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Buildering the City

Updated: Jun 7

Indoor walls are popping up all over London and the South East, but is it enough to put a stop to rebellious “Buildering”, or will it just feed the rat?

Buildering, of course, is like bouldering only on buildings.

So mostly we are talking about low-level clinging to infrastructure, but there have been some climbing stories which hopefully won't cause any reputational damage to the art of buildering. One of these stories ended in a prison sentence this week for George King-Thompson from Oxford.

a google map of buildering problems and spots in london
Bewildering buildering problems by QrowX

George climbed the 310-metre (1,017ft) Shard skyscraper in London on 8 July. London Bridge Station was briefly closed when the 20-year-old took 45 minutes to make the free-solo climb - without ropes or protective equipment. Apparently George had been planning the climb for eight months, even moving to east London and visiting the building on up to 200 occasions.

In his defence the court was told he had not been seeking "fame or notoriety", but had "laudable aims" to "inspire others".

We politely request that readers of this blog remain uninspired.

This ill-conceived effort was in stark contrast to Mick Fowler’s first winter ascent of St Pancras station back in the eighties. We’re not making this up – and you can ask him about it yourself at the London Mountain Film Festival.

A couple of things are worth noting – firstly, Mick’s an experienced (and already was then) climber. Secondly, no one was inconvenienced or endangered by the climb.

We dug this out from an article in The Telegraph (2005):

"I worked in the head office in London and would drive past the station every morning," he (Mick) says. "There was a leaking toilet outflow that was gradually freezing down the side. It was just the perfect ice climb on a building really."

With two climbing mates, Fowler ascended the 65ft ice-flow while a partner paid out rope from below, using a nearby parking metre as a belay anchor.

"It was a bit unpleasant at the top - it was a leaking lavatory outlet, after all - but we did it," he says.

A wee ice climb up a railway station is something quite different to buildering of course but it does further highlight the appetite that urban climbers have for being drawn to anything outdoors that presents itself as a challenge.

Not being builderers ourselves some research was required to try to find people who are currently clambering about our streets. It didn’t take us long to find a YouTube builderer called QrowX. You can subscribe to his channel and he’s also on Instagram.

Not only does the enigmatic QrowX provide films and photos of his adventures, he’s even graded routes and provided a Google Map of buildering challenges in the capital to which you can also link from his channel.

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