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UER Forum > Journal Index > Boringly Titled by MindHacker > Watertowers... I think I have an addiction (Viewed 1621 times)
Watertowers... I think I have an addiction
entry by MindHacker 
9/18/2008 4:58 PM

Previously I had mentioned a "more exposed, more likely to beget cops" watertower. Last night I had the pleasure of scaling that monster. I use monster to refer to the size, it was at least twice the diameter of the previous climb, and while the length of ladder that I climbed was only slightly longer, the length started 20 feet higher up and ended 20 feet below the top.

Nerves... nerves weren't as big a deal as they had been a week ago when I scoped it out. Whether that was because I had my bible study pray for my safety just before or because I had been preparing myself the past week I can't say, but it was a much better day.

I parked at a local school and geared up at around 10.30, my loadout consisted of:
Stone khaki’s, white shirt (over a black shirt), and I neglected boots for soccer shoes (not cleats though) for the footholds they would offer when climbing.

Camera gear: DSLR, remote trigger, 2gig cf card, new aluminum 62” tripod.
Climbing gear: Harness, 60’ of ½” webbing, a sling, 4x etriers, 2 biners, a knife, and a sock.

I then hiked to the watertower, singing to myself to pass the time, and getting the bottom 6 inches of my pants covered in dew. Upon arriving at the site I clapped my hands and ordered the deer away with a pointed finger (it listened), took a piss, said a prayer (that I wouldn’t die / get screwed by the police), and went for it. As soon as my feet touched down my anxiety lessened to a typical amount – I was back on form. I brief jolt ran through me when each new type of machinery started, but this was traditional. Apart from a keypad on a locked storage building, with its “armed” red-eyed Cyclops of an indicator, I saw no signs of any alarm system. Hopefully they were assuming no one would be so brazen as we so clearly are.

My first plan was to climb one of the diagonal lines between legs to reach the (shielded) ladder, and then climb that until it was caged in the traditional fashion (and thus enterable). However, the diagonal lines connected every-other leg, as I learned upon examination, and I would have to be hanging 40’ above the ground before I got to the ladder. I then turned to my secondary plan, one that I had used several time to good effect – tossing a line over. A biner in a sock (noise deadening- watertowers are loud) at the end of the webbing was thrown up over a connection between the ladder and the tower. (it was intended that this should then fall down, and be tied down so that etriers could be pulled up in a chain, allowing a ladder to be formed). However, it got stuck (but returned the sock!). I tried climbing it singly, but it is impossible to tie another etrier in the line under tension. So I tried again with the other side, which also got stuck. After mistakenly trying to use them as a single line I realized that this gave me a way of having a slack line when I needed it, so after testing the strength of the hold (bouncing on the cords with all my weight) I gently (still not all that trusting in the connection) climbed one etrier, tied a second to the other line as far over my head as I could reach, and climbed that. I then knotted the first line as high again as I could reach and reclimbed it, and could reach the bottom of the ladder. Unfortunately, there was a locked cover on it, so I was forced to perform a ugly mid-air pullup-situp, the most strenuous move of the night – as I no longer trusted the lines now that tension had been removed.

I saved one biner and dropped the other, the webbing, etriers, sock and all, back to the ground. Now came the most dangerous portion of the night – climbing the outside of the cage. Handholds came easy, as I could easily reach through and grab the rungs of the ladder. Footholds were every three feet, or occasionally it was worth it to snake a foot through the cage and use the rungs of the ladder. It was a very ugly in a climbing-gym-rat sense of the word, too much upper body strength, only two points of contact at various times, but it worked. After slipping the bag off my shoulder I slid in the cage (the bars at this height were to keep workers in, not to keep climbers out.) Once on the ladder and said a quick “thank you I didn’t die prayer.” Prayer can be so simple and authentic sometimes.

Originally the plan had been to jump the fence, sprint up a wire, and then hide in the caged portion of the ladder, my white clothes camouflaging me as I waited the two minutes it would take between the police station and the tower (yes, I timed it). However, the many many throws needed to hook on (while staying away from the antenna wires on the opposite side of the ladder) made this a non-issue. I began climbing cautiously, hooking my arms through the bars, catching my breath. As I became comfortable (but not overcomfortable) I climbed the ladder normally, three points of contact, cautiously, keeping aware. Half way down I looked down and was impressed at the height. It was going to be a good night.

