“The sensual mysticism of entire vertical being.” -E.E. Cummings

Sacking Olympus

As of December 2011, the Shard claimed the title of ‘tallest building in the European Union’, stretching 310 meters into the clouds from London Bridge. It has also been said that is it the most secure site in the city outside of the 2012 Olympic Park. I have never measured the building so I can’t testify to the validity of the first claim but I’m happy to respond to the second, as usual.

Sky Ladder

It was a crisp night outside London Bridge station. It was still but our breath curled in the 2am air. Marc Explo and I were standing on a temporary wooden walkway looking through a viewing window into the ground level construction yard of the largest skyscraper in Europe. “Gary” walked up behind us and, with a hand on each of our shoulders, also peered through. “One security guard looking after the Shard huh?” We chuckled. We waited for the guard to finish his current round and go into his hut. It took a few minutes of lingering before the walkway was clear of people – we grabbed onto the scaffolding pipes and swung off the bridge. Hanging on the freezing pipes, we pulled ourselves on top of the walkway and laid down out of view, waiting for a reaction in case anyone had seen or heard us. It didn’t seem so.

Vertical Maze

Staying low, we then descended the other side of the scaffolding, right behind the security hut where we could see the guard watching TV, not the cameras. Quickly, we scampered across the yard and found the central stair case, again pausing to see if there was any reaction from the yard, phones ringing or doors opening. It was silent.



First we took the stairs two at a time. All three of us were in pretty good shape and could do 25 or 30 floors like that. But by the 31st floor, I was sweating heavily. Knowing that the sweat would sting when we emerged onto the roof, I tried to pace myself and breathe. By floor 50, my calves burned horribly and I was having to stop every once and a while to let them pulse a bit and untighten.


At floor 70 the cement stairs turned into metal ones, indicating we were near the top. I was ecstatic. A final burst of enthusiasm took us from metal stairs to wooden ladders. We threw open one last hatch and found ourselves on top of the Shard at 76 stories.

Sky Warriors

As I climbed up on the counterweight of the crane, my breath caught. It was a combination of the icy wind and the sheer scale of the endeavor that shocked me. Marc was looking down at London Bridge station and whispered, “the train lines going into London Bridge look like the Thames, it’s all flow.” Slowly, I pulled myself to the end of the counter weight and peered over the edge. Indeed, we were so high, I couldn’t see anything moving at street level. No buses, no cars, just rows of lights and train lines that looked like converging river systems, a giant urban circuit board.




We found the cab of the crane open and slipped inside. “Gary” pointed to a green button on the control panel and said “watch this, I’m going to build the Shard!” pretending to press the button.



We only lasted about half an hour on top before our muscles were seizing up and we were actually yearning for the stair climb down. Which is always much easier than coming up.

Lookout below!

Later, standing next to the Thames, staring up at the little red light blinking on top of the crane, it seemed unimaginable that I had my hands on it just hours earlier. Ever after, whenever I see the Shard from anywhere in the city, I can’t help but smile. Unlike when I was up there, shaking with fear taking this self-portrait. You’ve got two months to get yours before the tower tops out. Act before you think.

Don't trip


This post is dedicated to “Gary”.


128 Responses to “Climbing a Shard of Glass”

  1. ellie Says:

    Been waiting for these! My god, everything looks so flat from up there. There's so much you can't make out: the barbican towers; BT tower; centre point; even the Norwood Ridge is only visible because of the two red towers… Funny how so much of London can vanish but St Paul's still appears.
    I love that you shot facing south, somehow it sometimes gets missed but the street patterns and the lights are really something.
    I get that railway most days amazing to see it like this. It is my own linear London because I have always lived along it, so these photos show the city I know but in a way I haven't seen before.
    Thanks for doing this and thanks for posting it.

  2. Andy Says:

    Amazing photos, and an amazing adventure. But you know the Daily Mail is going to steal every one for a faux outrage story, right?

  3. Another expat Says:

    You sir are a legend. For months we have been looking at this tower, visible from anywhere in London, wondering what it might look like up there. There were never any shots of the best view in London! Thank you very much indeed for these.

  4. marc Says:

    We miss you Gary!

  5. Paul Says:

    Wow, this is such a great post.

