“I am doing it for the thrill, for that feeling of danger and freedom.This is my way of expressing myself… We set ourselves limits, but we are all strong enough to aim higher, to achieve our goals. All we have to do is find such within ourselves. Know how to develop it… I do think that sometimes faith can move mountains”
I do come across the most extroadinary people, places and events in my various researches, but Alain Robert has to be one of the most extroadinary people I have yet written about. Unfortunately, his urban climbing is so extra-extroadinary that I can find very little information on his equally fantastic rock climbing feats so have had to make do with stunning photographs instead… let me stop blathering and leave you to read about the French, or Human, Spiderman yourself.
Born in 1962, Alain Robert is the world’s most accomplished urban climber. He has scaled more than 85 buildings around the globe including the Eiffel Tower – 314m (1,027 ft), the Sydney Tower – 319m (1,047 ft), the Petronas Twin Towers – 452m (1,488 ft) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sears Tower Chicago – 443m (1,453 ft) and Taipei 101 – 508 m (1,667 ft).
Robert began climbing as a young boy, scaling rock cliffs in the area around his home. His ‘buildering’ career began at the age of 12 when he forgot his keys and was locked out of his parents’ eighth-floor apartment. Instead of waiting for them to return home, he simply scaled the exterior wall…
As this video from racchroxz testifies, his rock and urban climbs do not include rope or rigging. He uses only his hands, chalk, and climbing shoes.
He is an accomplished rock climber. In 1993 he achieved a world record for the most extreme solo performance in the Gorge du Verdon in the south of France.
In 1982 he suffered two accidents, the first in January at the age of 19 and the second in September at the age of 20. He fell 15 metres (49 ft) on both occasions. He suffered multiple fractures (to his cranium, nose, wrists, elbows, pelvis, and heels). He now suffers from permanent vertigo.
The doctors considered him 60 percent handicapped and told him he would not be able to climb again. However, within 6 months he was back doing what he loves most – climbing. He kept taking on more and more challenging structures and improving his skills. He polished his rock-climbing skills in the French Alps before turning to buildings.
In an interview in 2005 he admitted that he had fallen 7 times although the worst fall was the one in 1982. In 2004, he fell 2 metres (6 ft 6.7 in) when climbing a traffic light whilst posing for a photo in an interview. He landed on his elbow and needed forty stitches, but a month later he climbed the world’s tallest skyscraper at the time, Taipei 101, as part of its official opening week.
It was in 1994 that he began free solo climbing the world’s tallest urban structures that would earn him the nickname “The French Spiderman”.
He recently said that his most challenging urban climb was the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago Illinois in 1999. As he neared the top of the tower, the fog came down covering the glass and metal wall of the last 20 floors with moisture making it dangerously slippery. This made the climb considerably more dangerous, slower and more strenuous. However, nothing was going to stop him and he reached the top safely and successfully.
In 2008 he successfully scaled Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel, a 45-story building and his third known urban climb in that city. To succeed, he had to resort to a strategy he has used many times in the past – to set off at dawn as the Hong Kong police had been tipped off about a possible illegal ascent in the city.
Robert used the climb to promote greater awareness and international action for the cause of global warming.
He was briefly detained by authorities after the climb before being released. He has, in fact, been arrested and fined more than 100 times for illegally climbing the world’s tallest urban structures during the last two decades. These arrests and trials have been little more than formalities, although in 2007, in China, he was jailed and then deported after climbing the 88 story-skyscraper called the Jin Mao Tower – 420 m (1,378 ft).
“We set ourselves limits, but we are all strong enough to aim higher, to achieve our goals. All we have to do is find such strength within ourselves. Know how to develop it” he says.
His latest climb was the Petronas Tower in Malaysia – 452 m (1,483 ft) on 1st September this year. He successfully stood atop the highest point of the Tower.
Many of his climbs provide him no opportunity to rest and can last over an hour. That’s all! he attributes a lot of his success to his height – 1.65 m (5’5″) – which, being short and light, enhances his dexterity. He is, of course, in peak physical condition and has expert climbing techniques.
I suggest you visit his site, www.alainrobert.com – it’s worth it!