John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Russian adventurers dressed like construction workers to reach the ice-covered pinnacle of Mercury City, which is taller than London's Shard.
Here's one advantage that illegal skyscraper-scaling has over mountaineering: Unlike Everest, which give or take a few inches remains the same height for ages, the targets for urban climbers continually get taller and more insane.
Or psychotically monkey bonkers, if we're talking about the crew that recently clambered up Mercury City in Moscow. At about 1,110 feet high, the still-unfinished office and residential tower recently stole the title of Europe's tallest building from London's Shard. But that wasn't enough for the scurrying squirrels that inhabit Moscow's concrete jungle. They wanted to touch the wobbling apex of the spire – the end of a rooftop construction crane that hovers 1,214 feet above the cold, hard ground.
That crane is so high in the atmosphere that it's shrouded in clouds and plated with ice. Reaching it required as much of a physical toll as it did an intellectual one, explains climber Vitaliy Raskalov in the below video. Mercury City is protected by a daunting security network that makes it near impossible for “regular guys” to get in, says Raskalov. There are roving guard patrols, CCTVs, motion detectors and a "real-life anthill of Turkish construction workers who will not only call the alarm if they see anyone, but can also beat you up really badly." And then when they hand you over to the police, you'll likely get another beating.
I won't ruin the details of the heist, except to say that not all of the guys use the stairs to exit Mercury City. Follow the climbers as they dodge security and ascend the frosty crane in this incredible footage, which is being sponsored by urban-sports outfit Show Yourself. Make sure to turn on the English captions if viewing on YouTube: