‘I could die’ admits Shard climber after scaling third London skyscraper
By Laura Parnaby, PA
A free-climber who was jailed for scaling The Shard has admitted “I could die” after conquering his second London skyscraper in two weeks.
George King-Thompson, 21, climbed the 23-storey Unex Tower in Stratford, east London, without ropes on Thursday morning, nine days after ticking the neighbouring Stratosphere Tower off his list.
The former personal trainer, from Oxford, said he aims to raise awareness about climate change through his climbs, and chose to scale what he calls the “Stratford duo” because they overlook the railway station, which was deluged by flash floods at the end of July.
After climbing the 305ft (93m) Unex in around 10 minutes just before 6am, Mr King-Thompson said he feels “calmness” after each “near-death experience”.
The climber, who stopped for a vape two storeys from the top of the residential block, said: “You go through an initial stage of shock – and for me that element of shock is calmness.
“It’s never a throwaway comment to say that I could die. I’m not a pessimist, nor am I an optimist – I’m a realist.
“I could train all I like, but there’s always that little percentage of a chance 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 what you’ve come here to do.
“Once you’ve come out of that, the feeling is an overwhelming sense of, you’re free.”
“When you’re climbing the building, you have every emotion, every endorphin, every dopamine receptor, serotonin receptor firing at once to optimise your survival,” he added.
“You’re hanging there with the tips of your fingers. But once that’s all over and you’re alive and you can walk the streets as a person who’s no longer in danger, it’s a pretty surreal feeling.”
Mr Thompson-King, who lives in Bermondsey, central London, said he has chased “fear” since he was 10 years old, when he used to push himself to the limit by climbing walls without ropes, and running marathons.
“I was inquisitive about what the stopping point is in the mind, and the mind-body connection,” he said.
“That got me climbing walls without ropes, and going down a rabbit hole which I’m still going down now.”
Mr Thompson-King was sentenced to six months in Pentonville Prison for scaling the Shard in July 2019, and was released this year after serving half of his sentence.
He said: “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.
“I just like looking over my shoulder and not know what’s coming next.”
He added that his mother is “extremely supportive in a healthy way”.
“She’s an incredible woman, she’s done everything properly,” he added.
“She tried to stop me as a kid for many many years. She understood passion, always has understood the passion. She encourages that.
“I want to bring out a message of passion, and I keep trying to push that to make my mum proud.”
Following his Stratosphere climb on August 3, the Metropolitan Police said they used a helicopter to search the area after receiving a call, but could not locate Mr Thompson-King.
The climber said he planned his ascent of Unex Tower so that if he fell, no members of the public would be endangered, and there was no police presence at the scene.