Embrace fear: Free climber scales another London skyscraper

AP International News

Free-solo climber George King climbs the Stratosphere Tower building, a 36-storey residential tower block in Stratford, east London, Tuesday Aug. 3, 2021. A 21-year-old free climber who was imprisoned two years ago for climbing the U.K.’s tallest skyscraper has scaled another building in London, this time to draw attention to climate change. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Embrace the fear or risk death.

That’s the mantra of George King-Thompson, 21, a British free climber who scaled his second London skyscraper in a little over a week on Thursday morning and his third overall.

“I know how to get into that mindset, I know how to not be overwhelmed by fear but to control it and utilize it, and use it to my advantage, and that’s what I do every single climb and that’s what I did today,” he said after climbing the 23-story Unex Tower in the east London district of Stratford.

King-Thompson, who was jailed two years ago after climbing London’s tallest building, The Shard, says he’s trying to raise awareness about climate change following flooding in London last month.

The former personal trainer from Oxford climbed Unex Tower, a 305-foot (93-meter) residential building, without ropes in around 10 minutes, stopping to have a vape two stories from the top. Nine days ago, he conquered the neighboring and taller Stratosphere Tower.

“No matter how easy the technical climb is and aspect of it is, you can never underestimate the potential for death. So every climb, I treat and focus with the same level of intensity, otherwise it could be fatal,” he said.

King-Thompson, who has been “doing these sorts of things” since he was 10, is clearly a thrill-seeker.

“When you’re climbing the building, you have every emotion, every endorphin, every dopamine receptor, serotonin receptor firing at once to optimize your survival,” he said.

Pushing the odds in his favor is partly a mental feat, he said.

“You know, I’m not a pessimist nor an optimist. I’m a realist,” King-Thompson said. “I can train all I like, but there’s always that little bit of a percentage that I could die. So that’s in the back of your mind, but once you’re on the building, once you’re doing your thing, there’s no room for any thoughts like that. It’s just you in the moment getting to do what you have come to do. Once you come out of that the feeling is an overwhelming sense of you are through.”

King-Thompson was arrested in 2019 after scaling The Shard, which is the U.K.’s tallest skyscraper at 310 meters (1,017 feet) tall. The owners of the building pressed charges against him for trespassing. He was sentenced to six months in prison in October 2019 and served three months.

“A lot of people say how horrific prison is and it is, but my whole thing is I like stepping into the fray, I like danger, so I was, in a weird sense, quite at home there,” he said.

“I just like looking over my shoulder and not know what’s coming next.”

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