  6. JD - is my name Says:

    Nice photos of some interesting views – just a shame the server is so slow, it's STILL loading :/ Would be a treat if you added them to flickr for those of us who are used to the speed 😉

  7. Matt Says:

    AMAZING pics – have you put hi res versions anywhere? And (cheekily) in 16:9??

  8. gi11ianm Says:

    wonderful! Love those pics. A scary and exhilarating tour!

  9. Madhia Hussain Says:

    Not something I would be able to imagine doing myself, well done.

  10. Jay Wyatt Says:

    Absolutely superb pictures

  11. Paul Routledge Says:

    Fantastic….music; photos; narrative and place hacking. Bradley….I'll buy you a drink next AAG/IBG we meet6…Edinburgh?

  12. Nelly Says:

    Just F*****g fantastic!!! Awesome!!! Brilliant!!!

  13. LadyBanana Says:

    Wow! I'm safely sat on the sofa and my legs are jelly just looking at those heights!

  14. Helen Says:

    Awe-inspiring photos. I can see the shard from where I live (Denmark Hill) and it gives me such pleasure to know someone did this! I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to follow your lead….

  15. the_ponderer Says:

    absolutely fantastic.. speechless

  16. lopcute Says:

    Left me feeling vertiginous! You brave, wonderful men. Now where's the Cadburys Dairy Milk Tray please? Seriously, 'Place Hacking', what a great concept! Sort of 21st version of psychogeography.

  17. Droow Says:

    was there a Tox tag up there? :) Great job!! Were I younger and fitter!!

  18. sallyr Says:

    The railway does indeed look like a river or canal… and I love the way you can see the bend in the Thames from that height. Wow!

  19. Me Says:

    The photos are old, that was when the crane was in the middle of the core

  20. David F Says:

    You guys have balls of steel. My office is at the bottom of the tower on Borough High Street, and I've been following its progress since they first announced it in 2000. It makes me dizzy just looking up at it. Amazing job of climbing it. I hope you get your daily Mail payout. It seems inevitable. :)

  21. matt Says:

    my arsehole is flapping im fucking scared of heights

  22. The fox Says:

    It's not going to be too long before one of you idiot's gets killed it's just a question of time!!

  23. witek Says:

    At the top of the Shard, the jimmies rustle softly.

  24. Richard Calhoun Says:

    Absolutely Genius!!

  25. Robert Says:

    Well Done. Great Photos.

  26. Horse Says:

    surely the people who built it probably fired off a few photos. do something useful with yourselves, bunch of tossers.

  27. Gman Says:

    incredible pictures – just to think that these views would be normally denied to most people – thank you for opening up another view of our urban landscape

  28. mariomario Says:

    the fox is so sore, so very sore. Too bad he'll never get to.

  29. Dunrau Says:

    What is so impressive? Construction workers do it every single day… while actually doing something productive.

  30. Ebbetheclimber Says:

    Pictures are obviously fake, here is the original https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-BEmZ3iSRNKs/T4

  31. MisterRed Says:

    Well taken photographs. The street lighting is tremendous.

    The power of the idea is inspiring. Its quite a beautiful, charming and courageous hobby and I applaud your sharing of this situationist pastime.

  32. Fart Says:

    OMG! YOu guys are SO cool!! IT’s just so crazy what you did!! WOW! OMG I just can’t believe it, that it SO SO crazy!! WOW! You guys are special – really fucking special – well done – big chuffin slap on the back!!! So fucking useful – such a HUGE! contribution to society….YOu shitting idiots..

  33. Buki Says:

    Just reading about the edge of the counter weight made me want to sick up. The height!

  34. Come the revolution Says:

    Nothing special really-the crane driver will be back up there on Tuesday doing his job-and on Wednesday and Thursday….

  35. shez Says:

    superb 😀 im awe-struck

  36. Denis Says:

    Just so beautiful, the flatness really strikes me also, but the variety/ intensity of the lights all around are gorgeous and I love the way in a couple of the pictures the train lines run a thick trail of plain black through the scene.

  37. Facebook Developer Says:

    Having fear of heights, I couldn't even imagine how he did this. This guy is totally nuts.

  38. Steve Rowntree Says:

    Amazing photos. Shame about the words.

  39. Alec Says:

    I gave up waiting for the photos to load !

  40. sam Says:

    this is an interesting analysis of the photos…: http://paulclarke.com/photography/blog/shard-and-

  41. JK Mills Says:

    Nice work! Love the adventure and thrill. Inspirational!

