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GES128 - Wembley Hilton Crane

"There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid." L. Frank Baum

"I'm scared of heights" It's a statement used by many, including myself. But are we really scared of heights, or are we scared of death? My thoughts are that it's the latter. When I first went to climb the Battersea Power Station chimney, I backed out two thirds of the way up, where the wall stops, and the internal area of the station is exposed. Disco legs, I climbed back down. It was only by following others on a subsequent trip to watch fireworks, that I made it up the last third. On yet another trip (no one goes to BPS once), I climbed to the top of another chimney all by myself. Fears are something that should be conquered, racists should embrace and learn about those they hate, homophobes should share a shower with homosexuals and discover that homosexuals don't want to rape or corrupt them. Those scared of heights should grab their nutsack and climb into the heavens. Which is what I did. After putting off touching cranes for years, I finally got GE077 to lead me up a crane.

As with Battersea and the Heron, I watched others go first, which gave me the confidence to go up as well. Admittedly I was a good 5 minutes behind GE077 to the top, but I got there. We saved some climbing time and being utterly exposed by climbing to the roof of the unfinished hotel, and then with a final look around, GE077 whisked off above me. I then climbed into the crane and sat holding the the white cold metal of a rung on the first ladder. I was only experiencing mild premeditated fear at this point, and shocking premonitions. People go through training courses, wear safety gear and have people watch out for them, we're two twits in trainers. Breathing deeply the late evening air, I psyched myself, and gripped each successive rung with a mix of fear and rage. Fear of the height, rage from the desire to achieve and overcome.

Before I knew it i'd reached the first landing (well not the actual first landing, that was 7 floors or so below) of my ascent. It was hard to turn around because I was so exposed, a small slip and I'd be descending rapidly into a concrete pancake. I'm ashamed to say I bum shuffled around to the next ladder, and pulled my self upright with the ladder.  Once back on the ascent with the ladder, I was feeling slightly confident, but was still breathing hard and using the fear/rage grip. At the next landing, even though I was now another 5m higher, I was able to duck walk around on my knees to the next ladder. And again with the ascent. With the next level I walked around to the next ladder. I was trying my level best not to look down or recognise anything below. Finally I reached the top of the tower section. My fear had receded somewhat up until this point. However here I was faced with two flaps which you have to force up with your head and sort of climb through. I was not feeling good about this, as it threw my centre of gravity all over the place. And there isn't much room for mistakes at this level. As I stopped to take a breather before climbing to the jib, I think this photo can save me typing some words as to my state of being.

After having calmed down a bit, and waited for GE077 to finish his shots, I grabbed a better shot of the needle we were perched on.

It was like being on a giant climbing frame, but very thin and very high. It didn't feel stable and the proximity at every turn to an invitation to base jump sans parachute was there. Keeping one on edge. The fact is that cranes have enormous amounts of health & safety attached to them, with instances of collapse being very rare. So being up here was only marginally less safe than a tall building. GE077 finally finished plodding up and down the jib, it was time to snap a few myself. Admittedly mostly from the safety of the cabin area it has to be said. The views of the stadium were amazing, although we'd hoped to have seen inside the stadium from this height.

As with most places we've explored, the link was there to other explores. You can see the stadium's arch from the various towers we'd climbed in the centre of town. Looking West below.

A nervous walk along the jib to the far platform, I couldn't wait to get back to the centre. Again the illogicality of it all plays it's part. It's stupid to be scared when out where I am in the pic below, because if you're in the centre of the crane by the cab, anything that can happen out on the jib that one is fearful about, can happen in the centre. As i tried to force my mind to overcome this, I began to conquer the fear factor.

The other end of the jib, taken from the centre by the cabin.

Unfortunately our timing wasn't great, as there was an event going on at the Wembley Aren@ below. As we began to descend, it was kicking out time.

A final fisheye of the stadium, and it was time to hurry down, as GE077 wanted to leave.

The descent was a much quicker affair. A mixture of feeling more confident, desire to get down and leave with GE077 so he could get the last tube. The worst bit was the two flaps at the top of the last/first ladder, as mentioned above on the ascent. Here instead of propping them open to ascend through. I had to hold them open, and climb down onto the top of the ladder. All the time a slip in any direction would have seen me taking the express route down. Once through and onto the ladder, it was a huge relief, and a simple case of climbing down the ladder and turning on each platform. No crawling or slipping around the platforms, that phase was over. I can't say I wasn't glad to get back on the solid roof of the hotel building, but in some ways I was a little saddened that the experience was over. Of course there's only one way to fix that...

Getting to the ground level we had a problem, there were hundreds of people swarming past all the possible exit points. After sneaking around trying to find a point, I just said to GE077, 'sod it, let's just hop over and leg it into the crowd.' So GE077 lept over one fence, and I a different bit. I ended up in a double fence area. And climbed over the first fine, but tripped when landing from the second, with people looking down at some crazy (but very handsome and dapper if I say so myself) chap sprawled on the ground. I thought i'd done my wrist in as it was feeling pain, but it turned out to just be a sprain. GE077 had disappeared, but I spotted him legging it up the tube station steps. All was good.


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