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French athlete sets new record climbing Eiffel Tower with one rope, reaches 110 meters

As I descended, the applause and screams grew louder. I scanned the crowd and saw my brother with tears streaming down his face, my grandparents beaming with pride, my friends cheering me on, and the public—a sea of faces. And there, at the center of it all, stood my mom with arms wide open, waiting for me.

  • 1 week ago
  • June 6, 2024
8 min read
Anouk Garnier of France set a new world record by climbing 110 meters of the Eiffel Tower on a rope in Paris. | Photo courtesy of Anouk Garnier's Team Anouk Garnier of France set a new world record by climbing 110 meters of the Eiffel Tower on a rope in Paris. | Photo courtesy of Anouk Garnier's Team
France's Anouk Garnier celebrates the new world record set by climbing 110 meters of the Eiffel Tower on a rope in Paris on April 10, 2024.
JOURNALIST’S NOTES
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Anouk Garnier is an elite steeplechase athlete and sports coach. She is a two-time world champion in the steeplechase and managed to climb the Eiffel Tower using a free-hanging rope, breaking the world record by climbing 110 meters. She is tireless; in her own words, whenever she sets her mind to something, she gives 150 percent. She juggles daily with the different manifestations of the same passion: to surpass herself through physical activity. Garnier has been selected to carry the Olympic torch, representing France, at the ceremony of the Olympic Games in Paris.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Buildering, or urban climbing, is the act of scaling buildings, bridges, monuments, and other artificial structures scattered throughout cities. The term “buildering” is derived from a combination of “boulder” and “building.” This type of climbing is also known as edificeering, structuring, skywalking, or simply urban climbing. Some ascents are associated with solo or free solo climbing, where climbers scale buildings of considerable heights without ropes or protection. It is also linked to bouldering; in most cases, climbers attempt complex moves and difficult sequences close to the ground using a few crash pads for protection.
Read more: What is Buildering? | WOGU | Climbing Culture (woguclimbing.com)

PARIS, France — In 2022, I achieved the prestigious title of double world champion in steeplechase. [According to the Olympics, steeplechase is a “track event where participants overcome various obstacles – fixed barriers and water jumps – during the course of a 3000m race.”]

Holding the medal in hand, I yearned for a new challenge. Then, I learned about Mathilde Steensgaard and Thomas Van Tonder, who hold records in rope climbing at 26 meters and 90 meters at the Copenhagen Opera House, respectively. Hearing about their feats, I thought, “That’s not much! What monument could I climb?” 

The answer came swiftly: the Eiffel Tower, France’s most iconic structure. I began to dream about conquering it, not just for personal glory but for a cause dear to my heart. I witnessed my mother’s incredible fight, battling cancer every day. Inspired by her strength, I decided to climb the Eiffel Tower to raise funds for the League Against Cancer [a public interest association dedicated to assisting cancer patients]. 

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From dreams to reality: climbing the Eiffel Tower 

From a young age, I embraced outdoor adventures and gymnastics, climbing trees and mastering spins, jumps, and pirouettes. My competitive spirit drove me to strive for the best, and I eagerly put in the hard work to achieve it. Thus, I set my sights on the Eiffel Tower, a long-held dream.

I embarked on rigorous training, focusing on endurance. For a year, I dedicated my life to eating, training, and sleeping. No weather deterred me. I ran at dawn, through rain or snow, and climbed ropes for kilometers, feeling my body grow stronger each day. 

On April 10, 2024, a radiant Wednesday morning, tears welled up in my eyes as I stood before the Eiffel Tower. My mother, standing before me, took my hands, looked into my eyes, and gestured toward my dream. The weight of the moment overwhelmed me, and excitement surged through my veins. 

I took a deep breath, embraced my mother, and donned a lifeline and harness, ready to embark on my adventure before an audience of hundreds. After warming up and ensuring the technical setup with my team, I put on my headphones and let Hans Zimmer’s “Time” envelop me. The music infused me with incredible energy and emotion, propelling me forward as I took the first step and began my ascent. I climbed with my breath-synchronized to the epic music and to my heartbeat. My limbs moved in harmony, all converging into a single, rhythmic dance. 

