John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Evading tons of cameras and gun-wielding guards is just the first challenge of conquering Paris’ steely landmark.
What’s it take to climb the Eiffel Tower without getting busted? A stealthy evasion of gun-toting security guards and security cameras, teetering on narrow beams above a steely abyss, and the willingness to hide in a metal hole for hours, according to this harrowing account from James Kingston.
Kingston, a British builderer whose exploits include dangling from huge cranes one-handed and back-flipping on Ukraine’s tallest bridge, writes that conquering Paris’ iconic prong has “been one of my goals for quite a while.” His plan of starting from the tower’s second platform about 377 feet above ground didn’t work because of nosy crowds. So he and a friend took the long route starting from the base.
Folks who get nervous with heights or tense, labored breathing should probably skip this video. Here’s Kingston’s ninja-like narrative of what went down that day:
We started the climb at 1AM narrowly avoiding the patrolling security (which seemed more like the French army as they were in full camo & had massive guns) & wormed our way through what seemed like endless CCTV cameras. Once we reached about 20 meters up the side of the tower it appeared we'd made it through what would normally be the riskiest part of any climb. As far as I could tell, the tower was ours for the night. After slowly making our way up through the framework of the Tower, we finally reached the top platform which was fully lit up. This is where we should have probably stopped but my curiosity got the better of me. I unlocked the door, slowly crept in and was immediately hit with the sound of a walkie talkie going absolutely mental in French. It was clear we'd been spotted so we legged it down a few stories & found a couple of holes inside the framework that we had no choice but to hide in. Hours went by with security going up & down with torches & they even turned on all of the towers lights during their search. The lights finally went off and the tower was ours again so we began the wait for sunrise. After a few more hours playing around on the tower workers & tourists started coming up in the lifts. We were spotted again around 9AM so we climbed down & met with security. We were handcuffed & taken to the local police station where we were held & questioned for around 6 hours before being released without charges (I also had to promise them I wouldn't climb it again for 3 years). I can now officially tick the Eiffel Tower off my list :)