Please steer clear of this article if you’re afraid of heights. Even the pictures will make most of us dizzy. Adrenaline junkies are everywhere in society. From racecar drivers, to base jumpers and rock climbers, to skydivers, there is no shortage of people who would rather end up as a pulpy red stain on the black top than live a life of safety and comfort. They are the very definition of people with a death wish.
A more extreme craze has shown up on the internet in recent years; that of daredevil urban climbing. People who race cars have seat belts and safety gear. Skydivers have parachutes and backup parachutes. These urban climbers? They arrive at some of the most harrowing heights in the world with nothing but their good intentions to save them should they make a mistake. Their behinds literally hang out in the wind. You’d have to clean them up with a shovel and you’d be able to slide them under the door to the morgue if they fell. It’s just that insane and dangerous.
The most famous of these modern day Evel Knievels (1970s reference–look it up) is a man named Pavlo Ushivets. He is known more widely as the Mustang or Mustang Wanted. The reason for his shady moniker and one of the main differences between his hobby and other extreme sports is that urban climbing is almost universally illegal. Risking death or arrest doesn’t sound like a good time to us but, hey, whatever skins your bunny.
Here are 15 tributes to a few modern day wing-walkers (1910s reference–look it up) who thrill us, frighten us and make us look up constantly when we’re walking in any city’s downtown area.
15. Angela Nikolau: Where pigeons fear to tread
So, you’re an attractive 20-something year old girl looking for a fun time on a Sunday afternoon. Bowling? Boring. See a movie? Naaah. Climb so high on a building that if you spit it would cause a hail sized dents in the dozens of cars below? That sounds great!
This photo was taken on the decorative super-structure of a building in Spain. Angela seems to have no worries as she gleams up at a camera most likely held by her boyfriend and fellow climber Ivan. She also appears not to have peed her pants which, let’s admit it, most of us would have done several hundred feet before. Her hair indicates that its at least a little windy up there but her thoughts are simply fixed on taking a breathtaking picture. How did she get down, you ask? Our wager is: carefully.
14. Mustang Wanted: Trusting people
Unless you’re in a service or construction industry, we wouldn’t expect you to know what a “cold weld” is. For his sake, old Mustang might want to look into it. A cold weld happens when the temperature of the two mating metals does not reach the proper level to assure adhesion over time. They’re impossible to identify and often do not show themselves for months or even years. When they become known, it’s because whatever they were joining together has failed catastrophically.
Mustang Wanted obviously has the utmost confidence in his own ability to balance on these structures. And its one thing to count on yourself. But trusting that a guy wasn’t having a bad day when he welded this orange strap to that joist several years ago is altogether different. This picture makes it a real possibility that the last sounds he would ever hear was the “dink” of breaking slag and his head hitting the pipes on the way down.
13. Yaroslav Kolchin: Skyline
Some polls have been posted to decide on a popular name for this activity and “King Konging” appears to have the nod. This photo makes that comparison clear.
Kolchin enjoys large bustling cities like Manhattan and Hong Kong. There he seems to find the most harrowing and jaw-dropping opportunities to practice his version of suicidal photography. Skyscrapers all clustered together do give the photos a lego kit quality that isn’t really present in smaller, less urban settings. In fact, the surrealistic quality of Kolchin’s photos lead some to accuse him of photo-shopping some of his alleged exploits. That was until he started getting arrested. There have in fact been many witnesses to this climber’s exploits and it has gotten him into some hot legal water in a few locations. Like John Dillinger, though, the consequences matter little to him. These guys climb as a way of life and as soon as he’s able, Kolchin is scaling buildings again.
12. Kirill Oreshkin: How the heck did he get up there?
Most of these daredevils have taken tremendous and beautiful pictures of their exploits. All of them are nuts. But few leave you scratching your head about how they even arrived at the spot. On his website, Oreshkin doesn’t divulge exactly where this one takes place (smart) but it’s obvious that it is at the top of a tower which has a decorative spire made out of tile. Or something else very smooth. Looking about, it is unclear what he would even grab in order to scale the part just below him. The flat spaces appear barely large enough to accommodate his feet. Beneath those…not much. At least rock climbers aren’t climbing a smooth surface. It would seem that any amount of moisture–be it sweat or dew or whatever–would cause this surface to be really slippery. Of course it is possible he was bitten by a radioactive spider. If not, we’re certain this photo entailed a few more risks than even he is used to.
