Alain Robert (born as Robert Alain Philippe on 7 August 1962) is a French rock climber and urban climber, from Digoin, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France. Known as "the French Spider-Man" (after the comic character Spider-Man) or "the Human Spider," Robert is famous for his free solo climbing, scaling skyscrapers using no climbing equipment except for a small bag of chalk and a pair of climbing shoes.
Robert after ascent of Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 2008
Robert Alain Philippe
7 August 1962
|Other names||French Spider-Man|
|Known for||Scaling skyscrapers|
|Height||1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)|
Because authorities did not normally give him permission for such dangerous exploits, Robert would appear at dawn on the site of whichever giant skyscraper he had 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. In recent years, however, Robert has done his climbs with permission and sponsorship.
His rock-climbing physical training and technique allow him to climb using the small protrusions of building walls and windows (such as window ledges and frames). 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 fastened around his waist.
Robert has climbed landmarks including the Burj Khalifa, Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House and the Montparnasse Tower as well as other of the world's tallest skyscrapers. In 1997 he climbed the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but was arrested at the 60th floor, 28 floors below the top. In 1999 he climbed the Sears Tower, the second man to do so after Dan Goodwin. In June 1999 Robert climbed the 170-metre (558 ft) Marriott Hotel in Warsaw and in 2000 he climbed the 23-metre (75 ft) high Luxor Obelisk in Paris.
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 building, 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 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. 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 City. 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 the same day a second person, Renaldo Clarke, also climbed the New York Times Building.
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" while 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. He was later fined RM2000 in default of two months jail at the Kuala Lumpur magistrate's court after he pleaded guilty to criminal trespass for scaling the Petronas Twin Towers.
On 28 March 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 4 September 2011 he legally climbed the 240-meter tall central tower of Moscow State University, during a 2-hour 4D show by David Atkins, in which the university was used as a projection screen.
On 21 June 2012, he legally climbed the 110-metre high Mauritius Telecom tower in Mauritius as part of an advertising campaign for the launching of 4G cellular technology by the telecommunications operator. He was aided by safety ropes, harnesses and suction cups.
On 23 April 2016 he climbed the Esentai Tower in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Esentai Tower is the second highest building in Kazakhstan; it is 162 meters tall and is used as the Ritz Carlton Hotel and for offices.
The table below contains the notable structures climbed by Alain Robert.
|Sydney, Australia||Sydney Tower||1997||319 metres (1,047 ft)|
|Sydney, Australia||Sydney Opera House||1997||65 metres (213 ft)|
|Sydney, Australia||Sydney Harbour Bridge||1997||135 metres (443 ft)|
|Sydney, Australia||RBS Tower||2 June 2009||218 metres (715 ft)||Descended to ground. Arrested and fined A$750|
|Sydney, Australia||Lumiere building||30 August 2010||151 metres (495 ft)||Arrested at the top. Took about 20 minutes to climb the 57-story building|
|Rio de Janeiro, Brazil||Hotel Vermont||1996|
|Montreal, Canada||Crown Plaza Hotel||1999||120 metres (390 ft)|
|Montreal, Canada||Place de la Cathédrale||146 metres (479 ft)|
|Hong Kong||Four Seasons Hotel||2008||130 metres (430 ft)|
|Hong Kong||The Far East Finance Centre||1996||200 metres (660 ft)|
|Hong Kong||The Cheung Kong Centre||2009||283 metres (928 ft)|
|Hong Kong||The Cheung Kong Centre||2005||283 metres (928 ft)|
