessible to many disabled customers, which is fantastic. Reaching the summit and taking in the stunning panoramic views with my family is a memory that I will cherish forever.
The only small negative thing about the climb, which wasn’t a big deal and didn’t affect my overall experience and enjoyment, was that I couldn’t see my family during the ascent and descent because I was in front of them. The lengthy waiting list for wheelchair climbs is also a disappointment.
So, if you want to experience a unique wheelchair climb at the O2, I highly recommend contacting Up at The O2 and adding your name to the waiting list as soon as possible. You may also be contacted earlier if someone else cancels.
Have you ever climbed Up at The O2? If so, what were your thoughts? If not, would you like to try it?