What in God’s name were you thinking, I whimpered to myself as a high speed train sped below my shaking legs. People with vertigo DO NOT climb the Harbour Bridge. I mean, there’s confronting your fears and there’s scaring yourself into acute cardiac arrest.

In hindsight this was not the most sensible self-help therapy I’d dreamed up- the warning signs had all screamed “NO!”

It was less than 24 hours since I’d taken a trip to the Blue Mountains to prepare myself; a trip which began with me chickening out of the cable car ride and opting to hike down the steep steps to the three sisters instead. To be fair, the hike was going okay for about half an hour or so, until we reached a scenic viewpoint and I peered tentatively over the edge only for self-doubt to burst my oh-so-fragile bubble of confidence. What if I were to suddenly go mad and throw myself over the edge? Who was to say a freak gust of wind wouldn’t blow through the valley at any given moment and blast me over the rails?

So preparation hadn’t exactly gone perfectly and the heebie jeebies were still rattling my legs six hours later when I went to bed. That night was one of the longest of my life as I lay awake clutching the Bridge Climb brochure in my clammy hand, praying that those handrails were higher than they looked in the pictures.

By morning I was a wreck, regretting the fact that I hadn’t booked an earlier slot, which would have meant less time for me to crank my blood pressure to an even more alarming rate.

I decided to jog from the hostel to the bridge to burn off the nervous energy and the approach seemed to work. Indeed I was all smiles by the time I checked in, I even felt like I was looking forward to it. This might just be the moment I conquered my old foe.

The preliminaries went well. We were asked if any of us suffered from an intense fear of heights. Sensing some sort of test- which I would no doubt fail- I lied “Noooo.”

By the time we ventured onto the bridge itself the calming effects of the morning exercise were beginning to wear off and my knees were

seemingly made of wine gums as we negotiated our way along the flimsy feeling ledges that are known as the catwalks. It was at this point that a train hurtled directly below me and a dreamlike sense of consciousness washed over me, seasoned with a pinch of hysteria. Was I really on the Harbour Bridge? No, surely not.

I don’t know what it was that eventually betrayed my utter mortification to our guide, Colin. Maybe it was the stench of fear, perhaps it was the increasingly sodden armpits of my Bridge Climb jumpsuit, or was it just the fact that every time we stopped for him to illuminate us on some aspect of the bridge’s history I sank to my knees and cast him a despondent look that pleaded with him to keep moving and get it over with.

Whatever it was, he clocked my horror and kept a special eye on me. Like a true pro he was careful not to single me out in front of the other climbers but whenever I displayed signs of anxiety he was always on hand with small-talk about everyday things like the football; and before I knew it I was at the summit.

It has to be said that the arch of the bridge is about 36,000 times less scary than the catwalks, but one thing they don’t show you on the brochure is the live electricity cables about two feet away from the walkway. Luckily for me I don’t have a morbid fear of electricity.

It would be nice to report that the view from the summit was stupendous and that I looked down victoriously upon the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach in the distance, but I have to admit that I never looked down- it was all could do to look across. But at this point it was literally downhill all the way. I had endured the worst, although the dreaded catwalks still had to be traversed again.

I’m not sure if it was for my benefit or Bridge policy but it was only after we’d renegotiated those horrible walkways that Colin chose to regal us with tales of the unfortunate souls who had toppled from the bridge throughout its long history, and the one fellow who survived the fall.

When we purchased the photographs from the gift shop I was surprised to see that I was actually smiling in all of them- vanity had compelled me to suppress my horror for the few seconds it took to record the images. Closer inspection however revealed a vice-like grip on the handrails in two shots and my legs firmly wedged on the rails in another. But at the end of the day, I’d managed to haul my ignoble butt all the way up and down.

A memory I’ll treasure forever.