Tall Buildings are his Playground: James Kingston’s climb to the Top

Posted on 23 May, 2015 by Chris Grigorovsky

Your stomach is doing somersaults. The cold metal freezes your hands as the wind blows through your every fibre. You’ve ascended to a height you never imagined you would reach, as you stare down at the world below, with the early morning sun beaming on you in a warm congratulatory embrace.


That was my thought process as I watched and engrossed myself in the YouTube journey of 24 year old free climber James Kingston from Southampton, as he hung from a half built tower near Blackfriars Bridge in London, in a video titled ‘This thing was sooooo wobbly…’.

James’s YouTube videos, a series titled ‘POV Adventures’, take you on an up close and personal journey as he makes his way up a variety of structures across the globe with no safety equipment, giving the viewer an idea of what it’s like being at unthinkable heights with no restrictions, which never fail to amaze you and get your heart racing.

Urban free climbing, or buildering as it was originally known, has become a must see extreme sport, reaching people all over the world. Russia is one such place, as videos have surfaced over the past few years of a group of teenagers sky-walking on some of the highest buildings in the city.

The original pioneer of this extraordinary sport was Geoffrey Winthrop Young, who in 1895 started to climb the roofs of Cambridge University. Though many had climbed the building before, Young was the first to document it and produce a buildering guide to Trinity College, spoofing more conventional climbing books.

James’s website explains that he felt he wasn’t able to reach the creative potential in the academic world and “despite an unconventional start, James has demonstrated his passion for producing content in a way that has never been seen before. Throughout his work, his talent and positive attitude towards life is obvious”.

With over 11 million total views on YouTube, 71,000 followers on Instagram and a Channel 4 documentary about him called ‘Don’t Look Down’, the self-proclaimed adventurer has truly captured the hearts and imaginations of adrenaline junkies everywhere.

James has reached unimaginable heights since beginning his urban free running career back in 2004, with his first video consisting of doing flips and turns on a trampoline, to then climbing cranes, skyscrapers and other structures all over the world including; the Alps, LA, Germany, Dubai and Ukraine.

One video, ‘Scary Crane Climb in Dubai’, saw him climb up a crane in the city during the middle of the night, with his description saying it was “One of the scariest climbs I’ve ever done! Making my way up the building in the pitch black darkness on my own”.

As James stands atop of a structure hundreds of feet in the air, you get to see a city at its most beautiful. London’s office towers, Dubai’s stunning landscape, and the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles gives you a true feeling of a city’s presence. So what is the method behind what, some might describe, as his madness?

In an interview with the Telegraph in 2014, Kingston said “When you’re that high up crazy things happen in your mind. I’ve done thousands of somersaults but at that moment my brain took over and I thought too deeply. I had to wait for five minutes and get rid of the negative thoughts before doing the flip.

“There are many times in life when your brain restricts you. I knew deep down that it was safe and I just had to get control over my body and my brain. In a way, beating the instincts of my brain is what I live for.

“I used to be completely terrified of heights, but the more you do something, the easier it gets. It’s simple human nature”.

His experiences have not been without controversy however, as he was arrested for scaling the second tallest skyscraper in Dubai, the 101 storey Princess Tower and in one video entitled ‘The moment it all came to an end…’, he climbed a crane in Southampton and the police turned up.

It seems like there is no structure that is off limits. Cranes and Tall buildings are his playground and it will be interesting to see what his next adventure will be.

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