GES080 - The Shard Skyscraper
The Shard Tower had been keenly watched by most London's urban explorer contingent, as it rapidly shot up the London skyline over London Bridge Station. It was announced to great fanfare and a nervous looking Boris Johnson stood on the crane at the top of the building, that it had reached 72 storeys, and was now the UK's highest building. It was now a battle of nerves as to who would be the first person up. GE041 had had a go, but due to workers backed down at the 33rd floor according to hearsay.
A few days later, GE010 and I made a stab at it. Having crossed the hoarding and sat on some scaffold. We looked at two routes. One would involve just dropping down to the floor and nipping across to the lift wells. The other was somewhat more elaborate and one I suggested. Due to security people being seen on the lower levels, I felt the higher we got into the building the better to reduce risk. So GE010 foolishly followed me and we walked along the scaff until we reached the roof of London Bridge Station. The plan was to walk along the edge of the roof to a ramp which went up into the building. All seemed plausible and fine. Then as I raised by head above the level of the station roof, I was met by a glance from two men working on the roof with British Rail workers. "Shit!" One of them shouted "Oiiii!" and they were only about 15m away. I climbed back down to the scaff to see the dust of GE010 as we disappeared back to our entrance point, and quickly followed with more "Oiiii's" in the background. Due to the angle we were at below the roof, we couldn't see people on the Station roof, and didn't expect them. Oh well.
Fast forward a bit, and it was now the xmas break, and we hoped to find less personnel working on the site. GE077 had already made it to the top, as he was soon to go home for xmas. I don't know if he was first, or whether GE041 had made another successful attempt. But we knew it could be done. He had taken a rather bizarre access point, and made it up, and passed on his knowledge. I arranged to meet GE010 and GE007 for the ascent, and we met on a footbridge that overlooked the site. Trouble was that we were not the only explorers there. An explorer I recognised from previous trips, GE097 was there, along with his bouncy friend who seemed very annoying. I quickly decided that a) I didn't want to risk going into the site and up in such a large group, and b) that I didn't want to act as a disabled tour guide for them. So I decided to leave and give them a chance to go first. GE010, GE007 and I went to a pub around the corner for a pint. My fears proved correct, as GE097 got lost going up the tower, and his friend had the distinct honour of being the first person caught on the site.
Anyway, we turned up and there were no other explorers about, and no activity of people on the site, so zero hour approached. GE077 made sure the access point was ready, and after a few passing cars and some beery friends, it was into the site. We quickly found somewhere to hide and then assess the route. A few options were mooted, but climbing the crane to an upper level seemed a good option. We needed to get away from the ground floor as quick as possible. We then came out on the first floor from the crane. We were now on the far side of the site from the obvious access, and found what turned out to be a little used stairwell. Lots of the floor levels were webbed off to prevent access. We climbed these stairs until they ran out at the 18th floor. Then we carefully walked across the open floor to find more stairs. This is how it looked at the 18th floor, as we took a quick breather. We were only a quarter of the way up!
The next set of stairs had wooden doors on each level that anyone could have walked out of, it was a tense point in the climb. We made it to about the 36th floor, and here the stairs ended. It was then another quick breather, and we crossed to the actual lift shaft, which had what according to the floor plan were called 'haki stairs.' These were effectively scaffold stairs, with open stairs and a rickety nature. To get to the 72nd floor, we had 36 levels to ascend! The whole time we were having to be careful of small bits of cement. When kicked they tinged and banged all the way down the shaft. After one was accidentally kicked, we would freeze and cringe, before continuing up. No backing down, no retreat no surrender! After the 40s passed, we were essentially without escape, as there was no other stairs to cross between. We just plodded up. We got to the 70th floor, and the haki stairs ended. We just had two ladders, and we popped out at the top of the building. Thankfully no one was about. The top of the building had wooden hoardings around, so one had to stand on things to see over. GE010 and GE007 both went straight for the crane sat in the middle of the 72nd floor. I was intrigued by the 'Little House on the Slipform', which offered a hideout from the light drizzle and cold weather.
