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GBI at the Purple People Bridge - 7/5/06

View from the top
Reporter Gina Daugherty climbs the Purple People Bridge - and prepares you for the challenge


The summiting of the Purple People Bridge has begun, and everyone wants to know what the climb to the top is like. How high are those purple-jumpsuit-clad climbers? What's it like up there? Is it scary? Do you have to wear to those purple suits?

The Purple People Bridge Climb took its first single-file group across the five spans of the bridge earlier this month, and so far the curiosity of seeing people atop the Newport Southbank Bridge has piqued the imagination. People hear "climb" and envision folks scaling the side of the bridge, tackling the triangle beams one at time.

Or they imagine climbers rappelling down the side, skillfully defying gravity and setting themselves back on solid ground without a bump. But it's the opposite of all that. The climb is a series of ladder-like stairs, combined with inclined walkways, that traverse climbers under, up, around and over the bridge to a height of about 140 feet above the river. At the top, a nice breeze picks up, waving the fabric of your climbsuit like a flag in the wind.

And you get to see Cincinnati's skyline, the hill of Mount Adams and the bends of the Ohio River from a vista never before available.

You can tell by talking to Kevin Bevan that he's an adventurous guy. Put a bridge in front of him and he'll be the one to climb it, whether he's allowed or not. He confesses that in his younger days he was the guy to climb water towers and etch his name into high places where he wasn't supposed to be. Earlier this month, about 15 employees of GBI Cincinnati, a machine and tool distributing company founded by Bevan, and some of their friends and spouses, took up his offer to foot the bill for everyone to climb.

"They all work very hard," Bevan said. "I just thought it would be a fun thing to do for the team. It's just a little reward, and it's fun."In their merriment of getting out of work early and being one of the first large groups to negotiate the climb, they agreed to let me tag along.

Like everyone who pays the near-$60 daytime climb fee or near-$80 sunrise or sunset climb fee, we started at what is known as "base camp," which is located behind Tropicana at Newport on the Levee.

We spent about an hour in orientation, watching a video, suiting up, donning headsets and agreeing to not to sue anyone.

Just before heading out to the bridge, we practiced attaching the safety line from our harness to a cable like the one on the bridge that keeps climbers attached and secure.

The line and the device (called a transfastener) that hooks into the cable looks at first like it could be complicated, but it's easy as pie. Just slide the transfastener into the cable on the bridge, and you're all set.

"It wasn't what I'd expected. Like Bryan, if you're afraid of heights, I don't think it's going to be that scary. It's high, but the way they've done everything you feel very secure. That was the only thing I thought was a little - not disappointing - but it wasn't as dangerous as I might have thought."

Kevin Bevan, who footed the bill for his employees to climb the bridge

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