The breathtaking view from the Eiffel Tower took the woman back to her childhood 

As I began my ascent, I smoothly climbed the first 10 meters until I noticed the safety rope entangling with the climbing rope. Concerned but determined not to panic, I halted my climb. Suspended mid-air, I sought assurance from my team. They meticulously checked everything like a pit crew in Formula 1 and signaled me to proceed. 

With each upward movement, my team gathered the slack rope below, allowing me to hook my feet and alleviate the burden of its 70-kilo weight. This teamwork proved crucial as the intensity of the climb escalated. Approaching the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, my muscles fatigued at an alarming rate, my heart raced, and I felt hindered. 

From an early age, Anouk Garnier enthusiastically pursued outdoor adventures and gymnastics. | Photo courtesy of Anouk Garnier’s Team

The biting cold of the day exacerbated my muscle congestion and fatigue, inflicting pain and fear within me. I paused, hanging by a thread, to gather my strength and courage. Amidst the vastness, I was struck by the sheer beauty around me. The breathtaking view, the gentle caress of the wind, the cloudless blue sky, the city sprawling beneath the tower’s grandeur—it all transported me back to my childhood. Perching atop a tree, I felt on top of the world.

In that moment of awe, thoughts of my mother’s enduring journey, her struggles, and the warmth of her embrace when I leaped into her arms filled me with resolve. I was reminded of the significance of reaching the finish line, not just for myself, but for her as well. This climb was more than a physical challenge; it was a testament to my mental fortitude and endurance. 

Maintaining composure: battling panic amid the Eiffel Tower ascent 

As I embarked on the unique challenge of climbing the Eiffel Tower’s rope, I committed to taking brief pauses every 10 moves to manage the discomfort that impeded my progress. These moments of reflection allowed me to find a rhythm and maintain focus on the present. They reminded me of the singular opportunity before me: a climb no one else had attempted. Embracing my fortune, I pressed on with determination. 

Time waned, and the ascent grew more intense. I struggled to grasp the rope and communicate with my team; emotion choked my voice. Panic began to set in, but I knew I needed to remain composed during these pivotal moments. With a surge of urgency, I shouted, “Give me more rope!” My team responded immediately, their voices blending encouragement with the clamor of the climb, fueling me with adrenaline. 

Anouk Garnier is a two-time world champion in the steeplechase. | Photo courtesy of Anouk Garnier’s Team

Nearing the end, tears streamed down my face, not from sorrow but from an overwhelming rush of emotion. Time seemed to slow as I approached the final floor, the culmination of countless visualizations now within reach. I touched the monument’s floor, and jubilation erupted. The moment felt surreal, a dream transformed into reality. 

I celebrated with my team, our shouts of elation piercing the air, and I raised an arm in triumph. Unstoppable tears flowed, testifying to the power of dreams and the relentless pursuit of them. Standing at the finish line, I experienced the most profound feeling of accomplishment I had ever known.

Tears, cheers, and embraces await as woman conquers challenge in 18 minutes

The safety cable lowered me, equipped and ready for the descent. As I descended, the applause and screams grew louder. I scanned the crowd and saw my brother with tears streaming down his face, my grandparents beaming with pride, my friends cheering me on, and the public—a sea of faces. And there, at the center of it all, stood my mom with arms wide open, waiting for me.

We melted into an endless hug, mixing relief, joy, and accomplishment. I had made it, conquered the challenge, and did it all for my mother. Despite not aiming for the stopwatch, I ascended in just 18 minutes, feeling like an eternity.

Garnier is selected to carry the Olympic torch, representing France, at the ceremony of the Olympic Games in Paris. | Photo courtesy of Anouk Garnier’s Team

That climb transformed me. It was not just about enduring physically; it was about building mental fortitude. Walking that path strengthened me and boosted my confidence. Now, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, I perceive it differently. Every time I gaze up at that iconic structure, I recall hanging from that rope, feeling the wind on my face, and experiencing the thrill of defying gravity. I ask myself, “Did I really do it?” Then, I smile, feeling a blend of disbelief and pride.

Although I’d like to take a rest, I have no time in my schedule. I am diving back into obstacle racing, a passion I had briefly abandoned. Beyond that, I am already plotting my next challenges. I want to climb another monument, though I have not decided which one or where yet. I am aiming to climb something high. The event I am participating in is usually called the Monumental 100, but I am planning to push it to 200. 

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