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May 6

Fleeting Wonders: Climbers Caught Scaling the Eiffel Tower

View from the edge. (Photo: Fidelio/WikiCommons CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

A few evenings ago, dressed in sneakers, slacks, and a magenta sweater, a British freeclimber and his friend casually scaled the Eiffel Tower. Later, as the sun began to rise over Paris, the two hid in crooks in the metal framework, while French security teams lit up the entire edifice in an effort to track them down.

Their punishment, when finally apprehended by authorities? An oath not to climb the national landmark again for three entire years. Their reward? Eternal glory, and over a million views on their YouTube video in two days.

In the video, filmed by 25 year-old James Kingston with the help of a selfie stick, you can climb along with them. They begin in the dark of night, their bodies entirely untethered as they navigate upwards. You can hear their measured breathing as they balance their sneakered feet on metals bars a few inches wide, along edges that end with several hundred-foot drops. It’s like you’ve entered the secret realm of a real-life James Bond, who has swapped his tux for a YouTuber’s wardrobe.

At an elevation of 896 feet (total height of the Eiffel Tower: 984 feet), the two climbers open a door to a well-lit platform. Suddenly, the sound of French voices over walkie talkies reverberates off the walls, and they immediately retreat. The wind whooshes by as night fades; cars rev in the distance and Paris awakes. Kingston and his buddy continue to teeter along as the first elevator of the day starts to ascend.

Staring up the Eiffel Tower. (Photo: ewiemann/WikiCommons CC BY 2.0)

They were finally spotted at 9 a.m. and detained in the local police station for around six hours. This wasn’t Kingston’s first climbing-related detainment–a year ago, he was caught scurrying up Dubai’s 101-story Princess Tower. According to his website, Kingston, “unable to attain his creative potential through the constraints of an oppressive educational system,” has redirected his energy into climbing massive structures, which include London’s Wembley Arch, Ukraine’s Dnipro Towers, and an enormous chimney in Germany. He never has any ropes, and he always makes sure to snap an epic selfie. 

With authorities doling out barely a slap on the wrist, are others going to start seeing the iconic structure as a climbing playground? Just two months ago, in September, the area was evacuated when a man hoisting a rucksack was seen scaling the tower. 

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to [email protected].