Don't Look Down
'How far would you go to express yourself?'
Harriet Fisk | 24 January 2016

How far would you go to express yourself? Would you risk your life to fulfil your appetite for adventure? Would you break the law for fun?

Free climbing is an extremely dangerous sport. It requires core strength beyond belief, and can be a deadly activity if done without preparation. If you have not already heard of James Kingston, he is a 24-year-old student, who climbs the tallest (and most precarious) structures he can find - for fun. So far he has managed to climb Dubai’s second tallest building, do a backflip on a bridge in Ukraine, stand on top of Wembley Stadium and most recently, scale the Eiffel Tower.

On his website he explains that throughout secondary school, he felt oppressed by the educational system. The pressure of work meant that he was not able to express his creative abilities at all, until 2004 when he found free running, and eventually climbing.

Most of his followers first heard of James in 2013, when he and two friends climbed up 96 metres, to the top of a crane in Southampton. James released a video that he recorded with a head camera, depicting him dangling from the end of the rusty crane with just one hand.  The story made national news, with the police surrounding the action promising the public that they would maintain security on the crane so that other people did not try and do the same thing. From then on, labelled as a “daredevil” by the press, James climbed building after building, and filmed the entire thing to post online.

On a number of occasions, he has been caught by police and prosecuted; most recently, he climbed the Eiffel Tower at night, and watched the sun rise over Paris. This video has been one of the most amazing climbing videos that I have ever seen. As he tiptoed along the rim of the tower, the footage shows the jaw-dropping fall awaiting him if he loses his balance in any way. In the climber’s blog, he explains that his original plan for buying a ticket to the second platform and climbing from there failed, as the tower was too busy. Instead he decided to commit to climbing right up the side of the tower from the ground, and “see what happened”. Here is a short extract from the blog of that evening:

“We started the climb at 1AM, narrowly avoiding the patrolling security (which seemed more like the French army as they were in full camouflage & had massive guns) and wormed our way through what seemed like endless CCTV cameras.”

Kingston and his friend proceeded to be handcuffed and taken to the local police station in the morning, where they were held and questioned for around six hours, before being released without charges. Regardless of the fact they got caught, the two men sounded rather pleased with themselves after the climb, stating that they can “officially tick the Eiffel Tower off their lists”.

Even for non-climbers, the videos on his YouTube channel are breathtaking, and make you nervous within seconds of watching the clip. Despite the video of the skyscraper in Dubai being the tallest he has climbed, my favourite video was from 2014, where James climbed up the side of a 12-storey thin, metal frame. He then managed to stand on top of the wobbling construction and jump onto a nearby rooftop.

There are two ways to look at this action: either it is an awe-inspiring talent, or a giant waste of police time. Although his videos can be amazing, is it really worth risking your life for an adrenaline boost?

Regardless of anyone’s opinion, it does not look like anything is stopping James and his passion for climbing. So, if you enjoy his videos, I am sure that there will be many more to follow in the future.


Original image by Harriet Fisk

James Routledge 2016