|Tianmen Mountain, China||Heaven's Gate||2007||200 metres (660 ft)||A plaque commemorates his feat|
|London, England||One Canada Square||18 October 2002||244 metres (801 ft)||Abandoned halfway due to rain|
|London, England||One Canada Square||1995||244 metres (801 ft)|
|London, England||Lloyd's building||2 April 2009||95 metres (312 ft)||Climbed to the 9th floor. Unfurled a 100 ft banner.|
|London, England||Portland House||18 December 2007||101 metres (331 ft)||Arrested. 40-minute climb.|
|Paris||Eiffel Tower||1996/97||313 metres (1,027 ft)|
|Paris, France||Grande Arche at La Défense||1999||105 metres (344 ft)||Failed due to heat, rescued by firemen|
|Paris, France||The Luxor Obelisk in Place de la Concorde||1999||31 metres (102 ft)|
|Paris, France||Tour Montparnasse||1995||209 metres (686 ft)|
|Paris, France||Tour Crystal at Front de Seine||2005||100 metres (330 ft)|
|Paris, France||Tour Crystal at Front de Seine||1996||100 metres (330 ft)|
|São Paulo, Brazil||FIESP (Luís Eulálio de Bueno Vidigal Filho)||1996||92 metres (302 ft)||Arrested on top|
|Paris, France||Mercurial Towers at Bagnolet||1995||125 metres (410 ft)|
|Paris, France||Tour Total||19 October 2004||187 metres (614 ft)||Wore a Spider-Man costume|
|Paris, France||Tour Total||20 March 2014||187 metres (614 ft)|
|Paris, France||Ariane building||8 October 2009||152 metres (499 ft)||No formal charges were brought against him|
|Frankfurt, Germany||Dresdner Bank Tower||1995||145 metres (476 ft)|
|Milan, Italy||Banca di Milano building||1995||112 metres (367 ft)|
|Tokyo, Japan||Shinjuku Center Building||1998||245 metres (804 ft)|
|Warsaw, Poland||Marriott Hotel||1999||140 metres (460 ft)|
|Johannesburg, South Africa||IBM Tower||1998||110 metres (360 ft)|
|Abu Dhabi, UAE||National Bank of Abu Dhabi||Feb 2003||173 metres (568 ft)||A legal climb. Watched by about 100,000 spectators.|
|Abu Dhabi, UAE||The Etisalat building||2005||160 metres (520 ft)|
|Abu Dhabi, UAE||ADIA Headquarters Building||2007||185 metres (607 ft)|
|New York City, United States||New York Times Building||5 June 2008||228 metres (748 ft)||Unfurled global warming banner. Arrested by police.|
|New York City, United States||Empire State Building||1994||381 metres (1,250 ft)|
|Chicago, United States||Willis Tower||1999||443 metres (1,453 ft)||Arrested on top|
|San Francisco, United States||Golden Gate Bridge||1996||227 metres (745 ft)|
|Philadelphia, United States||Blue Cross Tower||1997||185 metres (607 ft)|
|Las Vegas, United States||Luxor Hotel||1996||106 metres (348 ft)|
|Tampere, Finland||Hotel Ilves||2003||61 metres (200 ft)|
|Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||Petronas Tower 1||20 March 1997||452 metres (1,483 ft)||Arrested at the 60th floor|
|Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||Petronas Tower 2||20 March 2007||452 metres (1,483 ft)||Arrested at the 60th floor|
|Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||Petronas Towers||1 September 2009||452 metres (1,483 ft)||Stood atop the highest point of the tower, fined MYR 2000|
|Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia||Sabah Foundation Building||1997||150 metres (490 ft)|
|Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||Melia Hotel||1997||80 metres (260 ft)||For fundraising|
|Singapore||Overseas Union Bank Centre||2000||280 metres (920 ft)||Arrested at the 21st floor|
|Singapore||Suntec Tower One||2008||176 metres (577 ft)|
|Republic of China||Taipei 101||2004||508 metres (1,667 ft)||Climbed as part of opening event. Tallest building in the world at the time of ascent.|
|Caracas, Venezuela||Parque Central Torre||2002||224 metres (735 ft)|
|Barcelona, Spain||Torre Agbar||2007||144 metres (472 ft)|
|Barcelona, Spain||Torre Agbar||2006||144 metres (472 ft)|
|Lisbon, Portugal||Torre Vasco da Gama||2006||145 metres (476 ft)||Optimus-sponsored legal climb to promote a phone.|
|Lisbon, Portugal||25 de Abril Bridge||6 August 2007||190 metres (620 ft)||Arrested|
|Mexico City, Mexico||Santa Fé World Plaza Corporate Tower||2006||127 metres (417 ft)|
|Bratislava, Slovakia||Slovak Radio Building||12 April 2007||80 metres (260 ft)||Took less than 20 minutes|