11. Angela Nikolau: Pinpoint
Ever hear the phrase “Angels dancing on the head of a pin”? Here’s one. Not a thing to hold on to. Our brave beauty stands atop something that looks like a gigantic, upside down AA battery on top of a waffle iron. No handles. No rails. Just her and fate, subject to the will of the gods. The inclusion of vehicles on the street below gives an incredible indication of the height of her endeavor. This little lady couldn’t weigh 115 pounds. That serves to make her even more susceptible to the winds which normally swirl at such heights. She really ought to put a flashing red light on the end of that selfie-stick to warn approaching aircraft. We have to wonder if she ever takes any bulbs and changes the lights while she’s up there.
10. Mustang Wanted: Dangling
This gent does NOT have trust issues. This time he has placed his existence in the hands of a friend who is on a bridge pier. The bridge itself seems to be a “mere” 150 or so feet below. But when you look at the trees and people on the ground below the bridge, you realize the rest of the drop is insane. This is not the time to tell your friend about the time you hooked up with his sister. Of course, they really are trusting each other to a degree because ole Mustang could almost as easily wiggle and jerk until his friend also lost his balance. The headline would read, “Two piles of bloody pulp found floating by bridge.” Hey, we are talking about internet popularity here. It’s totally worth it. The last thing that would go through his brain would be…his shoes.
9. Mustang Wanted: Room for one more
Yeah, you could probably get another guy on there. Since you’re ignoring the load bearing properties of a steel pipe you might as well go all out. From a distance, this scene must resemble a giant toilet brush. Mustang Wanted is not one to selfishly hoard his dangerous stunts. Oh, no. Bring a friend, they said. It will be fun, they said. We wonder if they were to all stack to one side and try to bend the pole if they could sling shot themselves to the edge of that highway. It’s raining men! Hallelujah! (1980s reference…do we have to say it?)
8. Mustang Wanted: Blue movie
This gentleman needs to get credit on multiple levels. First off, he’s pretty good at what he does. Beyond that, he is not a bad artist, arranging both the colors and objects of his photos in aesthetically pleasing ways. Perhaps most importantly though, Mustang does stuff for free that Hollywood stuntmen do for money and Hollywood actors pretend to do for far more money. This is a scene straight out of a Jason Bourne movie. All that is missing is some helicopters whizzing about and guys dressed in black-ops vests firing fully automatic rifles at him as he scrambles toward the top. But even the best production designers and special effects crews in LA-LA Land rarely place such an eye-pleasing scene on the screen. Instead of trying to arrest such a clearly talented subject, perhaps someone should hire him and everyone could make money.
7. Angela Nikolau: A bridge too far (up)
At least they’re actually hanging onto something. That’s real progress. Of course, not satisfied with climbing the bridge tower, they went up the antenna as well. And since antennae are not rated to support the weight of humans, we would hope this was a very short stop.
Our gorgeous adventurer appears again, this time atop a bridge pier with her lesser half. Another well-conceived visual impression, the semi-circular moorings on either side of the tower along with the contrasting straight lines of the wires make the eye wander all over this offering. Of course it still arrives back at Angela as she again gleams upwards at her camera. One has to wonder if cars from a great distance can see the tiny orange spots on the pier. Drivers might wonder what it was as they moved toward it, with very little chance of arriving at “two kids taking pictures.”
