What do the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, and the Golden Gate Bridge have in common? All three are part of a growing list of almost 100 structures that have been ropelessly scaled by the world’s preeminent urban climber, French-born Alain Robert.
Now fifty-years-old, Robert began his climbing career almost forty years ago when, keyless, he maneuvered his way into his parents’ eighth story apartment. Throughout his teenage years and a fall that rendered him partially paralyzed, Robert defied odds and chased his dangerous dream, honing his natural skills in the French Alps’ challenging terrain.
His climbing feats usually commence at dusk or dawn, so as to avoid being stopped on the ground by worried members of law enforcement (Robert’s number of arrests are nearly as vast as his successful ascents). Then, without cables, harnesses, suction cups, or anchors, he relies on nothing but experience and a small bag of climbing powder to conquer the world’s tallest structures. Every window ledge, every metallic protrusion created at the whim of an architect looking to make his mark on a cityscape, becomes a tool for Robert as he makes his own.
On March 28, 2011, Robert climbed the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s 2,717- foot-high Buri Khalifa, in a record-setting six hours and fourteen minutes. (In a rare act of compliance, Robert chose to wear a safety harness for this mission. We don’t blame him.) Most recently, Robert took on the Intercontinental Hotel in Bucharest, Romania.
Despite injuries that have rendered him more than sixty percent disabled and a perseverant vertigo condition, Robert’s five-foot-five, 105-pound frame climbed its way into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010 and, with the help of various sponsors, continues to raise significant amounts for charitable and personal coffers.
Now try to keep your heart from beating out of your chest as you watch this video highlighting Robert’s most exciting climbs.