We parked our car on the side of a muddy road, paved with litter, old boxes and plastic pipes. What a landfill. The road hadn’t seen a maintenance in decades. Next to us, we saw some unlucky fences which were not going to be hard to get over. Still, we had no information how to actually get in where we were going - to an old, abandoned cooling tower built in 1921. Luckily, we had some local help with us, to guide us. The tower had served a large coal plant nearby, but has been scheduled for a demolition. We’d seen dozens of pictures from inside the tower and they were undoubtedly impressive.
We reached the base of the tower and were guided to the place where we could climb inside the tower - not through the top but through a hole between ground and the standing deck. The climb was around 6 metres using old concrete covered planks as ladder. I was the first to go. I climbed with one of the back bags on, carrying multiple lenses and other gear with me. As I started to reach the standing deck, I realized that I wasn’t able to climb the last ladder with my back bag on because reaching the last grip required some turning and twisting. So back down I went. We all climbed up one after another and used a rope to haul all the gear up. That was much more convenient. There was a touch of discomfort when I looked down, but it was part of the fun.
The sight in the standing deck was worth the effort. Moss covered structures on the ground and magnificent tall tower reaching for the sky created an odd, symmetrical perspective. We estimated the height to be somewhere between 50 and 70 metres, so it did made us feel quite puny. As we talked, echoes followed us in the cool air. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only crew inside, but it was nice to have a small chat with some fellow explorers.
Photographs looked good, and we decided to lift the drone up in the air inside the tower. It had to be done inside the tower, because the thick concrete walls would most probably block or interfere with the control signal. Although the light wasn’t problem with the photos, ambient light was weak for the drone messing it’s safety sensors - so we had to be careful because the drone’s automatic safety features wouldn’t stop it if it would drift close to a wall. It would be a long fall. From the heights, the standing platform and the structure looked something of a scifi-movie. We smiled when we saw the image from our controller. After a while, we were done and it was time to head back outside.
The atmosphere inside the tower was unique and was strengthened by the climb. This visit reminded us of how important it is to mind our gear and prepare for challenging situations. Ropes, lights, good boots and gloves are essential, especially in industrial sites where metal and concrete are the dominant materials. There are always risks involved, but good gear can help to overcome them. Just walking in inside an abandoned building is a good way to start a day, but really making an effort to reach an unique spot makes your day. It is good to be careful, but being too careful makes you stay at home.
K.P / 3.1.2019