Why Climbing A Building Using Suction Cups Is A Bad Idea

Last night I ran across news coverage of Dan Goodwin climbing the Millenium Tower building in  San Francisco. Though he obviously successfully ended his climb, I’d have felt better about his chances if he had been using anything other than suction cups.

Suction cups have never worked for me. I certainly don’t see climbing 40+ stories with them as my lifeline. Let’s me run through my experience with suction cups so you can see why I believe them to be a poor choice should Mr. Goodwin decide to pass on using the elevator again.

The Dart Gun

When I was little I liked to play with dart guns. I’m not talking about an animal tranquilizer gun like they used on nature shows back then. I’m talking about those spring loaded guns that launched a suction cup tipped dart. In a perfect world, those darts were supposed to stick to their target, assuming the target was smooth and solid.

Apparently I did not live in a perfect world because those darts never stuck to what I shot them at – the target that came with them, windows, televisions – they never stuck for me. Sure, one of you is saying to yourself “you have to wet the cup”. I tried that, it didn’t work either.

The Bow And Arrow

Undaunted by the consistent failure of the dart guns, I saved my pennies and eventually bought a toy bow and arrow. Same concept, except a little kid bow and rubber tipped arrows. Again, no luck.

Suction cups had let me down again. On top of that, things sort of got broken when I actually hit what I aimed at. Generally the breakage was not well received.

Gladys, The GPS

Navstar-2F satellite of the Global Positioning...

The Better Navigation Through Science, When Suction Cups Allow It (Image via Wikipedia)

I own a GPS system for my car.  I know that isn’t anything unusual, it’s just the only application for suction cups that I am aware of in the adult world. My GPS, Gladys, attaches to my windshield with a suction cup.

I use the term attach very loosely here. The usual plan is that when I get in the car for a long trip, I stick Gladys to the glass where she hangs and tells me where to go. This arrangement suits us both well.

Unfortunately, our friend the suction cup does not like this arrangement and releases its grip at inopportune times. Gladys the GPS then crashes to the dashboard, and tumbles off uselessly on to the floor of the car. If she keeps working after her fall, she typically sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher under the passenger seat. The combination of space age navigation and a 1960’s bow and arrow attachment system renders Gladys useless.

Gravity VS. The Suction Cup

My friends, I believe my portion of the suction cup based building climber population is fairly small. So I address my concerns mostly to the rest of you.  I hope that if someone you love is a building climber, you can address your concerns with them using this post as a conversation starter. If you are a suction cup building climber, I urge you to reconsider your hobby.

In the battle between suction cups and gravity, gravity will always win – ask any kid with rubber tipped arrows


41 Comments on “Why Climbing A Building Using Suction Cups Is A Bad Idea”

  1. Oh, my…only you could do an entire post about suction cups!

    Read the part about the GPS to Jim…we have that problem too, even when he uses a generous application of spit on the “suck-shun cup.”

    Thanks for a good laugh!


  2. You are so right–the adhering qualities of suction cups are vastly overrated.

    My much older cousin had an old time dart gun and the darts actually stuck. The ones we got were as you describe. The only alternative that my brother and I could think of was to remove the suction cups and, for the dart gun, to use the plastic shafts as projectiles. We sharpened the wooden shafts of the arrows in a pencil sharpener. Fortunately, in retrospect, but at the time very disappointing, none of these weapons of mass foolishness had any aerodynamic stability and less lethalness.

    • omawarisan says:

      Ha ha ha…I went looking for a good picture of suction cup arrows. The only good one I could find had one with the cup, one without and sharpened. I think that was an automatic response to their uselessness.

  3. Dan Allen says:

    Great post! I have been reading your blog for awhile now (I was sucked in by the Angelina Pez deal), but I had to comment on this one! I can seriously relate to your GPS ordeal. “The combination of space age navigation and a 1960′s bow and arrow attachment system renders Gladys useless.” Seriously, that is the best they can come up with!?!?

    A couple other things that use suction cups and never work would be the famous rear-window Garfield or Alf that always fall off, or the suction cup shower-hanger-thingy for your razors that never work, because razors are just so damn heavy with those 6 titanium blades on them! Anyway, thanks for the laugh!


    • omawarisan says:

      Welcome and thanks for commenting Dan!

      Auuuugh hate the rear window Garfield…ok, just Garfield in general.

      Suction cups are all over the place and are completely incompetent. They dont have a chance with razors. I’ve got a razor with 6 blades and a battery so it vibrates. I’m not sure what the benefit of vibrating my face is.