  42. paul Says:

    wonderful achievement chaps.

  43. George Says:

    Well Done!

  44. Lynda Bowyer Says:

    Ace images but I can't condone the property breach.

  45. Bob Says:

    Good, clean fun. Sure, the builders go up there every day – and probably get quite a buzz from it – but they take a lift and they're allowed to and it's their job so it's less fun by definition. Great photos.

  46. Liz Says:

    The photos of the city are heart-stoppingly beautiful.

    The pointed bitching about the security guard: not so much.

  47. Marx Says:

    Thanks a lot for increasing the levels of security/cctv/police state/big brother that this stunt will no doubt facilitate.

  48. Dan Says:

    I can't say I am surprised you were able to pull this off at the time you did. Quite embarrassing for the owners and property management companies, whether that was the intention, or not.

  49. Richard Calhoun Says:

    Is everyone aware that these guys are climbing a crane. If you want photo's of a bloke climbing a crane then just hang around outside the shard first thing monday morning, give a camera to the crane operator when he rocks up for work and ask him to take a few pictures for you. Job done.

  50. rabthecab Says:

    Photos are AMAZING! :)

  51. doc eggbert Says:

    cool story bro!

  52. Mike Hill Says:

    Nice work! this brings back memory of doing something similar. In 1993 the infamous Capper Pass chimney in East Yorkshire just outside a village called North Ferriby, was the largest single flume chimney in the world (or Europe) was set for demolition. Prior to this they knocked down the kilns under it, so providing complete access to the inside of the chimney and bypassing the locked doors. So myself and a few of my friends scrabbled over the bricks and twisted metal and got ourselves onto the stair way between the outer and inner layer of the chimney and scaled our way to the top. Quite a a hell of a buzz. This is it being demolished http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ26Hdts4_w. We've done some similar pre-demolition exploration in Hong Kong as well, in an old incinerator and also flats due for demolition. Probably none of these little adventures have improved my cancer risks.



  54. mtlawleyshire Says:

    Think I might have to follow you guys, waiting for your next madcap adenture – though how you're going to top this is anyone's guess (pun probably intended)

  55. Chris Says:

    Though I live in Cape Town and have never been to London, I love London!

  56. Ron White Says:

    Thanks for doing and sharing what I couldn't ever conceive of doing, not just because of age (74) but because I have no head for heights. Wonderful pix. Quite inspiring.

  57. TI'm hmm Says:


  58. vertigobuster Says:

    Bloody irresponsible climbing up there with a with a tripod…. you could've 'ad someone's eye out!

  59. Jenny Boon Says:

    Rebellious with peaceful means. Just how I like it. Well done I am impressed !

  60. pip Says:

    Seek some more fame why dont you. Your the sickest!

  61. ElliottCB Says:

    Staggering perspective, in all senses. Keep going and, above all, keep a good hold.

  62. OAP B2.1 Says:

    Wot no Base jump? 😀 Well climbed gents.

  63. richardeh Says:

    Astounding achievement. Congrats from a photographer with vertigo :-))

  64. miss tutt tutt Says:

    what happened to "Gary"????

  65. jaime Says:

    Great to see that David Cameron cannot control the movement of every atom in London as he would like to – OK lads , onward to 10 D St

  66. Ledal Says:

    Great photos, thankyou. Please take care of yourselves.

  67. Slangking Says:

    How do i join? I want to do that SO MUCH!!
    I am in awe!

  68. Jezz Says:

    My Balls tightened just looking at your photos. Absolutely [email protected]*king tremendous. Never let go lads, never let go!

  69. Jezz Says:

    I guess my last comment have one too many expletive, albeit disguised. So once again absolutley bloody marvellously realised night out on the Tower. It tightened my testes just looking at the photos, always a sign of oncoming vertigo for me. Tremendous.
    Never let go lads. Never let go of your dreams!

  70. Ibby Says:

    oooooooh my legs are just going floppy looking at the heigths!!!!!!!!!!!

  71. Chris Says:

    Great shots guys.

    I work for the company who’s Crane your climbing.

    Made my day and when do I join

  72. Slimph Says:

    I thought I saw someone climbing up there that night – and I could see your glasses!

  73. anitachowdry Says:

    Ooooooooooooohhhh! You are amazing guys! Thanks for the breathtaking pictures.

