Government considering Lions Gate Bridge climbing business

Legendworthy Quest owner Kevin Thomson perches at the base of the Lions Gate Bridge on the North Shore. Thomson is hoping to start an adventure tourism business allowing people to climb inside the towers | Photo: Mike Wakefield, North Shore News 

The province’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is currently vetting a local entrepreneur’s proposal that would see adventure seekers climb the 110-metre service ladder inside the Lions Gate Bridge’s support towers from the base at sea level to the navigational beacon at the top.

The proposal comes from Legendworthy Quest owner and former North Vancouver resident Kevin Thomson.

“It’s the tallest thing for a few kilometres in all directions and there’s a magnificent view of places you’re familiar with but you’re seeing them in a new way. We call it the ‘rare air’ because it’s not seen by very many people and it’s quite a treat to be up there. A little bit scary but you’re very safe,” said Thomson, who has done the climb a few times with the ministry’s permission.

Thomson, who is also the founder of the annual GranFondo bike race, got the idea after watching a documentary about the about the building of the Lions Gate Bridge and some amateur video taken by clandestine urban explorers posted online.

“Driving across the bridge one time into downtown, I looked up and said ‘Wow, that’s on my bucket list. To get up top of there would be awesome,’” he said. “This bridge has been there for almost 75 years and we’ve never looked at this. I say, ‘Why not?’ As long as it’s safe, as long as none of the other users of the bridge are impacted, why not?”

The regulatory climb is almost as steep as the ladder, Thomson said, but he praised the ministry for hearing out his admittedly head-in-the-clouds idea.

“I give them great credit for helping us to discover a process where a process didn’t really exist. ... They’ve been incredible in their willingness to be creative.”

The fittest of the fit should be able to do the climb in about five minutes but Thomson said he expects the average climb would be closer to 20. Those with a fear of heights or enclosed spaces are best to avoid it.

“When you’re in it and you’re looking straight up, it’s like you can’t see the top. That ladder is just infinite. There is no end to it,” he said. “There are very few places in the world where you’d have that experience.”

It’s too early to say what  would be involved financially but Thomson said it should provide a good return for both the business and the taxpayers who own the bridge.

Thomson is aiming to have the business up and running in time for Canada Day.

By law, the ministry must allow expressions of interest from would-be competitors. The deadline is March 17.

“There’s an interest there to take a look and see if this could work, if safety isn’t compromised at all, if we could actually generate some additional revenues for the taxpayers of British Columbia,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone on Monday.

Any money raised from licensing the business would go back into maintenance of the Lions Gate, Stone added.

The West Vancouver Police Department, which shares jurisdiction over the bridge with the Vancouver Police Department hasn’t been consulted on the proposal so far, said Const. Jeff Palmer, police spokesman.

“Obviously, we would be concerned that everything be done in a safe, lawful means and with steps taken to minimize any potential for safety or traffic disruptions.”

North Shore News