Alain Robert, the "French Spiderman"

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French 'Spiderman' Alain Robert

Mountains were never enough for French stuntman Alain Robert, who conquered so many of them in his teens that he turned his attention to skyscrapers. Now 47, Robert has climbed some of the tallest buildings in the world, typically without the aid of safety equipment. On Sept. 1, armed with nothing but the chalk on his hands and some good climbing shoes, the "French Spiderman" added the 88-story Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur to his impressive list — which now totals more than 70 — of skyscrapers scaled. It was Robert's third attempt at climbing the building, a feat known as "buildering"; he had been captured by security guards on his first two tries, in 1997 and 2007. He was arrested after completing the stunt and now faces 6 months behind bars and a $850 fine.

Fast Facts:

• Was afraid of heights as a child. Conquered the fear at age 11, when he was locked out of his parents' seventh-floor apartment and climbed the building to get in.

• Has a wife and two children.

• Has ascended most of the world's tallest buildings, including Taiwan's Taipei 101, Chicago's Sears Tower and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

• His climbs typically take between two and four hours.

• Suffered two serious falls in 1982, one which left him "60% disabled," according to doctors, and suffering from vertigo.

• Has become stuck while climbing only once, while ascending the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong in April 2008. On the building's 59th floor, the windows became taller, exceeding his wingspan. After a while, Robert figured out a way to nudge himself to the top.

• Robert transformed the ceiling in his home, in the south of France, into a horizontal all-weather artificial climbing wall where he trains by spending up to 20 minutes at a time upside down.

•While climbing, he often wears a T-shirt bearing the inscription of a website that offers ways to fight global warming.

• Was kicked out of China in June 2007 after illegally scurrying up the country's tallest building, the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai, which stands 1,410 feet.

• Has been arrested more than 100 times for criminal trespassing.

Quotes about:

"At first, I thought, 'Is he a window washer?' But he had no equipment."
— Kim Severson, a New York Times reporter who watched Robert climb the Times building in New York City in June 2008. (New York Times, June 6, 2008)

"He's endangering his own life and the lives of other people."
— Zee Mosher, 33, a graphic designer who witnessed the Times building attempt. (New York Times, June 6, 2008)

"I'm used to it now because I have to be. It's not his job, it's his passion."
— Nicole Robert, on her husband's dangerous pastime. (London Daily Telegraph, June 23, 2005)

Quotes by:

"It's a great feeling to know that 100 cops want to stop you doing something and they can't. When I climb a building, I've been there already, and carefully planned how to start the climb as well as how to do it. Maybe if there were 1,000 of them, they could stop me."
—To a London Daily Telegraph reporter, June 23, 2005

"With buildering, I get to keep that element of danger. Plus, I very much like the feeling of height, and buildings have even more of a feeling of height than rock faces."
— Explain why he prefers climbing buildings instead of mountains. (In an interview with, June 4, 2006)

"It's my look. Sometimes I dress as a cowboy as well. Really, I never stopped playing cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers. And the Indians have suffered terribly, which disgusts me. I love all people, whatever race they are."
— Explaining why he dressed as a Native American when climbing the Empire State Building in 1997. (In an interview with the Guardian, May 11, 1997)

"I thought I might fall, but you know, when you are facing a problem where your life is in danger, there is only one option."
— On climbing the Sears Tower in 1999; heavy humidity made the building's glass windows very slick. (In an interview with, June 4, 2006)