4 Climbers Who Gave Altitude the Middle Finger
The fear of heights is one of the most common of all phobias. That's understandable -- staring down at the fall that could spell your doom if you make one false move is not a comfortable thing. But it's not just the acrophobes of the world who get a little uneasy at the thought of being way up high. Everyone knows that frolicking around at great heights is a sure path to an early death.
Apparently, though, that memo never reached the desks of these maniacs ...
Max Polatov and Marat Dupri
We all know that our Russian cousins don't give a shit about anything. Years of communism, harsh winters and Vladimir Putin giving everyone an inferiority complex have undoubtedly had their effect.
This is strikingly evident for 22-year-old Max Polatov and 19-year-old Marat Dupri, who have both decided to alleviate their boredom by climbing very tall structures just to hang off the edge for a photo opportunity.
They both have different names for what they do. Polatov calls it "urban climbing," whereas Dupri calls it "skywalking."
We call it clinical insanity. This video will explain why better than we ever could:
If you thought that just hanging off of really tall buildings was badass, then you're in for a treat. Eskil Ronningsbakken, extreme artist and founder of Global Balancing (that should help you recognize the name), takes things one step further by performing acrobatics in extremely high places.
Honing his skills since the age of 5, he spent his youth practicing in the forests near his home in Norway before joining the circus at the age of 18, under the tutelage of Peter Jakob of the world-famous Moscow State Circus. At deadline, we have received neither a confirmation nor a denial that a Disney movie based on these events is in the works.
Anyway, just like any self-respecting nutter, Ronningsbakken (we'll never get tired of making our intern type that name) harbors ambitions of performing his act at the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Now who's in the mood to watch a man dressed up like a condom balancing on three chairs atop China's Mount Tai?
On August 7th, 1974 a man named Philippe Petit attempted to walk between the two World Trade Center towers on an illegally fitted tightrope. Because New York City is not encased in a dome, a setup like that leaves little room for safety harnesses and other such luxuries. Nevertheless, Petit and six accomplices spent an entire night on the roof waiting for construction crews to leave before tethering the two towers together for the first and only time in history. Early the following morning he proceeded to walk back and forth, an act that is only entertaining if there's a chance people might see you die. His act concluded after 45 minutes or so and Petit was arrested.
His act received such widespread attention that almost immediately he became one of the most famous people in America. In fact the following day when Richard Nixon resigned, he told the waiting press "I wish I had the publicity that Frenchman had." Dick is just being modest though, Watergate made him plenty famous.
Alain Robert, often referred to as "the French Spiderman" is an insane dude who likes to climb the tallest buildings in the world with absolutely no harnesses, ropes or safety equipment of any kind. And he does it all the time. In other words, he's the only guy who could watch that famous documentary about Philippe Petit (the maniac you just read about) and have a legitimate reason to ask, "What's the big deal?"
Initially he had a career as a gifted rock climber but a call from a film director who wanted to break the mold with regards to climbing changed his life. The task was to film Alain giving up the boring mountain style climbs in favor of trying to scale urban structures. Initially the plan was to use safety equipment, but they soon realized they wouldn't be able to get a permit. Undeterred, Robert decided to just climb a building anyway, settling on one dead in the middle of Chicago ... during the day.
Since then, if you can name it, he has climbed it. The Willis Tower, The Petronas Towers, The Empire State Building, The Burj Khalifa and probably your mom a time or two like anyone else.