I popped the boot of the tiny maroon Renault, sat pulled over and flashing it’s hazards in a loading bay for one of the towering multinational financials on the Isle of Dogs.
“Have any of these got sewage on them?..” The driver responded immediately, as if I had just asked if I had ears.
“Yes. All of them.” Daft question really.
I’ve got pretty big feet, and cramming my foot down into one of the assortment of size 8 Italian thigh waders on offer was at best a struggle and at worst, torturous. It’s not long before I give up on this futile attempt, and faced with the prospect of spending 5 hours underground crushed into a tiny pair of borrowed thigh waders, I make a suggestion:
“Fancy doing something else?”
My party agree..
The original plan had been to head down to Brighton to abseil into one of its huge subterranean storm water storage tanks, which, at the forecast of some bad weather, been canceled, then put back on, canceled, put back on and was now thanks to the protests of my size 11s and the prevailing lack of enthusiasm for the hour and a half on the road that lay between Canada Square and Brighton, now off. We had procrastinated on making a decision of the nights ultimate goal by diverting our attention to a nearby set of tower cranes for some views over Canary Wharf, and thankfully, a few mutual friends on the other side of town had stepped in via text message to prevent us from straining our imaginations a second time.
Just passing time
The tiny wadonz were now being happily stuffed back in the boot and we were rolling over to Muswell Hill at the top end of London to have a bash at getting up the historic Alexandra Palace Transmitter tower. Up until now, I’d only really known of one guy who’d braved the climb up this one. This doesn’t necessarily mean there haven’t been others that had done it and not shouted about it, but it does mean that it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as turning up and popping up a ladder. The scarcity of material on scaling this particular icon on the interpipes meant it was going to be tricky, and as usual, the tough bit was probably just going to be getting on top of the supporting structure.
We rolled up, parked, waiting for a group of pissed teenagers to leave us alone and hauled up onto the lower roof when the coast looked clear, emerging on top of the east wing. 4 familiar silhouettes sat perched on the apex of the west roof taking in the view. It was a while since I’d seen this lot, and so we hung out for a bit, took a few pictures and shot the breeze, catching up of the large list of inadvisable things and scrapes we’d managed to get ourselves out of since we’d last met.
When talk turned to the task at hand, it seemed dickinson was the only member of the group we’d just met who was actually up for climbing the massive antenna and not poncing about like Mary Poppins on the lower roof, and so we made out way down to give it a coat of looking at.
The supporting stone tower that held the antenna is about 35ft tall, made of brick, and has a door about 1/4 way up, presumably so the broadcast gear can be accessed from the outside. The ladder only goes about this far up, leaving about 25ft between this door and the top. It’s one of those problems that looks OK until you actually nut up and have a bash.
We all stood for a while, just sort of looking at it.
Just before I could say “I’m not doing that without rope”, dicky, with the aid of the most recklessly placed ladder since the infamous ‘are-you-fucking-kidding-me Battersea bridge of faith’ was climbing. As he ascended, we realised we had a car full of tackle from our previously aborted abseiling mission to Brighton and chose to let our brave friend risk the near term use of his limbs while we got some kit together. It would now only take one of us to lead it and rig a rope at the top, after which everyone else could just come straight up the rope with ascending gear. Three terrible gear placements and a pretty shonky mantle up to the ledge above the pillar and I was up to a small ledge about 5 feet below the top. As I was taking a breather, preparing to haul myself over the last bit, dicky pocked his head above the ramparts..
“Thank fuck you’ve got that rope, I’m not exactly sure how you’d climb down off this!”
He was right as well. It was such an awkward move to get up to this stage and it probably couldn’t be reversed. A hang and drop when coming back down would have probably have lead to a broken something.
I hauled up, tied off and let everyone SRT themselves up.
That was the hard bit over with, the rest was just ladders up to the highest point in North London and a piece of bona-fide TV history.
Successful night I’d say :)