How, Exactly, a Climber Ascended 21 Stories Up Trump Tower

A climber is pulled into the building by police as he attempts an ascent of Trump Tower in New York, U.S., Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016.
Stephen Rogata is pulled into the building by police as he attempts an ascent of Trump Tower in New York, U.S., Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Cops have captured and apprehended the man who was caught scaling Trump Tower in New York City on Wednesday, and the climbing community has already trademarked the route.

Shortly after 4 p.m. on Wednesday, a man (who has been identified as Stephen Rogata from Virginia) used the fifth-floor atrium on the outside of the building to launch his attempted climb up the 58-story building. He used a strange combo of trad climbing gear and industrial suction cups to aid climbing up the sheer façade of the high-rise. Despite eluding law enforcement and climbing on, he only made it to the 21st floor before he was captured by NYPD around 5:30 p.m. and taken out on a stretcher to an NYC hospital for evaluation.

But before he was captured, the climbing community got to tune in and give their take on the situation. While he appeared to know what he was doing, the 20-year-old is no climbing phenom. “I can say that guy was not very pro — any good aid climber could have scaled the entire building in two hours,” Cedar Wright, professional climber and North Face athlete, says. “That being said, it was certainly fun to watch!”


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The climber used a traditional Petzl climbing harness attached to one or more of the suction cups at any given moment, so if he were to slip out of the webbing ladder he was creating to climb, the suction cups would catch his fall. He used a mechanical ascending device (most likely of the Jumar variety) to pull back any extra slack that would cause him to catch a whipper if he slipped, and was able to lean back in his harness to rest when needed.

While the climber was utilizing the well-known aid climbing method to scale, using suction cups isn’t a typical style in the climbing community. “I’ve climbed some buildings in my day, though never with suction cups,” Wright says, who followed along with the attempted summit with a live Facebook post and invited the climbing community to chime in on the stunt.

From what we can tell, the suction cups the climber was using are believed to be industrial versions of the typical glass-clinging mechanism — but with levers that allow the user to push the air out of the cup and create a stronger, airtight grip. It is unknown where the climber purchased the suction cups, but his harness, ropes, and webbing are all commonly found climbing necessities that you can purchase at any outdoor retailer, online, or in your climbing gym.


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Mountain Project has posted the Trump Tower route on their online database, dubbing it the “Suction Aid Route (C4 R 1,388 feet).” The description, instead of pitch data and rock summary, reads: 

"Ascend the tower with your handy suction cups, Watch for NYPD breaking windows to get you to stop. Start at the 5th floor and make your way up, by the time you hit the 10th floor a crowd will join and the NYPD would have put an airbag below you (Thus the R and not X rating)."

Although the true purpose of the climb is still unknown, the climber released a YouTube video the day before the climb under the username Leven Thumps. In the video, he addresses Trump and stated that he wanted to climb the tower to obtain a “private meeting” with the Republican candidate. Neither the suspect, nor the NYPD, has released the intention of this “meeting”—whether it was a political endeavor or personal passion, so the answer is still unclear. If he wasn't urban training for the 2020 Olympics, perhaps he was just trying to filch a steak from Trump Grill…


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