Alain Robert – The French Spiderman

Alain Robert (born as Robert Alain Philippe on 7 August 1962), is a French rock and urban climber, from Digoin, Saône-et-Loire,Bourgogne, France. Known as “the French Spider-Man” (after the comic character Spider-Man), or “the Human Spider”, Robert is famous for scaling skyscrapers.

Robert has scaled 85 giant structures around the globe including many of the world’s tallest structures, most of which he has scaled using only his bare hands and climbing shoes.

Robert began climbing as a young boy, scaling rock cliffs in the area around his home. At the age of 12 when he forgot his keys and was locked out of his parents’ eighth-floor apartment, he chose to simply scale the exterior wall to his home. In 1982 he suffered two accidents, the first in January, aged 19, and the second in September, aged 20. He fell 15 metres (49 ft) on each occasion. He suffered multiple fractures and now suffers from permanent vertigo. The doctors considered him 60 percent handicapped and told him he would not be able to climb again. Within six months he was climbing again. 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.

Some Notable Climbs

Location Building Year Height Notes
Dubai, UAE Burj Khalifa 2011 828 m Legal climb, partial use of safety harness
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Petronas Towers 2009 452 m Stood atop the highest point of the tower, fined MYR 2000
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Petronas Tower 2 2007 452 m Arrested at the 60th floor
Shangha, China Jin Mao Building 2007 420 m Arrested, expelled from China
Taiwan Taipei 101 2004 508 m Climbed as part of opening event
Chicago, United States Sears Tower 1999 443 m
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Petronas Tower 1 1997 452 m Arrested at the 60th floor
Sydney, Australia Sydney Tower 1997 319 m
NYC, United States Empire State Building 1994 381 m

Because authorities will not normally give him permission for such dangerous exploits, Robert usually appears, at dawn, on the site of whichever giant skyscraper he has chosen to climb. His exploits attract crowds of onlookers who stop to watch him climb. As a consequence, Robert has been arrested many times, in various countries, by law enforcement officials waiting for him at the end of his climb.

His physical conditioning and expert climbing technique allow him to climb using the small protrusions of building walls and windows (such as window ledges and frames). Over the course of his climbing career, he has become so used to cramming his fingers into the cracks of ledges and hanging from balconies that he is actually unable to completely straighten his fingers. Many of his climbs provide him no opportunity to rest and can last several hours. He sometimes has a small bag of climbing chalk powder (similar to powdered rosin), which is used to absorb sweat from the hands, fastened around his waist.

Robert’s urban climbing career has been characterized by an ever-expanding list of famous landmarks which includes the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House and the Montparnasse Tower in Paris, as well as the world’s tallest skyscrapers. In the 1990s, as his exploits brought him worldwide media exposure, speculation began as to whether or not he would attempt the tallest building in the world at the time: the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Although Malaysian authorities were expecting his attempt, they were still astonished when one day in 1997 he suddenly appeared several floors up on the side of the tower. He was eventually arrested at the 60th floor, 28 floors below the top. While scaling the Willis Tower, previously known as the Sears Tower, in Chicago in 1999, he encountered the most challenging climbing conditions in his career. Near the top of the 108-story building, a thick fog set in that covered the glass and metal wall of the last 20 floors with moisture, making it dangerously slippery. He overcame the difficulties and reached the top. Alain Robert was the second man to scale the Willis Tower. In 1981, Dan Goodwin, using suction cups, battled building security guards and the Chicago Fire Department for seven hours before successfully completing the climb.

In June 1999 Robert also climbed the 170-metre (558 ft) Marriott Hotel in Warsaw, Poland.

In 2000, Robert climbed the 23-metre (75 ft) high Luxor Obelisk in Place de la Concorde, France.

In February 2003, he legally climbed the 200-metre (656 ft) National Bank of Abu Dhabi, UAE, watched by about 100,000 spectators. It became more frequent for Robert to be paid to scale buildings as part of publicity efforts. In May 2003, he was paid approximately $18,000 to climb the 95-metre (312 ft) Lloyd’s building to promote the premiere of the movie Spider-Man on the British television channel Sky Movies. On 19 October 2004, he scaled the 187-metre (614 ft) headquarters of the French oil company Total while wearing a Spider-Man costume.

Robert scaled Taipei 101 on 25 December 2004, a few days before its grand opening as the tallest building in the world. The 508-metre (1,667 ft) climb was legal, part of the week’s festivities. The skyscraper’s outwardly slanting sides posed no apparent difficulty for him, but heavy rain resulted in a climb lasting four hours—double his estimate.

On 11 June 2005 he climbed the Cheung Kong Centre in Hong Kong, scaling 283 metres (928 ft) to reach the top of the 62-story tower.

