Photographing my story, one click at a time.

Climbing the Mackinac Bridge

I received an email from a friend (Brian) about a month ago that said “If I can get you to the top of the Mack Bridge, would you take pictures for me and would you have the nerve to climb up there?” I couldn’t respond fast enough. “Yes! and Yes!” It turns out Brian had two passes to climb the south tower of the bridge that a friend of his had won in a charity auction.

Here are the two statistics about the bridge that I was most interested in:
The length of the bridge is 5 miles. (8,038 Meters)
The height of the towers above the water are 552 feet. (168.25 Meters)

After signing our waivers and putting on our safety vests, we were driven in a Port Authority van to the south tower. A second Port Authority vehicle with flashing arrows stays behind you to keep traffic out of the right lane. You start your climb from the bridge deck, which would be a little tricky if you had to keep one eye on the cars coming toward you while you climb into the tower.

This picture shows the door you’ll climb into. Brian is giving it the once over.

If you look down between the tower and the guardrail, you see this. Yep that’s the water.

For security reasons, I wasn’t allowed to photograph inside the tower. When you first get inside, you get into an elevator. If you have even a hint of claustrophobia, you’re finished. With Brian, myself and the guide in there, you couldn’t really move. You’re shoulder to shoulder. It’s not a fast ride up but it was a neat experience. I loved it. The elevator only goes a partial distance to the top of the bridge. We learned it’s because years ago a motor burned out and the space is so small up there, they couldn’t get the dead motor down or a new one up.

Once the elevator stops, you start your climb to the top. A safe guess is that it was 30 or 40 feet. We climbed sideways through a porthole then up a steel rung ladder. I’d say the ladder was a foot wide. Every ten feet you went through another porthole. The guide instructed us to put our arms through first because your shoulders won’t fit. I think I’m in fairly good shape, but I’ll admit, it took a little strength to maneuver up there, even though I think my adrenaline was at an all time high.

Our guide carried my camera equipment around his neck like a feedbag. It made my climb up much easier being able to keep both hands on the ladder.

Once we got close to the top, our guide opened the hatch to the top of the tower. I was the second one out and then Brian. From this picture, you can get an idea of the spaces you had to climb through. This hatch was larger than the portholes inside.

And then you see this amazing view and it takes your breath away.

More shots from the top

Thank you to Brian and Nancy for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime!

26 responses

  1. Devonna

    Wow! I would never make it through such a narrow porthole – I’m very afraid in enclosed areas ….. The pictures are fantastic …. Thank you Nancy & Brian for giving JP the opportunity to do this and then share it with all of us 🙂 Love it !!!!

    July 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm

  2. Lloyd and Norma

    We as your parents give you a lot of credit for taking on this wonderful adventure. A chance of a lifetime.

    July 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm

  3. John

    These pictures are AMAZING!!!

    July 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm

  4. Sue Allen

    Way to go! What an amazing adventure and I’m proud of you for having the nerve to do this!

    July 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    • Thank you! I can’t wait for my next adventure!

      July 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm

  5. Yes, to echo Devonna’s sentiments, thank you Brian and Nancy for allowing JP to be a part of this memorable event! This is going to be a hard one to top! : )

    July 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm

  6. Bertha Howisen

    The pictures are absolutely beautiful. Everything is so blue and clean. Thank you for sharing your once in a lifetime adventure with us.

    July 7, 2012 at 10:17 pm

  7. I had a panic attack just thinking about those close spaces, but what a reward. Spectacular photos.

    July 8, 2012 at 6:55 am

    • It was probably the most confined space I had ever been in. Luckily, I’m not claustrophobic. 🙂

      July 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm

  8. Margaret Anderson

    Excellent! I would love to climb up there. Great pic’s as always JP 😉

    July 8, 2012 at 9:25 am

    • It would be right up your alley, Margaret. You would love it!

      July 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

  9. these mackinac bridge photos are fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    • Thanks very much. It was an incredible climb up!

      July 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

  10. You are SO brave!

    July 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    • I’m not sure about that, but it was a great time climbing up there!

      July 24, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      • I won’t even come to the edge of a balcony above 5th floor:-). So to me – you are super brave!

        July 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm

  11. Just reading about your climb and those tight portholes gave me chicken skin (that’s goose bumps in Hawaiian). I wanted to climb the Sydney bridge when we were in Australia, but they won’t let you take photos (probably want to sell their own), so I declined. Kudos to the Mack people for allowing the camera. Great shots, btw. And mahalo (thank you) for following my blog.

    July 30, 2012 at 3:57 pm

  12. Ralph

    Great write up and excellent photographs. I enjoyed your post immensely. Ralph

    August 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm

  13. Absolutely amazing and terrifying. What an experience. Did you have any kind of safety harness while you were climbing? What a chance of a lifetime to get photos from the top of our very own bridge.

    August 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm

  14. Thanks, it was unbelievable.If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it. No, you don’t wear a safety harness. It’s such a tight climb up the inside of the tower, I’m not sure it would fit. I wasn’t even sure how my camera gear would get up. Thankfully, the guide took it up for me. Once you’re at the top it’s pretty spacious. Funny, I never thought about falling off.

    August 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm

  15. Amazing, amazing pictures and story! The view is beautiful, and looking at it sitting safely in front of my computer makes me dizzy. I would never make it up the tower, and if I did, I wouldn’t dare to look – so thank you for sharing this!!

    August 28, 2012 at 5:38 am

    • Thank you for visiting my blog. The climb up the bridge was a great time! I’m glad you got to see the view from the safety of your computer. 🙂

      August 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm

  16. These are wonderful.Thank you for posting them and sharing this story.I have been afraid just driving over that bridge and can’t even imagine doing what you did.Blessings and here’s to many more adventures for you.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    • Thank you. It was an excellent adventure!
      Thanks very much for visiting my blog.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm

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