As I neared the top I noticed a glowing dot near what seemed to be a screen. I am inclined to say it was a pair of greens, although it was clearly red when I passed it. Fearing it was a camera, I pulled my shirt over my face, just in case. It wasn’t.

I squeezed through the hole at the top and felt born into a world of freedom and ease! A railing! A platform! No slide-to-your-death edge! It was a wonderful watertower indeed - until I heard the sirens. Happily, though, I realized that atop the tower you could hear the sirens from the whole city. Climbing the ladder, however, made it too hot for two shirts, so I stripped the bottom one off. I roped in with my sling and set about setting up my camera gear, and realized that my remote wouldn’t work with the current firmware on the camera. Oh well – I have a tripod. I should be able to avoid most of the jitters. Then I saw the cop car turn onto the road next to the tower, probably 150yards away. Frik…. But he’s in a convoy with two civilian cars? And they are going into the neighborhood where I parked??? It turns out he was responding to a house call, as he pulled into someone’s driveway and threw on his lights. Which I then took a picture of… WITH A FLASH. I almost hit myself. Way to be stealthy. Anyways, I took many pictures without a flash, of city lights, of lights on the radio tower, of cars traveling on the road nearby... hopefully some will turn out. I’ll post them up if they do.

I then moved around to the other side of the tower, looking to see my town, but the lay of the land and the size of my town (small) prevented anything more than a few radio towers from being visible. So I climbed higher up onto the top of the tower, above the equator (where I had been), to the platform for entering the tank. They had this locked down! That’s a welcome sign. It was nice to see some of the infrastructure secured. The vent on top was probably 4 feet high, larger than the 14inches the last tower had, and surrounded by antennas, so I stayed respectfully away. I set up my camera for a few more pictures, extending my tripod all the way and doing my best to get its feet firmly seated despite the fact that it was on a grate. It worked – well enough at least, and I took a few more pictures, including a nice shot showing that I was indeed atop the water tower. I pack up everything, say a quick “help me down safely” prayer – most mountaineering accidents occur on the way down – and see a plane heading right for me (well over). A small, low plane. I scramble down the first ladder - facing out for speed - and hide on the equator next to some wires and pipes as it passes, and it starts to turn some. That seems to me to imply they meant to get a good few, and I immediately set about leaving. The ladder is no issue, but then comes the tricky part as I need to get from the ladder-cage to the ground. Dropping is an option, but an option likely to roll and ankle – and that’s after I climb down the outside of the cage.

So I leave the way I intended to enter- sliding down the cables. A moment of “Hey, this is a stupid idea” hits me as I’m standing on the outside of the cage, back to the ladder, face toward the cable, but I know what my body is cable of, so I lean out, grab the cable and then kick my legs out to wrap around it. In the blink of an eye I decide not to tie my harness in and to just get down. 40 feet up. Hand over hand lowers me until I meet the first cable-cable crossing. My legs naturally glide from one to the next before I realize what I’m doing. Hand over hand the other way. 30 feet up. I cross over another joint, back again the way I started. I cross over a tensioner. 25 feet up. The cables cross again and I head back towards the original leg of the tower. 10 feet up. I drop to the ground.

I throw all the webbing in my bag and run to the fence, still curious about the plane which seems to be flying on into the distance. Could they have called me in? At the top of the fence there is an issue. Here’s some advice to everyone – don’t wear a harness on the spike-topped fences. I rip the cuff of my shirt but manage to untangle myself and leap down. I jog towards the road when I notice a plane, or is it a helicopter, in the distance, heading back in this direction. Considering the worst case scenario I stop under a tree, and switch shirts, blending in more to the environment, and remove my harness- blending in more with everyone else.

A leisurely stroll to the car, pretending to talk on my cell phone, and I determine its actually a much larger plane much farther out, but what do I care? I pray “thanks,” put on some chill music and drive home, windows open, music up, on top of the world.


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[last edit 9/27/2008 4:47 AM by MindHacker - edited 1 times]
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UER Forum > Journal Index > Boringly Titled by MindHacker > Watertowers... I think I have an addiction (Viewed 1621 times)


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