On top of the world: We climb the highest flagpole in Sharjah

Our multimedia producer scales the 123m structure to film Sharjah’s landmarks for National Day

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Imagine standing at the foot of a stately flagpole as it towers 123m above your head.

The 15x30m UAE flag at Sharjah Flag Island is visible for miles around.

Andrew Scott, one of The National’s multimedia producers, donned a hero's cape for a day and dared to climb the conical structure to film Sharjah’s landmarks from the top.

Trident Support Flagpoles invited us along as the UAE celebrates its 51st National Day this week.

Quote
The 500 steps seemed like 500 rungs of hell. Heart-pounding exercise hell
Andy Scott, The National

Mr Scott, 57, who runs five kilometres every morning, said the experience was the most exhilarating experiences of his life.

Having completed the climb and sitting on the top of the flagpole, the breathless Mr Scott said it was an endurance test but seemed upbeat.

“Do you know what I knew after the first stage?" he said.

"I was like ― oh, no! I got myself involved in something which I hadn’t expected. The 500 steps seemed like 500 rungs of hell, straight up!

“I suppose I had trepidation about the height. The moment you hit the ladder, you realise it's not the height, it's hell, the heart-pounding exercise hell. I’m just not fit enough to do that sort of climb straight for an hour.”

Towards the top it got claustrophobic. Mr Scott said he felt beaten up just before reaching the top.

By the time he reached the fifth platform, he thought to himself it was too late to go back and stayed focused. There are 10 platforms in total.

“There’s a platform every 12 metres so climbers have a rest. After the third platform, I thought it was going to get easier, but it did not.

"Once I reached the fifth platform, I knew I had a problem. I had sweat dripping downwards. I was sitting in a steel container with a temperature of 30ºC," he said.

"As I climbed, the flagpole grew narrower and narrower. Not only do you know you're heading for the top where your head would spin, but you're also constricted as well. Luckily, Travis and David from Trident Support climbed with me, and they knew what to do, saying, 'don’t you worry, you can sit down and rest'."

Unfortunately for Mr Scott, the descent turned out to be no easier.

"The climb up took more than an hour and it was hell, while the descent took about half an hour," he said.

"Climbing down wasn't any easier since your arms, shoulders, and forearms are constantly used. I spent much of that time resting on the platforms trying to get my heart rate back to normal.

"I won't be doing it again. It's my last ladder climb."

Travis Richardson, 35, the project manager for Trident Support, climbed the pole three times this week and has been doing it for 10 years now.

"When you're new to something, mistakes can happen, so I had to watch Mr Scott closely. Overall, it's pretty much the same experience when you're climbing up alone or with someone, it's one way up," he said.

"You're responsible for somebody's life, so you really want to make sure that you have all the necessary equipment and you're done with checking all the safeties. We used safety harnesses that include a device that automatically locks the rope if the climber falls."

David Chambers, 58, the company's founder, also accompanied our intrepid cameraman.

"We spend hours, from sunrise to late at night sometimes. One time, I took a German to the top of a flagpole in Tajikistan and it took us four hours," he said.

The flagpole was raised in 2012 to mark the UAE's 41st National Day celebrations in Sharjah.

Updated: December 01, 2022, 7:35 AM
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