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Behind the scenes of a high-rise building climb
Alain Robert
"French Spiderman"/ Free climber

Alain Robert, aka the "French Spiderman", is known for climbing the world's skyscrapers without permission or advance notice. Robert, who in March of 2010 successfully climbed the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest skyscraper at 828 meters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates), was in Japan to attend the 2011 Faust A.G. Awards ceremony.
In addition to attending the Faust A.G. Awards, Robert had another mission to accomplish during his visit. This mission was to find a new challenge in Tokyo. In other words, the mission was to survey skyscrapers.

Robert believes that just because a building is tall, it does not make the climb interesting. This is part of his criteria when surveying buildings. "Architecturally beautiful buildings. Buildings that are beautifully designed," he said when describing skyscrapers that stir up his will to challenge climbing it. "Same goes for women too, right?" quipped Robert in a playful manner typical of the French. As he toured the city's skyscrapers, the building that piqued his interest the most was a building with beautifully designed curved lines along with height (the name of building will remain confidential as per Robert's wishes).
What does Robert look at to determine whether a building can be climbed? "I look at whether I can put my hands and feet in the crevices of the structure to stabilize myself, and whether there are horizontal sections where I can rest my hands and feet. I also check whether the building's strength is sufficient by actually pounding my hands on the building," explained Robert. Robert didn't survey the buildings by just looking at them from a distance. He went right up to the bottom of the building and checked the building materials by hand. He did this every time, without fail.

Of course, there are times when he has to determine that a building can't be climbed.

Robert states, "If I don't have a place to latch my hands and feet, it's basically impossible. Even if there were places to latch my hands and feet, if they were too far apart, I won’t be able to climb." There are relatively few buildings around the world with places to secure hands that are conveniently located at regular intervals. It goes without saying that architects design buildings with design in mind, and not for humans to climb the building. Inevitably, Robert must carefully check the slight bumps and crevices in the building walls. While sipping coffee during the break before the awards ceremony, he put his hands on the table and said, "As long as I have this much room, I should be fine." The length was about 2 cm, enough to allow the first joint of a finger to latch on. The existence of this slight projection is his decision criteria. When looking at photos of some of his climbs, it seems as if there were no bumps and crevices, and that his hands and feet were suctioned onto the walls.

Observing a building with grid-like plates on the walls, Robert stated, "This one looks good for climbing." There have been instances where he instantly climbed several meters above ground. Naturally, all skyscrapers he climbs aren't so easy. Up to now, Robert has climbed many places that would make us wonder exactly where he is latching his hands and feet.

"I really don't want to use safety ropes."

"There are times where structures at the bottom (such as fencing and beams) are not located at the top. So being able to picture the route to the top from all four directions, instead of just from the front, is crucial," explained Robert.

Robert affirmed that he definitely does not want to use safety ropes, with the exception of events in which he is officially invited to, like the Burj Khalifa climb. Lack of safety ropes makes careful surveying imperative and it is important to picture the entire route to the top. On the other hand, as long as he can fully picture the route to the top, not much preparation is needed. We can go so far as to say, he can immediately climb any building in front of him.

"But the real issue is that I have people who support me, so minimal preparation is a must. Even I wouldn't do anything that stupid. I definitely want to always keep that in mind," asserted Robert.

Robert toured several skyscrapers during this visit to Japan. Perhaps it would be easy for you readers to picture what Robert is thinking if you knew exactly what he saw and what went through his mind. That being said, Robert wants to keep that a secret.

"Before, when I was arrested by police, I was interrogated for 10 hours. If we give away the building's name, it can lead to the authorities taking extra precautions, which would be a problem. Let's not write what I saw on this trip," Robert requested.

Unfortunately, we cannot divulge further details about Robert's tour of Tokyo. However, make no mistake, he accomplished his mission. When and where will Spiderman show up next will remain a mystery.

His stay in Tokyo was short and rushed. Still, Robert displayed tremendous desire to take on a new challenge in Tokyo.




Alain Robert

"French Spiderman"/ Free climber

Known for climbing skyscrapers, starting with the Citicorp Center building (184m) in 1994. He has climbed over 130 high-rise buildings around the world without the use of safety ropes. He is known for often being arrested at top of the building after his climb, because most of these challenges take place without permission. On March 28, 2011, he challenged free-climbing the Burj Khalifa (828m) in Dubai of the United Arab Emirates. He succeeded in reaching the top in 6 hours and 40 minutes. This was an "official climb" with invitation from the government of Dubai. As such, it was a climb using a safety rope and this record is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. He is also the 2011 Faust Challenger of the Year Award recipient.

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