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On Monday, March 7, Leo Urban and Alexis Landot free soloed Montparnasse Tower to show solidarity with Ukraine.
The 689-foot building is the sole skyscraper in Paris, second in height only to the Eiffel Tower. The two climbers had been planning the solo for the past year. After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, they decided to dedicate the climb to the Ukrainian people.
“Leo has friends in Ukraine. I know some people in Ukraine. It’s really near our home and it’s getting scary,” says Landot. “To be honest, we’re now scared of what Russia will do next. On a human level, we want to say that we feel solidarity with Ukraine. We want to make a symbol to show that we protest. That we are together in this.”
The two climbers took 52 minutes to ascend Montparnasse Tower. They wore yellow and blue and climbed with the Ukrainian flag, planting it on the building’s top facade.
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Urban, 28, started climbing four, maybe five years ago, he said. But he’s been practicing parkour since he was 11. Known as the “French Tarzan,” Urban works as a Youtuber and extreme sports athlete, posting videos of his urban free solo ascents, and what he calls primal style, which involves parkour in the woods, running barefoot through forests and atop boulder fields. He said he averages five to six skyscraper free solos a year.
Landot, 22, is still in school. He’s been climbing for the past 14 years, and he started soloing buildings two years ago.
“I think it’s in my nature to be really scared of things that I can’t control,” says Landot. “I’m always scared to lose my family and the people that I love in something like a car crash or in an accident …. And I think that’s the thing that scares me most in life. That’s why I do urban climbing without any protections, because I feel 100 percent control over my life. I see danger coming, and I prepare for it, and I overcome it with my ability. So it’s the exact opposite of my fears, you know. It’s like a search for control of my life.”
“We choose this moment,” echoes Urban.
They met because, as Landot puts it, “Well, there’s not a lot of people that climb skyscrapers in Paris.” They add that they always get arrested when they climb skyscrapers, but “the police are always really nice in France.”
The day of their solo of Montparnasse Tower, about 200 people showed up to watch and show support. If the ascent had to have a grade, both climbers agreed it could be 5c or 6a (5.10a). Neither were too nervous; they had both soloed the building before. And prior to soloing the full height of it, they had practiced on the lower level, going up and down until they’d done more than twice the building’s height.
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Urban and Landot used their solo to direct attention to their fundraiser, which is hosted on Tipeee (a French GoFundme). The money will be donated to Ukrainian war victims, although the exact nonprofit or organization has yet to be picked.
“This could get worse and we are scared of this,” says Landot. “So we want to raise awareness of this as much as we want to honor the strength and bravery of the Ukrainian people.”
Hopeful, he adds: “Russia thought invading Ukraine would be much easier. But Ukrainian soldiers are fighting back really well. I can hope that they will fight back enough to really push Russian soldiers away. I know Russia is much bigger than Ukraine. They have a lot of firepower, so I can only hope that Ukraine will stay Ukraine—that Ukraine will not become Russia.”