6. Kirill Oreshkin: In the slot
Spider monkeys have got nothing on this guy. Oreshkin has a serene but serious look on his face while he hangs between the separated floor of a tower walkway. We hope one of those parking spaces below him are reserved. Hate to dent someone’s 2016 Fiat. One of the prime reasons this pastime is so alluring to its fans is the simplicity. You can’t go to Johnny Mac’s and buy building-dangling equipment. To date, no one has come up with a specialized daredevil harness. Probably a good idea because they wouldn’t use it anyway. T-shirts, tennis shoes, jeans–in this case cheap white gloves. That’s all you need to possess in order to take up this hobby. Oh, and a death wish. Can’t forget that. We’re not really sure if they are adrenaline junkies like their extreme-sports cousins. You rarely see such a peaceful look on the face of a skydiver. And he has a parachute.
5. Angela Nikolau: Acrobat
Now she’s just showing off. Let’s list all the things in this photo we couldn’t possibly do. There’s flying in a jet to the exotic location, climbing to wherever that ledge is, doing a handstand and not puking our guts out. Quite a few.
It must be nice to be so flexible. Most Americans would break into multiple pieces trying to touch the back of their head with their heel. What’s the matter, Angela? No backflip? No full two and a half twisting layout with a rounded backheld pike? (Yeah, we just made that up.) Some things in this world do defy conventional thinking and her ability to balance on the ledge while concentrating on keeping her weight evenly distributed borders on superhuman. With some practice she could likely earn a living as a Circus performer. However, most Circuses do not have Big Tops with ceilings 900 feet tall.
4. Mustang Wanted: Tower of strength
Nice color composition on this one. And the tree effect even gives an impression that the tower is spinning. This one appears to be a radio or power station in a more suburban setting. Since most of these photos are taken in parts of the former Soviet Union, they simply must be done in the summer because that is one area known for freezing temperatures. We can only imagine him doing this in sub-zero temperatures with ice covering the rungs of the tower. Honestly–at this point, would it surprise anyone? Or perhaps another level of difficulty. Grease? Hurricane force winds? Maybe he could climb to the top of a similar structure during an earthquake? It has to be a bit harder balancing on something that’s swaying back and forth like a metronome, doesn’t it? We still think he’d do it.
3. Angela Nikolau and Kirill Oreshkin: Window Cleaners
No they’re not actually on a window washing platform. But this image gives a sense of what those jobs entail. A shear drop such as this might be the most terrifying possibility for those of us scared of heights. When visiting the observation deck of the Empire State building in New York City, you look out over the wall through the extra-thick glass and see the beautiful landscape created by the many skyscrapers in Manhattan. Then, when you walk to that wall and peer straight down, realizing that you are 20 or so inches from a fall which would take several minutes to complete, your skin begins to crawl. But not our heroes. They exist in this vacuum of space with nary a thought of their own mortality. It gives those like us a little more courage. But we still ain’t looking over that wall.
2. Angela Nikolau: ATLiens
Now throw your hands in the air
And wave ’em like you just don’t care
And if you like fish and grits and all that pimp ***t
Everybody let me hear you say Oh-Ye-Yer
Not the most shocking location for Angela but who wouldn’t want to watch her dance on top of a building wearing that skirt? No, that’s not the Taj Mahal in the background. She’s not in India but has found yet another eastern European city to decorate from above. Sometimes, you just want to climb onto power couplers and go crazy, ya know? That or you want to imitate the Russian women’s high-dive champion from last summer’s Olympics. Our wager is Angela was just fooling around and her boyfriend thought it too good a shot to pass up.
1. Mustang Wanted: Balance beam
Crazy. Nuts. Preposterous. Ill-conceived. Loony. Nonsensical. Ludicrous. Ridiculous. Imbecilic. In case you’re not grasping the idea and to make use of an easy pun–the guy is unbalanced.
Poised on what appears to be the same steeple that Oreshkin climbed in entry number 12 above, Mustang can’t just enjoy the view. No, he insists on walking to the furthest perch from anything his hands could reach and capturing his delusions on a memory chip. The surface he is standing on seems to be as wide as his foot, giving him maybe four to six inches of grace before he plummets. The level of concentration required to do this is pretty far beyond what even Olympic gymnasts possess, since they won’t likely perish if they fall four feet onto padding. He is looking down, though, so points off for that. It would be terrifying to see the dismount.