There are many things in life you don't forget, your first kiss, your first shag, your first fight, your first...you get the picture. Well looking over the hoarding and seeing London from super high up is a site I will never forget. It was magical and majestic in the extreme. Seeing buildings you've spent the majority of your life looking up at, being tiny structures below you is just odd. In cities like New York City, Tokyo or Sao Paulo, you get used to there being tall buildings, and getting views from high up. But that's not the case in London. London only has a small group of buildings that can be described as skyscrapers. And none of them have public access. The views like the one below are a rarity, and only add to the awesome factor. Luckily though, The Shard will be open to the public, as it's to have an observatory floor.
Looking SW over south London, Elephant & Castle with former explore the Strata Tower just left of centre in the picture.
A building that needs little introduction, St Paul's, looking like something one might come across in Legoland.
The tower had it's main core finished first, and the actual floors are being constructed around it. This is looking straight down at the 40th Floor (where it says Mace) and then the streets lit up in orange.
The crane perched on the 72nd floor slipform. From this floor up would all be steel and glass, no concrete.
Looking West across London from next to the cab on the crane.
GES010 looks up from the 72nd floor below. The cab's view to Canary Wharf East along the Thames.
A mass of tiny dots, looking North over to Farringdon, and on the right The City of London.
GE007 contemplates joining GE010 in the Little House on the Slipform, as GE010 had got the heater working. The thick black line leading out from the tower parallel to the Thames, are the train tracks from London Bridge Station.
Fisheye of South London looking West, the Guy's Hospital tower emitting smoke below the building.
Looking down the structure of the crane, only 2 floors to the 72nd floor, so not particularly high.
A clearer shot of the tracks leading out from London Bridge Station below, looking East.
A fisheye of the north bank of the Thames, the Heron Tower (the whitest tower left of centre) another previous explore. The Gherkin and Tower42 almost lost in the sea of lights. HMS Belfast is moored up with it's colourful xmas lights on.
Looking NW from the building. The train tracks going to Waterloo and Blackfriars appearing as thick dark lines running parallel to the Thames. London Bridge with it's red stripe, and another previous explore at it's end on the north bank.
Seeing into the far distance, looking West. Sadly we couldn't stay up there for ever, and it was a last shot before descending.
Project management, where lots of plans were stored on the 71st floor.
GE007 next to the ladder that leads up to the 72nd floor.
On the way down the haki stairs, we spotted at least 2 people coming up from below. By watching through the gaps of the stairs we could see darkened bodies coming up. We hopped off at one of the floors in the 50s, and hid until they passed. It turned out later that it was GE043 and a friend. We stepped out at the 40th floor, the highest completed floor. Looking West and Guy's Hospital.
A closer shot of the tracks leaving London Bridge Station. Seeing things from different vantage points always intrigues me. If I attend Buddhist school, I want to come back as bird, a crow maybe.
Dark warrior and explorer, Tower bridge barely coming into vision over the safety rail.
Someone paints on the floor numbers as the tower rises up, interesting job if you can get it. Good numeracy skills one would imagine.
The 40th floor, the highest completed one at the time of ascent.
The 3 amigos, on the 40th floor. GE010 doing his usual 'Dracula without cape' pose.
And with that we descended down to the ground floor. Squeezing over the top of some hoarding from the stairwell, and tip toed out into the courtyard. No one about? Good, leggit! As GE007 zipped out, I spotted a security chap further off. He hadn't seen us. Rather than wait and find out, GE010 hopped up the 12ft hoarding. As i calmly zipped out as well, I was met with a dangling GE010 on the other side of the hoarding. I tried to provide support for him to come down, but something happened and he came crashing down into the road. Straight away he began clutching his wrist, and the following day it was clamped in blue plaster. A shame, as the evening had gone pretty much to plan. However like praline and caramel ice-cream, I wanted more! And a fortnight later, that was achieved with another flawless ascent and descent with GE031.