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The Shard to the Stratosphere: Interview with free solo climber George King


George King honed his skills as a teenager on Go Ape climbing walls and courses.

This sparked a flame that has taken him around the world in a bid to defy the norms.

He has climbed some of the biggest buildings in Europe.

On the 3rd August 2021 he climbed free solo the Stratosphere tower in London.

George climbing the Shard 2019

Freesolo

He accomplished this death defying stunt without safety equipment.

His aim is to draw attention to the climate emergency.

George King-Thompson said he chose the 36-storey Stratosphere Tower in Stratford, East London,because it overlooked Pudding Mill Lane Tube station which flooded last week following torrential downpours in the capital.

The Metropolitan Police said: ‘Police were called at approximately 05:42hrs on Tuesday, 3 August after a man was spotted at height on Great Eastern Road, Stratford.

‘Officers attended along with National Police Air Service helicopter.

Officers carried out a thorough search of the area and found no trace of anybody matching the description.’

The former personal trainer was the first person to freeclimb the tallest climbing walls in both the UK and Europe.  

Achievements

In June this year, Mr King-Thompson climbed the CopenHill climbing wall in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The 282-foot wall was created by architectural company Bjarke Ingels Group and George decided to climb it – the world’s tallest climbing wall – with no ropes or safety equipment to highlight Denmark’s ‘outstanding eco innovation’. 

After going up The Shard in London, George gained fame from a Channel 4 documentary that followed his journey, explored his motives and his family’s reaction to the extreme climb. 

Piers Morgan dubbed him as The Great British Daredevil when he featured on Good Morning Britain in January 2020 after he was released from prison.

After serving half of his six-month sentence he released a documentary with Channel 4 in 2020 called ‘The Boy Who Climbed The Shard’.

Back in 2018 George became the first in the world to freeclimb the former world’s tallest climbing wall, Excalibur in Groningen, Netherlands.

He was also the first to do the same on the UK’s tallest climbing wall, ROKT in Bridghouse, West Yorkshire, which at 36m is taller than both the Tower of London and the Angel of the North.

George lives on the edge

Interview

Following his successful climb I was able to arrange a interview with the Daredevil.

I wanted to try to understand the mindset and drive behind his achievements.

My first question was obvious.

Q1: Do you suffer with same condition as Prince Andrew? How do you not sweat profusely while doing the climb?

(We discussed Andrew interview for a minute lol ) and he then said,

George: So I have a rhythm of my breath, then my mind will follow in suit.

So if my breathing’s all over the place and I’m frantically breathing or hyperventilating, then my mind is going to be all over the place.

But as long as I breath it’s just going to be calm if I’m having a hairy moment on the building, I just go back to my breathing and it just brings me back to earth.

Question2 : Have you been arrested for other climbs?

George: Yes, I mean the nature of the basis is illegal, so I do get arrested quite often.

George arrested abroad

The Shard

Most prominently back in 2019 after climbing the shard, I got handed a six month prison sentence at Pentonville in London which is a notoriously violent jail.

One of the worst probably if not the worst, very understaffed and underfunded.

The inmates nickname for the prison was the “Gaza strip”, because it’s just a war zone.

But nevertheless, I actually enjoyed it, I enjoy the danger of it all.

I learned a lot from the experience

I met a lot of really interesting people.

George leaving prison

 

Q3: What was your favourite climb?

George: Every climb I do has a very unique story to it.

You know, the one I did yesterday was so unique and different and special and in a completely different way to the way the shard was, all the buildings I’ve done the spade and they all offer something totally unique and it’s hard to pick one out and say this was the best one because they all have something completely different to them.

Q4:You speak about Stoicism a lot on your socials, how does this effect your life and outlook?

George: Well, I think stoicism is important for everyone in this world, especially in the time we’re living in now with COVID, you know, a lot of life and your emotions and your actions are fully dependent on something completely out of your control and the external environment.

For instance with Lockdown you know you can’t single handedly change the rules and regulations of the government.

I can run around the streets, waving the flag, trying to cause change, but it’s not really going to do anything.

So what am I really left with? I’m not going to sit around in my house crying and moaning that I can go to rave or this and that.

Or can I just accept what I’m doing, what the situation is and try and make the most of it? 


Q5 How did you cope in Lockdown?

George: I’ve kind of, I kind of just adapted.

And initially, whilst there was not alot to do, I was reading a lot more.

Like I had a lot of time on my hands to actually get through a lot of books I wanted to read which helped me sort of with progressing with what I do is it allowed me to sort of progress just in ulterior ways, which still is progression.

It’s just not the way I would have liked to progress.

Stoicism is so important for anyone because you are never going to be in control of things in the external environment.

Q6 Do you have bucket list climbs?

George: Because of the nature of what I do in the secrecy and how illegal it is I can’t quite, I can’t quite comment on it, unfortunately.

So I apologize for that, but yeah, there are bucket list climbs out there.

Your just have to find out in due course. 

Q6 Who was your favourite daredevil you met during the series for Channel 4?


George: Yes, i recently presented a series called Adrenaline Addicts for Channel 4 and definitely my favorite one was meeting Rico Franco (world champion bannock),

He is a boxer who fights with a bag he’s got, cause disease is a disease called colitis.

So he can’t excrete.

He’s been on death door medically and fought back to fitness and won world champion belts after being on his death bed.

So speaking to him was very, very powerful.

George and Rico (Channel 4)
Champions

Who knows what is next in store for George King but one thing is certain is he is living is life to the fullest and without fear.

Watch the full climb on his YouTube channel.

Good luck George and thank you for dreaming.

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