The Green Giraffe
28DL Full Member
I first started getting interested in cranes and rooftops at the end of 2009, just a few months after the legendary climb up Blackpool Tower by Scott and SL. When I first saw the pictures of their ascent I knew that a climb like this would be out of my league, untouchable. Most of our adventures involve challenges. Some are risky, others technical or involve a lot of planning. But Blackpool Tower seemed to push each one of these, so as time went on I slowly gave up on this fantasy of standing up there.
In 2010 scaffolding was erected on the tower. Ascents became quite frequent, as did news coverage of the various trips. As much as I was tempted by it, it just didnâ€™t seem right. If I was to be stood up there I wanted to have conquered the tower, not some regular scaff. The scaff disappeared and once again the flag pole up top seemed out of reach.
A year ago the idea of the climb was resurrected. Millhouse, Nick, fb and myself set off on a rainy and cold day to scope out the route we had plotted on google maps and see how far we could get. The route was a goer - the weather not so much. Plenty of slipping about on steep steel meant that we had barely covered 30m after 2 hours. With much disappointment we bailed.
What followed were a number of trips with fb. We had now managed to advance up to the overhang just beneath the skywalk, but progress was hindered by this overhang. The original ascent, as well as the scaff climbs afterwards had gone through a hatch in the floor. This hatch was now locked and the overhang with its exposure and the following 3m high window was intimidating unclimbed territory. Once again we bailed and during the drive back home I seriously questioned whether there was any point in further attempts. But as with any â€œimpossibleâ€ idea, they creep back on your mind again and again.
Discussions on the best approach to tackle the climb were plentiful. There just werenâ€™t enough handholds or edges for skyhooks to climb it in a conventional way. New kit was required to enable the climb. An initial idea was using electromagnets â€“ it was dropped quickly due to the associated weight of the batteries. Instead we decided to take advantage of the large glass panels and purchased a pair of suction cups. Anyone who has been in the game for a few years will most likely remember a post on â€œNo Promise of Safetyâ€ about a climb up a sloping glass building with suction cups. If the Americans could do it, why not us? Some tests in town (with very confused officers querying our intentions) revealed that careful placement COULD provide a decent handhold. Unfortunately slippage and popping off occurred just as frequently.
â€œWe need to get this done. Soon!â€ This was now a frequent text sent between the two of us. The weather seemed to be on our side for once and so we decided to go the next day. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I might as well had not gone into work that day. The idea of finally getting up there, of committing to the ridiculous exposure, trusting 2mm wide hooks to hold a fall â€“ these thoughts occupied my brain entirely. It was no longer just some climb that needed ticking off. I knew I could do it, I just had to convince my head that it would be a good idea to do so and take that first step. We met up in the evening and packed our bags. Not much was spoken. We both knew we had to get it done this time.
Arriving in Blackpool our moods changed. The conditions were perfect. 2 hours later we were stood at our previous turnaround point. The exposure was gone. Stepping out into the void felt natural. The hooks felt secure. The first suction pad placement slipped a little but it held. A small mantleshelf followed and I was stood half way up the face on a small ledge. My legs started shaking and my forearms were tense. This would be the last place I could relax. I looked around for protection and was pleasantly surprised. A sling through some steel could now replace the hook. I shook out my arms one last time and released the pressure in the suction pads. A second placement at full arms reach proved to be solid, no movement whatsoever. A long pull up from the handle, a sideway pull of a small steel edge. The feet were worked up some protruding bolt heads. I could now stand up and just about reach the edge of the baluster up top. We had made it! The remaining climb to the top would be piss.
I set up a belay and waited for fb to join me. It was only at this point that I realised we had climbed out of the clouds and were hanging of a steel structure surrounded by a sea of yellow and blue clouds. A year of planning and many failed attempts had finally paid off.
The pictures above are all screen grabs from a headcam as we only took one camera with us. Better flicks should follow beneath.