THREE men put their lives at risk by scaling a 279ft chimney for kicks in the dead of night.

Their ascent of Darwen’s India Mill was carried out with few safety precautions.

They weren’t wearing helmets, were only roped together on the ladders fixed to the side of the mill and part of their stunt involved ‘free climbing’.

Last night the group was condemned as reckless with one councillor saying they should be facing a jail sentence.

But the men insisted they were not ‘teenage, drunken vandals’, and said they carried out detailed preparations.

They call themselves urban explorers, a term describing people who examine off-limits urban areas or industrial facilities.

After spotting ladders had been installed up the 279ft chimney for safety checks, the men decided to realise their ambition of scaling one of East Lancashire’s tallest landmarks.

They went to the site in darkness in the early hours so they couldn’t be spotted.

The only precaution they appear to have taken was attaching a rope to each other.

They did not wear helmets.

During their terrifying ascent, the men took pictures which they later posted on an urban explorers website where they outlined their adventure.

By the time they got to the bottom of the chimney an hour later they had been spotted.

Police gave chase as the last man climbed down, but were not able to catch him or the others.

Officers said the men could be sued for trespass, which would be a civil claim taken up by the property owner, or prosecuted for a common law breach of the peace, which is an arrestable offence, for putting their own safety in danger.

PC Phil Hambley said: “There is a history of people trying to climb the chimney for fun, but this is incredibly dangerous.”

Darwen MP Jake Berry said their actions were ‘absolutely ludicrous’.

He said: “This links to the Jackass culture. While I’m no killjoy, I think needlessly putting your life in danger, and the lives of people who may be called to rescue you, is completely irresponsible.”

Town mayor councillor Paul Browne said: “They are not welcome in this town.

"If it were up to me, they’d get a hell of a long jail sentence.”

Brian Foxton of Vine Property Management, which runs the India Mill Centre, said the ladders had only been put up as a temporary measure, and security measures were now being looked at.

He said: “It a dangerous thing to do and we don’t condone it.”

The individuals involved have not been identified, but agreed to communicate with the Lancashire Telegraph through email.

One of the men, who would only refer to himself as Ojay, said: “Unfortunately 'urban explorers' are always branded as reckless and irresponsible.

“It’s frustrating as we have utmost respect for an operating system and the buildings and structures we climb.

“Obviously we take precautions and use proper climbing/fall arrest equipment as a safety measure.”

Writing on internet forum, Ojay went into detail about the climb.

He said: “I heard ladders were in place.

“No messing about here, we had a small window of opportunity.

“I shot up the ladders without a care in the world.

"As I hit the first overhang, suddenly the rope started to stretch.

"I couldn't pass the deviation between the connecting ladders so literally had to un-clip and free climb back down a good 40ft to the ledge below.”

Telling of reaching the top, he added: “There was a genuine buzz as we carried on up the ladders one-by-one towards the summit.

"The sun was rising, I hadn't slept. Full of mixed emotions, we made it back down safely, bitten to death by midges."

The men said they made it to the point where the late Bolton steeplejack Fred Dibnah had carved his name near the lightning conductor in 1991 before climbing back down the ladder.

Click on the link below for more photos.