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Taikoo Place Insiders: Nick Cotton, executive director of Outward Bound Hong Kong, organiser of HK Vertical 1000


Daredevils, assemble! The HK Vertical 1000 is back at Taikoo Place on 24-25 November 2023 – a once-in-a-lifetime abseiling challenge organised by charity Outward Bound Hong Kong, which sees participants descend 1,000 feet down One Island East to raise funds for disadvantaged young people throughout the city.

Swire Offices’ tenants will be taking this extraordinary challenge on 24 November, the dedicated Tenant Day, while 25 November is open to public participation.

With preparations for this year’s event in full swing, we grabbed a chat with Nick Cotton – Outward Bound’s executive director and organiser of HK Vertical 1000 – to get the inside scoop on this exciting challenge.

How did the idea for HK Vertical 1000 first come about?

The original idea came from the Outward Bound Trust in the United Kingdom, who delivered a similar event at The Shard in London. If London can host such an iconic event with relatively few tall buildings, then Hong Kong could surely improve on the idea!

One Island East was the perfect fit for the event – an iconic building, great partners in Swire Properties and willing participants. All we needed to find was a rope long enough to reach the ground!

What kinds of people take part in HK Vertical 1000?

Anyone can do it! In the last event, we had a wide range of people willing to challenge themselves – from professional women whose kids watched them go past the 37th floor and a long-distance runner who was happier keeping her feet on the floor, through to a more ‘senior’ gentleman who was petrified but decided that he couldn’t miss the opportunity to be part of something special.

This year, on the public event day, we have an 82 year-old businessman who signed up to join his friends and lend his support to Outward Bound and the young people we work with. If he can do it, there aren’t many excuses left for anyone else!

Just how high is 1,000 feet?

Even at the top, it’s difficult to get a feeling for quite how high it is, because the world looks different from up there. The vertical drop is the same as three times the height of the Statue of Liberty or the whole Eiffel Tower. There are very few abseils of this length, so it really is a unique event in Hong Kong.

For an event of this scale we’d imagine there’d be a lot of technical precision required – could you tell us a bit about that?

This team have worked on building abseils in New York and Toronto, and the system they use has been used on the buildings in London as well. Our Technical Director Iain Peter has decades of technical experience which includes mountaineering accomplishments around the globe including guiding clients to the summit of Everest. The team not only rig the ropes on the building, but they also spend time training the abseilers before the event.

What makes One Island East the perfect location for this event?

I think that when we live and work in Hong Kong, we forget how impressive our cityscape actually is. One Island East is a beautiful building from the ground but from the very top, it really is incredible – from the green mountains behind to the harbour in front, it’s truly spectacular. The design and height of the building means abseilers are immersed in an almost 360-degree landscape, where the harbour view is reflected in the building’s windows. Add in a healthy dose of adrenaline and excitement and you have a once-in-a-lifetime event.

We imagine you’ve been to Taikoo Place for quite a few site visits! What’s your favourite spot for a coffee break?

I’ve spent many hours in The Porter in One Island East planning, meeting and waiting for things to happen. It’s a great way to get a sense of the building’s pulse as people go about their business – and they serve great coffee!

Do you have any memorable stories from previous HK Vertical 1000s?

An event like this generates a whole book of stories! The event is adrenaline-fuelled and there are lots of smiles, laughs and congratulations, so the mood is always positive. In the past, the day was bookended by a party on Sugar’s terrace, where people could look back at the building, share their stories with friends and celebrate with a glass of bubbly… And that may be where some of the stories came from!

Finally, could you describe HK Vertical 1000 in three words?

Inspiring, dramatic, impactful.

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