      • Pie says:

        “I’m not sure what the benefit of vibrating my face is.”

        So it wakes you up?

        I don’t get Garfield either, but I do have a suction on my buff pad which you would use in a shower. And it works. Mind you, that may be because it weighs nearly nothing. Gravity always brings things down, eventually.

  4. pattypunker says:

    suction cups suck. because they don’t suck. that’s kind of like grandma. according to grandpa, not me. still ewwwwww.

    anyhussy, i’ve tried multiple suction cup accessories in the shower as well. cups to hang my shower door squeegy. cups to hang my razor. cups to hang a mirror. cups to hang a radio. fail! all of them a waste. wtf suction cup. you need to be replaced.

  5. Gladys sounds like she’s just not that into you.

  6. Betty says:

    In order for a suction cup to work, it must be labeled as “removable,” in which case it permanently adheres to a surface.

  7. jammer5 says:

    I climbed Pikes Peak and spent the night with a GF of mine way back in the sixties. We didn’t use any suction cups.

  8. I agree! Suction cups stink. The secret to them sticking was revealed in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The boy added super glue to the suction cup.

  9. Todd Pack says:

    Suction cups are inherently dangerous and should be outlawed, but then, if suction cups were outlawed, only outlaws would use suction cups, and then where would we be?

  10. Brooke says:

    Suctions cups are not a solid invention. Now velcro – I could write an ode to velcro. Best stuff since the wheel was invented.
    What I have learned about the GPS is that they usually don’t “need” to be attached to the windshield. They work just fine sitting in the cup holder. I have yet to gotten lost or drive into a Starbucks.

    • omawarisan says:

      Ahhh, Velcro! If someone would roll a long strip of the Velcro loop material down from the top of any building I would put on a suit of the hook material and start climbing.

      Cup holder. Hmmmm

  11. Hippie Cahier says:

    Last year I tried to hang Christmas lights inside the windows using special Christmas light hanger suction cups. I’d get them up in one room, head to the other room, get them halfway up in that room, hear them crashing down in the first room….and KEPT ON TRYING thinking that these were specially made suction cups just for hanging Christmas lights so surely they would work eventually.

    As much as I wished for a Christmas miracle, they never worked.

    It was a dark Christmas, decoratively speaking.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’m sorry that you were lured into false hope by those cups. That is the fallacy of suction cups, they should work and we want the benefit of their ability to attach without damage. Sadly, they lack what we most desire about them.

      • hippie cahier says:

        You are a wise soul, Omawarisan.

        For better or worse, I came away with a story to share with others so that we can all laugh at what a naive doodyhead I can be.
        …and she lived happily ever after.

        The End!

  12. Kate says:

    Remember these words of wisdom: “Lick it before you stick it.”

    Seriously. Lick the suction cup and it will stick like nobody’s business. Works like a dream on my GPS.

  13. writerdood says:

    I agree that suction cups suck, and that they don’t suck enough. You shoot one at the window, and twenty seconds later it falls to the floor. Then the dog eats it, and you’re out another nerf dart. But, frankly, I’d rather have the kids firing suction cup darts at the window than needle tipped darts.

  14. Abe's Blog says:

    Suction cups were invented by humans before the capture of alien aircraft at Area 51. They don’t work because humans aren’t very smart. Velcro was invented by reverse engineering the material that was found in the alien spaceship. Aliens are smart. We just need to find more aliens. Then we can perfect the suction cup idea.

  15. linlah says:

    Oh my suction cups always work for me and I have a cape. with a star. and I can fly.

  16. Posky says:

    At first, I was annoyed by the title of this article but it is actually full of good examples of how poorly suction cups perform. I was almost killed when a GPS fell onto me during a turn due to suction cup failure. I could have been knocked unconscious and crashed the car.

    I noticed that, for motorcycle GPS attachments, suction cups aren’t even an option. I think we all know why.

    • omawarisan says:

      Sorry for the rough start!

      The thing is, you had to know the suction cup was going to fail, just like I did, just like I still do! Yet somehow we have to have that misplaced faith in them.

  17. planetross says:

    I always lick my toilet plunger before using it … and I have no problems. hee hee!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Check this suction cup climbing

  19. […] My history with suction cups has not been good. Super Bird was the exception. He was a very effective climber. I’d wind him, stick him to a window and he would pop, pop, pop right up to the top. […]

  20. Franklin says:

    Wait so you’re pretty much saying they’re unreliable. At my job when a glass breaks the glass company sends in guys to climb up the building with suction cups since it can’t be safely installed from the inside due to the glass being far from the ground. Should their practices be changed?

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