"Come and abseil down the Orbit", they said. "It'll be fun", they said. Never being ones to shy away from taking our exploration of London to (near vomit-inducing) new heights, how could we possibly refuse?
So it was that we found ourselves harnessed up with our feet dangling over the edge of the UK's highest sculpture, 80 metres of nothingness below us and an overwhelming view of south-east London and beyond looming 20 miles into the distance.
Aside from sheer madness, the reason for our jaunt was to preview the abseiling experience that will open to the public next year. If the standard ArcelorMittal Orbit experience of admiring the panoramic views from floor to ceiling glass windows doesn't quite get your pulse racing, this should do the job.
We have to admit, we were puzzled as to how this would work; abseiling conjures up pictures of bouncing horizontally off a flat wall. The very essence of Sir Anish Kapoor's swirly steel juggernaut — love it or hate it — is that there is nothing flat about it. The answer, as the above images testify, is that you quite literally dangle* your way down.
The first 15 feet or so involves manoeuvring yourself around two of the iconic red metal pipes under the reassuring guidance of professional trained instructors (who have done the abseil themselves — we asked). The looks on the faces of unsuspecting viewing gallery visitors as we made like Spider-Man mere feet away from the windows were certainly memorable.
Once clear of the pipes, it's a free rein. We had complete control of the speed at which we completed the descent, through the rope in our hands. We took our time to enjoy the views, both of London spread out before us, and of the inner gizzards of the Orbit's core — a pretty impressive feat of engineering which cannot be seen in such detail from any other vantage point.
If you're looking for a new way to see London, abseiling's certainly worth a go. The launch platform for the abseil is at the south east side of the Orbit, giving views out as far as Blackheath, and back towards the Square Mile. It'll certainly keep Londoners entertained until the day the Orbit fulfils its true life purpose as a giant helter skelter.
Abseiling from the ArcelorMittal Orbit will be available to the public to book for certain dates in 2015 — keep an eye on the website for more details. It costs £85 per person, or £130 if you want to hire a go-pro camera to record your descent and take home a souvenir t-shirt.
*probably not the technical term.
Photos: Andy Davison