I think it is something closer to the latter.
I know a little about climbing buildings in New York. Eight years ago I climbed the 52-story New York Times building, free soloing -- which is how I have climbed buildings around the world for a quarter century -- without ropes and harnesses. I wore only climbing shoes and used chalk powder to help with my grip.
Steve from Virginia did something very different. What he did is not free soloing, and it doesn't impress me. Climbing a building with suction cups is safe, but the time it takes is a bit long and the climb is tedious and repetitive, especially as Steve used so many suction cups (it looked like six). That's probably why the guy didn't make it to the top.
(I should stress here that climbing the side of a building is dangerous and could get you killed. Don't try this at home.)
But Steve could have done it if he had the skill level.
For example, climbing the Times building 52 stories to the rooftop was an easy one for an experienced climber like me to do bare handed — but it had to be, as I was carrying a banner to fix to the top that read, "Global warming is killing more people every week than 9/11." I was arrested when I reached the top and charged with disorderly conduct.
Normally with bare hands a climb like the Trump Tower takes 30 minutes, and with suction cups one hour maximum. It is so much faster bare handed -- by the time the cops arrive the ascent is nearly finished. If Steve was using only his bare hands the cops would have never dared to arrest him mid-climb and endanger his life.
We are talking about climbing a building with some safety gear but without much purpose — at least based on what Steve has told police. Also, it's New York, where lawmakers have proposed an anti-Spidey law punishable for up to a year in jail. So it is a place hostile to such a climbing challenge.
And since the police broke a window to reach Steve and pull him inside the building on the 21st floor, I'm afraid that he may also get a big fine.
Actually I wanted myself to climb that particular building some years ago. I tried it a week after 9/11, when I was in New York. I had been planning to climb the World Trade Center, which I had scouted for a week in January 2000.
But after the 9/11 tragedy, since I was in New York with nothing to do, I checked out other potential buildings to climb, including the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue. And I saw that it was doable. I even climbed it at night, nearly 10 meters up and down only using my bare hands, and was not spotted.
My only concern was this level at the atrium where I knew that I could get caught by the cops.
But I have also had my share of climbing successes; I have climbed some really tough buildings in my life, including the Calico
in New York (also illegally), the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Blue Cross-Blue Shield building in Philadelphia, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is the tallest structure in the world.
I'm a five-time Guinness Book of World Records
holder for climbing the highest buildings in the world and for the greatest number of buildings ever climbed using only my bare hands.
We don't know much about Steve and why he climbs. But for myself, I started at the age of 11 by climbing my parents' seven-story building, as I hadn't my keys to get in. Shortly after, I started to climb some cliffs and mountains.
All along I have been fascinated by the idea of doing something courageous and potentially dangerous. And that is why free soloing is the only way to climb. Some 25 years ago I did some routes free solo that were nearly the maximum difficulty that people could climb with safety gear at that time. That means there was almost zero margin between the hardest climb I could do with a rope and without.
Now I'm much more reasonable. Getting older.