Meet Dom, the 20-year-old scaling skyscrapers to take photos for Instagram
‘I feel it wouldn’t be as much as a rush with a harness, I like that feeling of being on the edge’
When he was 18, Dom and his friend Jack decided to climb to the top of a crane with no harness. He was was 120m up a when he realised how high up he was: “The feeling that rushed through me is something I will never forget, it was almost like I could feel my fear of heights leaving my body – it turned into a passion for heights.”
Dominic Chentrens, 20 years old from north London, started climbing tall structures and buildings soon after he left school. He is now part of the ‘Urbex’ community, which is short for ‘urban exploration’. The hashtag has 2.42 million posts on Instagram, and rising. The concept is to scale man-made buildings, ruins or abandoned structures, to capture a fresh perspective of cities.
He tells The Tab how he embarked on his first climb: “I was on my way back home at the time when I first spotted it. It was one of the only cranes in my area that I had seen for a long time so I wanted to take full advantage of it. I got home and quickly called my friend Jack and told him about it and asked whether he would be interested in trying to climb it with me. It was the first climb I ever did, we decided to go back and climb it later that night.
“I mentioned it to my parents and they were shocked but told me to be extra careful, my dad even offered to buy me a harness. We arrived at the site and we were all pretty nervous but we all wanted to overcome our fear, and our motivation and drive to get to the top was a lot bigger than our fear.”
He climbed it with three of his friends from school, Jack, Ana and Ellie. They got to the top and managed to climb into the cab of the crane: “The door was just left open which was quite lucky, usually they are locked”.
This was the beginning of his addiction to free-climbing to great heights: “It was about two years ago now. I kept seeing bits and pieces pop up on Instagram and YouTube of people climbing and hanging off cranes and buildings. I immediately knew that would be something I would enjoy doing. The rush you get from doing it is like nothing else.
“There is often a group of us that get together to do it, we all have the same reasons and beliefs towards it.”
I asked him if what he’s doing is considered illegal: “From what I’ve heard and read, trespassing in the UK is only a Civil Offence. I do believe there are some consequences but nothing too major. Nothing I worry about anyway.
“It depends on what kind of entry is required, sometimes you’ll have to scale a lift shaft in order to get to the stairwell, or avoid certain security guards.”
Although he’s had some near misses with security It’s been close a couple of times, he’s never been ‘caught’ or removed from a building. “I’ve been chased out of a few buildings by security who have threatened to call the police, but nothing major. I’m always a lot quicker at running and climbing then they are anyway”.
No harnesses or fallback equipment is used, “It’s just me and my hands. I feel it wouldn’t be as much of a rush with a harness.
“I like that feeling of being on the edge, it makes me value my life much more.”
The highest building Dom has climb is the Scalpel, he tells me, a new building going up in the Bank area which stood at around 50 stories when he climbed it. The completed building now stands at 623 feet.
“The scalpel is definitely a climb I would like to re-visit in the near future, its gained a lot more height since I last visited. That makes me want to go back.”
It’s evidently a dangerous hobby, with the risk element being a key factor in the reason more and more people are climbing, for the adrenaline.
Dom says he is yet to experience any too-close-for-comfort moments. “I like to keep pushing my comfort zone as far as I can. I feel the urge to get higher and higher every time I go.”
As well as heights, he also explores depths:
“This is my favourite photo.”
When I asked him where it is, he tells me, “the best I can give you is somewhere under North London.
“I wouldn’t say it has to be kept a secret, but for the research and effort that is put into accessing and gaining entry to these places you wouldn’t want to give it away to everyone, it would make the shot less unique as everyone would have the same photo.
“That one is an abandoned tunnel, but you do have to walk across live train tracks to get to it, yes.”
I ask him what his parents think, and he tells me he gets asked that a lot, laughing: “At first they were skeptical about it and didn’t really understand it to the full extent. However, the more times I went, the more they grew to understand that it was what I wanted to do. My photography is what I enjoy the most and they understand that now.
“They obviously still worry but i get their approval to go ahead with it.”
At the moment, Dom is travelling the world: “I recently got back from Asia and I’m off to Canada again in about a months time. I plan to keep on travelling for another year and pushing my photography and Instagram as hard as I can till I hopefully get some work out of it.
“I wouldn’t class it as my job as I’m not being paid for it yet, however hopefully in the future if I work hard enough it can become my full time job. But no, at the moment it’s just a hobby for me, keeps me busy and I couldn’t think of anything else I would rather be doing with my spare time.”
The Urbex community stretches further than London. When Dom went on holiday to Vietnam, he reached out to people he hoped could show him around their city: “This is a crazy boy I met in Hanoi, Vietnam. I messaged him through Instagram when I was out there to see if he would be able to show me around the rooftops – little did I know the things he was capable of doing.”
He funds his travels making money from “some part-time work, buying and selling clothes and some income from my parents as well.”
He will continue to travel with his girlfriend and friends, meeting people who share his passion around the world.
“I’m having an amazing time, I’ve fallen in love with experiencing different cultures and visiting new places, always living the next day as if it were my last.”