A Bristol High School classmate (Class of 1972’) sent an email with the news headline, ‘Idiots’ who scaled bridge summit suddenly lying low, East Bay RI, February 20, 2013. It seems two guys who can climb took it upon themselves to climb the 150 feet to the top of the cables that support the bridge. Nice. So what is the Mt. Hope Bridge and what’s the big deal?

It’s a big deal because the Rhode Island State Police want to know who the dudes were that climbed the 150 foot cables to the top. Wow and wow! Very impressive and you'd better continue to hang out of sight.

They climbed, videotaped the summit, posted and then removed the climbing video from YouTube. So where is the bridge?

The Mt. Hope Bridge connects Bristol and Portsmouth. It’s operated by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. Watch this video from Steve A posted on YouTube and you’ll see the bridge cables they climbed.

Wikipedia has several decent images of the bridge and the surrounding area looking out toward Hog and Prudence Islands. The bridge was built between 1927 to 1929 and has been opened for traffic since October 24, 1929. It was bought and put in bankruptcy twice. When I was in high school we would pay with bridge tokens that cost ten cents. Today it's paid for out of tax dollars without a token charge, but that may change because of budget considerations. Quite a few people have jumped to their death into Narragansett Bay. So how high is the bridge?

The height is 285 feet (87 meters) with the roadway set at 135 feet above the water.

I know it seems crazy and sounds even crazier to hear me say it, but climbing is really a fun thing to do. Man has always sought to defy gravity. That is what flying is all about. When you start climbing and start to build strength and get good at it, you just want to climb more and more. There is a sense of freedom from defying gravity. In the case of the bridge it’s really not all that hard to do when you know what you’re doing and how to do it safely. The steel cables are predictable, they make the climb even easier if you have the right equipment to tie off because then there is very little risk of falling to your death. It's really not much different than what iron workers do for a living. Iron workers use fall arrest equipment. The reason why it's not called fall prevention equipment is because if you climb to heights eventually you will fall; it's just what happens when you combine human error with gravity. Sooner or later it will happen; you will fall. Climbers plan for falling. They are very good at getting used to falling and then reasserting themselves onto a perch. So when they fall the equipment simply needs to arrest the fall. That's the key to safely climbing. 

Lyn Hill is an amazing rock climber. You have to see her climb the NOSE.

... and Chloe Graftiaux.

Pretty interesting huh?


So lay low and save your bragging rights until after the statute of limitations runs. Right now, see a lawyer. The lawyer can’t turn you in, but will tell you how long to lay low and what your rights are under Rhode Island law. Now let's assume they figure out how to identify you and then catch up with you? Well, any lawyer would tell you to take the Fifth, meaning say nothing except, "I want a lawyer." Then say nothing except to your lawyer because if no one else was there, then no proof exists to charge you with a crime, except the video which by now is probably gone. Maybe it's a good thing the one climber forgot to turn on the video on the way up. While I haven't seen the summit video it would be pretty difficult to prove where it was taken. Unless of course they find the video and then call as a witness the guy who paints the cables to identify the location... Damn, you forgot about him!

Still keep your mouths shut and your lawyer's phone number at hand. And don't be climbing any more bridges in the immediate future! And one more thing, nice climb, I wish I could see the video!

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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