On 1 September 2006, he climbed the tallest building in Lithuania and the Baltic States – Europa Tower, 148 metres (486 ft), in Vilnius. Wearing a black suit and using a safety rope, which he detached several times, he reached the observation deck of the building, 114 metres (374 ft), in 40 minutes. In 2006 he also climbed Torre Vasco da Gama in Portugal as part of an advertisement for Optimus, a national mobile operator. He finished the year climbing the Santa Fe World Plaza in Mexico City on 7 December 2006. On 23 February 2007, he legally climbed the headquarters building of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) on the coast of Abu Dhabi.

On 20 March 2007, he again climbed the Petronas Twin Towers, marking the tenth anniversary of his previous ascent of this building. Upon reaching the 60th floor, he allowed himself to be apprehended. He flew the Malaysian flag and drew applause from waiting police, fire crew, and media representatives before handing himself in. He was handcuffed and escorted off the premises before being driven to a police station.

On 31 May 2007, he scaled the 88-story Jin Mao Building in Shanghai, China’s then tallest skyscraper, once again wearing a Spider-Man costume. He was later arrested and jailed for five days before being expelled from China. In November 2007, Robert was invited by the local government of Zhangjiajie, a scenic region in the southern province of Hunan, to climb the 1,518-metre (4,980 ft) Tianmen mountain to boost the profile of the region and bring in tourists.

On 4 September 2007, he climbed the 244-metre (801 ft) Federation Tower office building in Moscow, (Russia’s tallest skyscraper). Detained by police, he could face a fine for violating safety norms at a construction site.

On 18 December 2007, he climbed the 29-story Portland House office building in London (Westminster’s tallest building). It took him just over 40 minutes. Police taped off the area and later arrested him for criminal damage and wasting police time.

On 15 April 2008, he climbed the 60-story Four Seasons Place in Hong Kong. The police and four fire engines were standing by and it took him almost 1 hour to reach the top. Robert encountered difficulty at the top when he found that the last 5-metre (16 ft) were impossible to climb. He had to climb sideways until he reached a corner and managed with difficulty to reach the top. He almost fell when a woman on the other side of the glass screamed and almost fainted. Witnesses said that he was detained upon completing the climb. He stated that his climb was intended to increase awareness of global warming.

On 5 June 2008, he climbed the New York Times Building in New York. He unfurled a banner with a slogan about global warming and was then arrested by police on the roof. The banner read “Global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week.”

On 17 February 2009, he once again climbed the Cheung Kong Centre in Hong Kong, taking 40 minutes to reach the top of the 62-story tower. “He unfurled a banner reading “onehundredmonths.org” near the base of the tower before climbing.”

On 2 April 2009, during the 2009 G-20 London summit he climbed to the 9th floor of the Lloyd’s building and unfurled a 100-foot banner declaring that there were 100 months left to save the planet.

On 2 June 2009, he climbed to the 41st floor of the RBS Tower in Sydney Australia before returning to the ground; he was arrested as he finished his descent.

On 1 September 2009, one day after Malaysia celebrated its 52nd Independence Day and after two arrests in 1997 and 2007, Alain Robert finally made it successfully to the top of the Petronas Twin Towers. He started at 6:00 am local time and reached the top at 7:40 am local time without attracting the attention of the public. He celebrated his climb by standing with his arms outspread on the pinnacle of one of the Twin Towers.

On 8 October 2009, Robert climbed the 33-story building of the Ariane TV station in Paris. He was arrested at the top of the building but was soon released.

On 30 August 2010, he climbed the Lumiere Residential building in Sydney, Australia, which was a 57 story building. The climb took about 20 minutes as officials were waiting at the top for his arrest.

On 5 November 2010, starting at 6pm, he took 35 minutes to scale the Singapore Flyer. It was the first time he climbed a circular, moving structure and became the first person to climb around the world’s tallest observatory wheel.

On January 26, 2011 he completed a morning climb of the Hang Seng Head Office building in Hong Kong finishing at midday.

On March 28, 2011 Robert climbed the tallest building in the world, the 828-meter Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, taking just over six hours to complete the climb. However, he used a harness in accordance with safety procedure.

On May 17, 2011 he climbed the Istanbul Sapphire, which is currently Europe’s 4th tallest building. It was a legal climb.

On September 4, 2011 he legally climbed the 240-meter tall central tower of Moscow State University, during 2-hour 4D show by David Atkins, in which the university was used as a projection screen.

On 14 October 2011, he climbed the Intercontinental hotel in Bucharest, Romania.

Edited from Alain Robert

This entry was posted in Adventure, Biography. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>