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Alain Robert: The Life Of The Human Spider - Yellow Magpie

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Published on May 9th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie


Alain Robert: The Life Of The Human Spider


He has a developed a talent like no other. The Human Spider. Unlike the comic book character, his life is not governed by the whims of writers. When he puts his life on the line no amount of words will breathe life into him if he misplaces a hand or foot from high above a skyscraper.

It is the harshest sport on the planet. Perched high atop a tall building, with no safety harness, no ropes to prevent loss of life, there is no room for error. This is the world that French man Alain Robert inhabits. In many ways it is more like the creation of fantasy writers than the reality that each of us is familiar with.

Alain Robert Climbing Agbar Tower In Barcelona

Scaling The 7th Floor Apartment

From the tender age of 12, when he found himself locked out from his family apartment, Robert displayed a keen talent for climbing. He scaled the building making his way up to an open window on the seventh floor. Previous to this incident he had climbed cliffs and rocky outcrops, but this was the first time he ascended an urban structure. It was to ignite a passion that would go on to make him world famous.

The Obsession With Skyscrapers

His need to scale high-rise buildings was stoked initially by an invitation. He was asked to climb a building for a documentary. This led to Robert climbing Chicago’s 59-storey, 279 metre (915-foot) Citicorp Center (now known as the Citigroup Center). This was to inure an obsession that saw him conquering all of the largest skyscrapers in the world.

1994 would also see him conquer the 102-floor, 381 metre (1,250-foot) Empire State Building in New York. The following year he climbed several  buildings over 150 metres (500 feet) in London, Paris and Frankfurt.

Alain Robert Climbing The Petronas Tower 2 In Kuala Lumpar

So far he has climbed over 80 buildings throughout the world. Some of the most notable have been the 452 metre (1,483 feet) Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the 508 metre (1,667 feet) and the tallest building in the world, the 828 metre (2,716 feet) Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

His most difficult climb was undoubtedly the 443 metre (1,453-foot) Sears Tower (now renamed the Willis Tower) in Chicago. With 20 stories left to scale on the 102 floor structure a heavy mist surrounded the building and the walls where saturated with a layer moisture which was incredible slippery. Several hours later a very relieved Robert managed to reach the summit after inching his way to the top.

A Life Not Without Its Cost

Robert has had some serious accidents. Before the age of 20 he had fallen over 15 metres (50 feet) twice. The first fall resulting in fractures to his nose, his heels and his wrists. The second was more serious and led to him spending five days in a coma with more multiple fractures including his pelvis, elbow and forearms. He suffered brain swelling (cerebral edema) and vertigo – which has become permanent.

Alain Robert Resting While Climbing A Building In Hong Kong Photo Coutesy Of Shiny Things

Thirteen years later a head-first fall from eight metres (26 feet) put him in another coma and required two months of hospitalisation.

The French government now classify Robert as disabled. In an interview with The Sunday Times, he revealed that he is considered to be 66 per cent disabled and that his doctor believes it to be a miracle that he can walk, let alone climb.

Anti-Authoritarian And Arrests

Being a rebel and not accepting convention plays a large part in Robert’s climbs. The fact that the majority of his ascents have been illegal has spurred him on. Authorities have reacted to his climbs by tightening security and making it much more difficult for him to climb.

He has been arrested on several occasions including once when he was charged for possession of a controlled substance in Texas during a climb of the One Houston Center. Robert strongly argued that this was a prescription drug designed to prevent epileptic seizures producing evidence to prove this. The drug charges were dropped and he was fined $2,000 for trespassing.

He was also fined $567 in Malaysia for criminal trespass after successfully scaling the Petronas Towers are two previous attempts in which he was thwarted by the authorities.

Now some of his climbs are legally sponsored so he does not face the threat of jail and prison. The scaling of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was one such sponsored climb.

A One-Of-A-Kind Remarkable Athletic

Alain Robert is incredibly slight. At no more than 1.62 metres (5’4″) and 50 kg (8 stone (112 pounds), he is not the most physically imposing. But his dedication to the craft of climbing has meant he posses some very unusual physical attributes. He can hang upside using only his arms to keep him upright for up to half an hour at a time. He can also do something that not many people on the planet can achieve – one finger pull ups.

At 48 years of age, whether or not Alain Robert gives up his dangerous sport in the future is unclear. Despite having a wife and children, his desire to climb remains a strong as ever. Only time will tell if the sport that he enjoys so much will claim his life or if he will eventually retire when he reaches the limits imposed by old age.

Check out Yellow Magpie’s Alain Robert Quotes: Thoughts From The Human Spider to find out what the man thinks about jail, adrenaline, climbing and perhaps, more importantly, what his wife thinks about her husband’s dangerous activities.

Highly Recommended Get The Book Through Amazon

Alain Robert’s book, With Bare: Hands: The Story Of Alain Robert, the Real-Life Spiderman is a fascinating account of his life so far. It manages to articulating place the reader right amidst the nerve-tingling adrenaline feelings that arise from Robert’s climbs.

You can obtain With Bare Hands: The True Story of Alain Robert, the Real-life Spiderman here from Amazon.

For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom you can access With Bare Hands: The Story of the Human Spider here.

For those living in Canada you can obtain With Bare Hands: The True Story of Alain Robert, the Real-life Spiderman from here.

For Germany: Alain Robert: The Story Of The Human Spider.

For France: With Bare Hands: The True Story of the Human Spider.

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