  74. Steve Baker Says:

    If Carlsberg did photography… they would hire you guys!! epic adventure for sure for sure!!

  75. propertymarketupdate Says:

    Awesome guys! Love your work! :-)

  76. Mark Anderson Says:

    Top photos mate and good luck to you all

    regards Mark

    (ex Uk-Bungee Club JM 1994-97)

  77. Not_impressed Says:

    You're a menace. Old pics, old story. Trespass is trespass. If one of you gets killed or damages equipment that workers rely on, it will be your fault. No doubt you will blame others. Your actions wouldn't be tolerated in the US. Unfortunately, the UK police have more pressing engagements. Hopefully, the client will press charges. Not clever enough to hide your identity. Let down by your own ego and vanity. Perhaps someone may walk around your house and post the pics online. Downfallen had style. You do not.

  78. Scaling the Building Towering Above London's Skyline | PRI's The World Says:

    […] Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Bradley Garrett, cultural geographer, who climbed at the top of the Shard. […]

  79. philosofiez Says:

    WOW. Astounding. Very naughty of you guys…but so amazing at the same time! I live in Bermondsey and have always wanted to scale The Shard as I've seen it grow, even more tempted now. 😉 But be careful and be safe! Fiez

  80. Frank Lotz Says:

    If they are going to have an observation platform on the Shard, you just gave the owners a great pre-opening advert._Pictures took my breath away. To have the quiet of the moment without all the tourists must have been inspiring._Thanks for the effort.
    F.Lotz Fort Lee NJ USA

  81. Steve K Says:

    call me next time!

  82. Charlotte Says:

    Incredible, would love to do that, well done!!
    Was just wondering what poem your quote by E E Cummins came from?

  83. Jack Simpson Says:

    Wow. You guys should be given medals for the quality of these photos. How long did it take to build up the courage to climb it?

  84. Ignacio Says:

    Exiting adventure!!!!

    But take care, I guess you are concerned about the risks you are taking…. Anyway, nice photos!!!

  85. Georgeumbrasileiro Says:

    Well done, guys! :)

  86. safetyfirstldn Says:

    The sun recently ran this story about you http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4245864

  87. ddd Says:

    what happen to 'Gary'????

  88. Ani Says:

    Wanted to do something like this for a long time… never knew others would have the same passion..
    I'll do this, once I'm at a London Uni, whatever skyscraper is being constructed I'll hack!
    So in a years time I'll start!
    hopefully there will be new constructions in progress then. :)

    Can I ask how you found other people who love to place hack? From work or… because I doubt anyone at Uni would want to do this with me….
    will you be around London in years to come by any chance…
    (email back preferably) thanks

  89. Michael Weber Says:

    I was only once in London in 1998.I live in sf ca usa thus it was so much fun being there. There were no big buildings in London yet. I must go back and see it again. Thanks for the pictures -M-

  90. Recording Dereliction « BART Says:

    […] factories in its best of 2011 post. Love the pics, love how he got them. In the same spirit, see Place Hacking’s headline-grabbing trip up The Shard. Share this:TwitterEmailFacebookPrintDiggLike this:LikeBe the […]

  91. Einbrecher, die Werbung machen | Melanie Manner Says:

    […] Ihm verdanken wir Bilder vom Aufstieg selbst. […]

  92. Preview: West Coast Live Radio Show | Londonist Says:

    […] for wanting a bit of a sit down.They’ve got some cracking guests: Bradley Garrett – the placehacker who climbed the Shard – food critic Jay Rayner, scientist extraordinaire Simon Singh, comedians Scott Capurro and […]

  93. Preview: West Coast Live Radio Show | thenewsfinder.com Says:

    […] got some cracking guests: Bradley Garrett – the placehacker who climbed the Shard – food critic Jay Rayner, scientist extraordinaire Simon Singh, comedians Scott Capurro and […]

  94. » Fly-fishing as urban exploration Says:

    […] The gonzo challenge of exploring and documenting the forbidden spaces of decommissioned factories, derelict hospitals and abandoned culverts isn’t new. But urbex started making headlines again last week when a group called the London Consolidation Crew scaled the 1000-foot Shard, currently London’s tallest building site, and posted images of their climb on the internet.  […]

  95. Chris M Says:

    Excellent photographs!

