Russian free climbers: seeking thrills in unusual places

With more than 30 million hits on YouTube, two Russian climbers astonished the world with a video, which showed them free-climbing the unfinished Shanghai Tower in China, which is at a height of 650 meters.

Makhorov, perched on the 100th floor of the Shanghai Tower. Photo credit to Vadim Makhorov.

Makhorov, perched on the 100th floor of the Shanghai Tower. Photo credit to Vadim Makhorov.


Apparently this is not the first time that Vadim Makhorov and Vitaly Raskalov made headlines with their daring climbs—according to CNN, the duo climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and had to apologize afterwards for climbing the ‘ancient monument’.

Watch here this breathtaking yet terrifying video of the duo, filmed with head-mounted cameras, as they appear to scale the tower with ease.

What is not surprising is that these guys made national headlines in various parts of the globe. Major news websites such as the Huffington Post, Fox News, the Guardian, and many others made sure to report this story because of its terrifying but beautiful pictures and film footage. What started out as a simple love for photography, grew into something much more fascinating with this added element of danger, which sets their photos apart from others’.

I was quite interested with the men’s blogs, because from their blogs I was able to gain better insight to what they were thinking during the climb, and understand the motive for their journey to Shanghai, and other places. Makhorov’s blog (very well written in Russian, and just as fabulously translated into English) contains the video of his climb, with a promise to post about the details of the climb in his next blog. What’s even better is that his blog has all kinds of great photographs, from the places he and Raskalov visited for various reasons. My favorite picture on his blog is the one taken in Switzerland.


Photo taken in Switzerland, as part of Makhorov's trip to Europe. This is called the Valley of 72 Waterfalls.

Photo taken in Switzerland, as part of Makhorov’s trip to Europe. This is called the Valley of 72 Waterfalls. Photo credit to Vadim Makhorov.

Raskalov’s blog is very lively. With a tag line like “Throw away your brilliant career and start living!” you can tell this guy loves adventure. Raskalov says that it took them two hours to climb the tower, and they chose to climb it during the time of the Chinese New Year celebration, because they knew that what they knew the guards would not be around to stop them.

I somehow managed to find a interview between Nikita Lihachev, a writer on, and Raskalov, who as it turns out actually has Ukrainian citizenship! On the next few lines I am including parts of the interview (translated by yours truly) which I found to be most interesting.

Raskalov: In reality, we are unknown in the Russian Internet. In comparison to how we are viewed by the rest of the world, here, it is all different (here, as in Russia). In Germany, every dog knows about us.

Tjournal: They don’t like to give you PR in Russia?

Raskalov: Right, and we don’t really cooperate with Russia, because here are bunch of *assholes* in the likes of NTV and LifeNews. We tell them: hey dudes, we have a video, and they: “We give you PR, and you still want money? You are the ones who should give us money. We just want to make you famous.” Meanwhile, CNN, Fox News, NBC, BBC and a ton of other channels are buying our videos.

Tjournal: Did you return to Ukraine after you were deported? (on December 7, Raskalov was deported from Russia for 5 years, after he was detained in the airport Sheremetyevo.)

Raskalov: To Kiev, yes. Cheered on Maidan there.

Tjournal: Don’t you have Russian citizenship?

Raskalov: If I would have had Russian citizenship, constitutionally they wouldn’t have the right to not let me into my own country. I have a Ukrainian passport, to which, I am actually glad. Nobody can stop me for all of my pranks in Russia, because I am a foreigner. The maximum punishment for me was deportation.  And in Ukraine the people take these things more lightly: well you trespassed, what is there to do about that. I was caught by the police only once, and this is all that was said: “What, where did you climb? You are an idiot.”

“Самая пиковая точка наслаждения — когда ты спускаешься со здания, тебя палят, ты прячешься, тебя ищут 2-3 часа, ты умудряешься убежать и выйти сухим из воды. К сожалению, так бывает нечасто.”     -The highest point of pleasure is when you are climbing down from a building, you’re being chased, you hide, they search for you 2-3 hours, and you somehow manage to run away and get away with it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. -Makhorov (credit to Tjournal)

Tjournal: And you didn’t have any difficulty (with security, while climbing the Shanghai Tower)? No access levels, locks, or security?

Raskalov: Dude, it’s construction. It was more difficult for us to climb on residential housing  in Shanghai, than on this tower. We had to sleep on the top for 18 hours. When we climbed up, there was a thick fog. At first it was *shitty*, but we waited for an hour, and the fog wasn’t dissipating. We went to sleep and during the sunset we climbed onto the crane for exactly an hour, while it was clear, and then everything was foggy again.


To continue reading the rest of this fascinating interview, you can do so by clicking on the hyperlink I provided above. You will find out many things about these young men. For example, their names aren’t even Vadim Makhorov and Vitaly Raskalov. They use fake names, so they can evade heavier punishment when they are caught for trespassing.

I am extremely fascinated with this free-climbing business.. I know that there are other Russians and enthusiasts all over the world who risk their lives just to show everyone else breathtaking photos from their adventures, and who of course want a minute in the spotlight. I am 100% sure that this is not the last time that we will hear of these dare-devils.