Stunt climbing double for Escher Holloway (Spider)
My assignment was to climb up the face of the beautifully sculpted Granite Building in downtown Pittsburgh. I couldn’t use any of the most prominent structures on the face because of their age and architectural quality. This meant the best rock climbing “holds” were off limits. My costume added some difficulty as well. The Converse shoes I wore were correct for the movie’s period, but flimsy, slick and basically useless for any type of moves that resemble climbing. For the shoot, this was a good thing because I had to climb like a young guy would, not a rock climber. It also meant that I couldn’t use any climbing techniques normally used for pulling over a ledge or wedging my fingers into cracks.
When I climbed to the second ledge, I discovered an interesting climbing problem. I needed to reach a balcony, which overhung the building face by nearly three feet. That’s when I thought, “If I were this young guy, I’d be thinking this exact problem. I think I would look elsewhere first.” I shuffled my hands as I traversed the ledge. Nothing there. I shuffled back to the balcony, paused for a moment, then grabbed the pillar in front of me. I clamped my legs onto the pillar like a bronco bull and shuffled my legs and hands until I could grab the balcony lip. Here, it was all upper-body strength. I hoisted myself onto the lip then rolled my body.
I’d been instructed to come directly up and through the window. However, I’d gotten so much into my character that I was still thinking, “What would a kid do?” and forgot the plan. I saw a “weakness” in the building that would allow me to shove my shoulder into a large space. This technique is called a “chimney” or “squeeze” and is used in many big climbing areas like Yosemite. I thought it would work well because it’s not a graceful-looking move and would allow me to peer inside the window, which a kid might do before breaking into a room.
I pulled the moves, slid open the window and slithered into the room. The immediate applause from the street gave me relief and satisfaction. The beautiful building and the cool conditions made it a memorable climb.