|Shanghai, China||Jin Mao Building||31 May 2007||420 metres (1,380 ft)||Arrested, expelled from China|
|Moscow, Russia||West Federation Tower||4 September 2007||244 metres (801 ft)||Detained by police.|
|São Paulo, Brazil||Edifício Itália||February 2008||168 metres (551 ft)|
|Beirut, Lebanon||Phoenicia Hotel||October 2008||239 metres (784 ft)|
|Jakarta, Indonesia||The City Tower||12 November 2008||150 metres (490 ft)|
|Jakarta, Indonesia||Bakrie Tower||26 March 2012||214 metres (702 ft)|
|Pune, India||The Amanora Tower||28 February 2010||100 metres (330 ft)||Took less than 12 minutes|
|Paris||GDF Suez building||7 April 2010||185 metres (607 ft)||Arrested at the top|
|Singapore||Singapore Flyer||5 November 2010||165 metres (541 ft)||First person to climb around the world's tallest observatory wheel.|
|Dubai, UAE||Burj Khalifa||28 March 2011||828 metres (2,717 ft)||Legal climb, partial use of safety harness. Tallest building in the world at the time of ascent.|
|Doha, Qatar||Aspire Tower||12 April 2012||300 metres (980 ft)||Set a Guinness World Record for climbing in the fastest time (1 hour, 33 minutes and 47 seconds)|
|Paris||Tour First||10 May 2012||231 metres (758 ft)|
|Port Louis, Mauritius||Mauritius Telecom Tower||21 June 2012||110 metres (360 ft)||Legal climb, took less than 30 minutes.|
|Moscow, Russia||Mail.ru office Tower||29 August 2013||109 metres (358 ft)||Legal climb, took less than 30 minutes.|
|Auckland, New Zealand||Metropolis Residences||12 December 2013||155 metres (509 ft)||Legal climb, promotion for Samsung Galaxy Gear.|
|Yekaterinburg, Russia||Vysotsky (skyscraper)||24 September 2014||188 metres (617 ft)||Legal climb, promotion for Sinara Group|
|Makati, Philippines||G.T. International Tower (skyscraper)||29 January 2019||217 metres (712 ft)||Arrested.|
|Hong Kong||The Cheung Kong Centre||2019||283 metres (928 ft)|
|Frankfurt, Germany||Skyper building||2019||153 metres (502 ft)||Detained|
|Barcelona, Spain||La Torre Agba||2020||144 metres (472 ft)||Detained and fined|
In a 2005 interview, Alain Robert said that he has fallen seven times in his life. The worst was his fall in September 1982.
On 18 January 1982, at 19, he fell 15 metres (49 ft) when his anchor and rope gave way during training. He fractured his wrists, heels and nose and underwent three operations.
On 29 September 1982, at 20, he fell 15 metres (49 ft) when his rope came undone while abseiling. He was in a coma for five days and fractured both forearms, his elbow, pelvis and nose. His elbow was also dislocated and a nerve was damaged, leaving him partially paralyzed. He also suffered cerebral edema and vertigo. He underwent six operations on his hands and elbow.
In 1993, he fell 8 metres (26 ft) while showing students how to rely on their legs when climbing. He kept his hands behind his back on an easy route but lost his balance and fell headfirst, shattering both wrists. He went into another coma and spent two months in the hospital.
In 2004, he fell 2 metres (~6 ft) when climbing a traffic light whilst posing for a photo in an interview. He landed on his elbow and needed forty stitches; just one month later he climbed the world's tallest skyscraper at the time, Taipei 101, as part of its official opening week.
Books and documentaries Edit
Alain Robert's autobiography, With Bare Hands, was first published in English in 2008. It features his development into a famous urban climber from his days as a child and gives a deep insight into his philosophy and how he managed to overcome his disabilities.
The book was released for the Asian market in April by Blacksmith Books in Hong Kong with the subtitle "The true story of Alain Robert, the real-life Spiderman" (ISBN 9789889979928). In September it was released by Maverick House Publishers in the UK for the English language market across Europe. This edition has the subtitle "The Story of the Human Spider" (ISBN 9781905379552).
There is an award-winning 52-minute documentary about Robert titled The Wall Crawler by Director/Producer Julie Cohen, released in 1998.
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