A real spiderman: the life and achievements of Alain Robert, a true wall climber
If you have read my Spiderman versus Batman hub, you will know that I am a big fan of the web crawler. Unfortunately though, the character of Spiderman is just that – a character. He is a fictitious superhero created by Marvel writer-editor Stan Lee, and although an “amazing” character, he is not someone real. Or is he?
Enter Alain Robert, a name you may not be familiar with. He would be the closest thing to a real life Spiderman you could ever wish to encounter. You see, Alain Robert climbs things. Not just any things, but huge, tall, imposing things like skyscrapers. Not only that, but he does it without safety ropes. Sound like Spiderman at all? Let me tell you a little bit about the modern-day Spidey – Alain Robert.
Robert was born on August 7th 1962 in Digoin, Saone-et-Loire, Bourgogne, France. From an early age he had a fascination with climbing and would scale the rocky cliffs near his home, mimicking his childhood rock-climbing idols. When he was locked out of his family’s apartment at the age of 12, Robert calmly scaled the exterior of the building to reach their 8th floor home. From then on he was addicted and would climb anything he could to fine tune his “trade”. By 1982 he was climbing regularly, but it was in this year that he suffered two accidents. On both occasions he fell 15 metres, suffering numerous fractures to his cranium, wrists, pelvis, elbows and heels. The doctors told him that he would never climb again. He was even diagnosed with vertigo and declared to be 60% disabled. Alain Robert did not let a doctor’s words stop him. He was back climbing a year after the second fall and just seemed to get better and better.
In 1994, Robert’s reputation brought him an offer of sponsorship to film a documentary about extreme sports. The suggestion was made that he try climbing buildings. In that same year he climbed his first skyscraper, the City Bank building in Chicago and his fascination for urban climbing took off.
Between 1994 and 2011, Alain Robert has climbed 33 buildings or monuments in his home country of France, 16 in the rest of Europe, 9 in North America, and 32 around the rest of the world. He has climbed a total of over 14,400 metres in that time!
Higher and higher...
His climbing career has garnered acclaim from media and public alike as he has attempted climbs of taller and more famous buildings. In the 1990’s there was worldwide speculation as to whether Robert would attempt a climb of the tallest buildings in the world at that time, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His sudden appearance on the side of one of the buildings in 1997 shocked authorities, who scrambled to arrest him on the 60th floor. Ten years later, in March 2007, he again climbed the Petronas Tower and was again arrested on the 60th floor. He has been arrested a total of nine times for unauthorized climbs although he has also done many authorized climbs to promote a variety of causes and to raise money for charity.
Most famous climbs...
1994 – Empire State Building, New York – 381 metres
1997 – Petronas Tower 1, Malaysia – 452 metres (got to 60th floor)
1999 – Willis Tower, Chicago – 443 metres
2004 – Taipei 101 Tower, Taiwan – 508 metres (tallest building in the world at that time)
2007 – Petronas Tower 2, Malaysia – 452 metres (got to 60th floor)
2009 – Petronas Towers, Malaysia – 452 metres (made it to the top)
2011 – Burj Khalifa, Dubai – 828 metres (with some rope assist)
What's next for "Spiderman"?
Having conquered the tallest building in the world, what is next for Alain Robert? A man with his passion for climbing will not be satisfied to simply fade away into obscurity. He will continue to push himself to climb higher or faster, each time putting his life at risk for what he loves. When will it end? Perhaps one day, a building will conquer him, but until that day, next time you are walking amongst skyscrapers, take a look up just in case you see a small speck of a man nimbly clambering up the side.