GES125 - Batter$ea Gas H0lder
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." So said Mark Twain. As someone with a history of vertigo issues, heights are not my friend. When I say heights, I mean being exposed at height. Sat on top of a skyscraper with solid concrete below, doesn't induce any states of fear. Dangling about on a rope over a Pre-Metro, or having to whip around a bit of scaffold at height to avoid an alarm sends. These send powerful rivulets of sweat coursing over my pale clammy skin. So climbing a 90m gas h0lder with an external staircase really is one of my great fears to master.
I gathered together with GE007 and GE099 and we set off on a crazy access route to reach the base. Photo below taken from a GES002 trip. I've only just noticed the odd collection of old carriages on the train below. The site itself is now in line for being decommissioned and demolition, as seen here.
Getting to the base of the gas h0lder was no mean feat, but was accomplished with only minor shredding of clothing on the nastiest type of razor wire i've ever encountered. A quick jog over the top of one of the open gas h0lders proved an early mildly scary experience, as the top is a somewhat bouncy if tackled at speed! GE007 was quick up the steps, followed by GE099, and me coming up the rear. Ooo err missus, etc. The first set of stairs of the six were fine. On the second set the others kept stopping which set my vertigo off and while they were crouched all ninja waiting for a train to go by. I was 'slightly' crouched and my hands were almost at one with the ragged white steel stair rails. After the third set, there was no more stopping on the stairs. The stairs that are held over a sheer drop away from the building by small girders by the way. I had my raincoat hood up to create shadows on my face, but it created a nice portal of sorts. It meant I could just focus on the steps, and not the drop or buildings disappearing below me on the near horizon.
When we got to the top of the fourth set of stairs, I was convinced this had to be the last set, i hadn't been counting. The crazy thing about vertigo, as I discussed with GE099 who has no issue with heights, is that it has no logic. Basically you could die from a 6 or 7 metre drop, so anything above this will have the same result, but just take longer and be messier. Finally we topped out at the top of the fifth set of stairs, and for some reason they decided to put a mesh fence around the walkway that goes around the top of each set of stairs. And yet another set of stairs disappeared off the side of the tower above. Once again I breathed in deep, and forced myself up the stairs. Mr. Twain would have been proud, maybe. It was then onto the roof of the h0lder.
The surface of the top of the h0lder creaked as we walked across it. Most of the joins had lightning conductor material fixed into it. Due to height, location and distance from other buildings, the photo opportunities were limited. The obvious one was just in front of us, the power station.
The South Eastern view was dominated by New C0vent Garden market and it's light pollution.
Tracks leading into Victoria, where commuters get an amazing view before heading into the station. Although if plans go ahead, that view will be lost behind a mountain of bricks in the form of apartment blocks. Directly below the h0lder is where the fate of London's stray dogs are held, at the famous batter$ea Dog's home. The lit up white building on the left is the home of a well known home shopping company, Q V C.
Carefully placing the tripod on the edge I got the shot I'd come for. It felt very strange looking down on a building I'd explored so many times, and looked down on everything else.
GE007 opened the door to the innards of the h0lder, and we were hit by the petroleum based fumes leaking out like a tsunami of noxiousness. I wasn't keen, but GE007 was, and went in. GE099 didn't look to keen either, but we both went in, keeping torchlight to a very minimum The top was a mass of small girders going everywhere. A small platform area was next to us with rescue equipment. The steps in front down to a walkway that went from wall to wall over a 80m drop. When I realised what it was, I quickly retreated to sit next to the rescue equipment. All the time inhaling the bromide goodness in the air.
The support arms keeping the erm, wooden (?!) floor above us in place. The lighter bits on the wall of the tower are sort of windows, hence keeping torches in check. Taking a flash shot was a risk, but quicker than light painting.
From the safety of the solid platform, a shot into the abyss. The stairs are held by cables, and not fixed to the wall. GE007 had already descended them when I took this shot. His words from below echoed around the tower.
GE007 finally popped back up, and we all raced outside for some fresh air and a last look at the view. It was then time to descend, something my sweaty palms showed I wasn't looking forward too.
I tried to concentrate on the rails as I went down, but it was impossible not to see how high we were. I wasn't as bad as I thought I'd be, but was glad to get back on the building walkway.
I popped off a shot of Batter$ea Park while I was here.
A 50mm prime shot of Batter$ea rail bridge going into Victoria somewhere behind the buildings. You can see Victoria rail yards with trains red lights on, to the right of the bridge. The Hyde Park Hilt0n on the centre horizon with it's blue go faster stripe up the side.
GE099 and GE007 chat and check out the police helicopter flying around in the area, while I grab my last shots. Eventually it buggered off, and we continued down. As I descended more sets of stairs I tried to put the fear to the back of my mind, gently ripping my hands as I gripped tightly on the way down. A salty mix of tiredness and keenness to get down overcame the fear after the halfway point. As we got to the last set of stairs, the chopper appeared again, and we launched ourselves down the last step of stairs like Bruce Forsyth after a 5 day amphetamine binge into the shadows. A close encounter with some stray dogs, and we were on the pavement, shaking hands on a job well done, and heading home.
Props to GE007 for guidance, and GE099 for the always excellent company.