  96. Stories from The Shard of Glass. « Infrastructure/construction « The Winchester Says:

    […] from The Shard came to the forefront of the national and international press at the start of April. Brad and Otter simultaneously posted reports on their blogs and within 48 hours, every major newspaper […]

  97. The tallest tower: the shard - Arbtalk.co.uk | Discussion Forum for Arborists Says:

    […] Originally Posted by chrisgilltreesurgery Mint! Did you see the guys at the end rite on the top, nearly 1000ft up WOW balls of steel. If it takes balls of steel to work there – what about these guys who broke into the site – Climbing a Shard of Glass | Place Hacking […]

  98. London Twenty-12 « Suckle Yokes Says:

    […] Sentimentality is not uncommon for places lived or loved, short years previous. So as the Shard http://www.placehacking.co.uk/2012/04/07/climbing-shard-glass/ peaks and the harlot heart of King’s Cross is buried, out east, there’s an altogether more […]

  99. Gigo Says:

    absolutly breathtaking

  100. Dom Says:

    This is stuff i'd really like to do. Any chance of getting into contact with you?
    Really nice work by the way. Some incredible photography here.

  101. Hugh Hill Says:

    Whose going to be first to base jump the shard,,,,,,,bets are on!

  102. scott capurro Says:

    Really beautifully photographed and told. Thanks for this.

  103. Seán O'Doherty Says:

    I work opposite this masterpiece and have watched it emerge from a hole in the ground, no one can pass here without looking up…

  104. crazy jumper Says:

    you should take up BASE jumping, THAT would have been amazing

  105. Shard Viewing Gallery Tickets On Sale Tomorrow | Londonist Says:

    […] Shard opens 1 February next year. We had a sneak preview of what the night view is like from the Place Hackers and the BBC were parked in the gallery this morning: the vista is truly spectacular. But, […]

  106. The Shard em Londres | Mapa de Londres - Guia turístico de Londres Says:

    […] Bridge vista do Monument. Foto: Gustavo HeldtAgora olha a vista do Shard, captada pelo site Place Hacking, que invadiu o lugar algum tempo atrás (veja mais fotos):Vista do Shard. Crédito: […]

  107. Habilitation Stephan Says:

    Let me add that base jumping would be less dangerous… Anyway, great pictures that freaked me out, really.

  108. A shard of glass. | Entdecke die Welt Says:

    […] still be a long way to go until completion. Well, a little taste regarding the view can be found here. And that looks absolutely […]

  109. TPM Says:

    Wow, beautiful, I'm too scared of heights to even fathom what that must've been like.

  110. HALEY abby66 Says:

    Simply impressive regarding that I feel dizzy even at 3 meters.

    Something very strange. You look like normal peoples… But you make something a little bit crazy…

    Perhaps are you seeking for a meaning to be alive. Life is boring when nothing happened.

  111. Métal Kylie Says:

    Can't help imagining the guy in the crane cab reading the sun every morning in front of one of the best views in the world…

  112. Big Kahunas - Facebook Statistics Says:

    […] These guys get the Big Kahunas Award….! Climbing a Shard of Glass | Place Hacking http://www.placehacking.co.uk We climbed the […]


    […] Dr Bradley Garrett , a student at the University of London, posted pictures of his ascent with fellow renegade Marc Explo and an anon third man referred to only as ‘Gary’. […]

  114. Shorty Says:

    It’s crazy how little security there was that you guys could get past the guard so easily and make it all the way up to the top of The Shard while it was under construction. Then again, maybe the property owners didn’t feel there was anything worth protecting and probably didn’t think in a million years that anybody would actually go up there in the freezing cold at night. Of course, if there had been a lot of security then we wouldn’t have been able to see these incredible photos and enjoy the vicarious thrill of doing something that the vast majority of us would never have the nerve to do ourselves.

    Shorty, webmaster for http://www.sandpit.co.za

  115. Mr bill Says:

    Sorry, I don't like heights, terrifying

  116. Rik - Sash Windows Says:

    Words cannot explain how awesome these shots are! Your photography should have it's own category – maybe something like daredevil photgraphy!

  117. Ali M. Says:

    Wonderful pictures. Thank you for going out of your way to capture them. Quite an adventure.

  118. DEA Says:

    Brilliant work.

  119. Basil Says:

    Fearless guy hats off