Mountain climbing, although considered an extreme sport, became even more extreme when some very courageous people thought about pushing their limits and climb not only rocky peaks, but buildings and edifices in order to test their human endurance and feel the excitement of escalading a skyscraper usually without the help of any climbing gear. Psychologists may call these people sensation seekers, but they call themselves free climbers and they owe their passion to famous alpinist Geoffery Winthrop Young, who in 1895 climbed empty-handed the Cambridge University building. From that point on, nothing was the same, as people of all races, gender, culture and age started to silently compete to the higher and higher buildings that constantly began to scrape the skies of the major cities in the world. Facing danger and tasting adrenaline to the maximum, more and more people defied gravity and the human body’s limitations and started climbing imposing buildings, turning free climbing from an extreme adventure into a lifestyle.

Climbing Trip
Climbing TripDarcy McCarty / Foter / CC BY

But this rather exclusive club of sensation seekers has one representative that couldn’t be matched or defeated and whose performances still give a lot of trouble to the Book of Records authorities who almost don’t have the necessary time to update his incredible acts of (super) heroism. Because Alain Robert is called the Human Spiderman and, if you take a look at his records, you’ll realize the beloved comics’ character looks a little fragile and untrained in comparison to the French climbing sensation.

For those who are passionate about climbing and are flirting a little with its free extreme form, Alain Robert’s name and crazy acts don’t represent much mystery anymore. He found his passion at the age of 12, when he accidentally got locked up in the house by his parents and needed badly to go out. He chose to go down by the seventh floor apartment window and from that point on, climbing walls and mountain rocks lost any charm for him, as apparently he was born and built for what was about to become his life.

After that, nothing seemed impossible anymore. Among his all time records, there are the Eiffel Tower escalades – typical for a Frenchman, The Sidney Tower, Tour Montparnasse, One Canada Square, Blue Cross Tower, Willis Tower, New York Times Building, Luxor Hotel, Taipei 101, Chicago’s Sears Tower, the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai, just to name a few.

Also famous and well known facts about his life include:

  • He was arrested in almost every country he visited, one of his most spectacular arrests being the one in Texas, as he was free climbing the One Houston Center building, because the authorities found some suspicious medication upon him. Even if it turned out they were prevention drugs for epilepsy crises and Robert had a prescription for them, the Texans still charged him $2000 for border trespassing.
  • Among his many life adventures, the China episode circulated the world, gaining him more and more fans, as in 2007 he was expelled from the country after he was caught climbing (illegally, of course) the Jin Mao Tower.
  • He had many accidents, but the most severe falls both took place in 1982, when he underwent extensive surgeries, got partially paralyzed, and suffered from cerebral edema and vertigo. He was only 20 years old.
  • He transformed his house ceiling into an indoor all purposes climbing wall where he trains, hanging upside down for twenty minutes sessions.
  • He is only 1.62 meters tall, has an average weight of 50 kilos and his all steel fiber body structure allows him to perform bar pulls in only one finger.

But what is the French Spiderman up to these days? After setting a Guinness World Record for the fastest free climbing on the Aspire Tower in Quatar (it took him a little over an hour and a half to climb a 980 ft tall building) in 2012, he started this year in a glorious manner, as he managed to literally conquer Cuba, in an only 28 minutes free climb on Havana’s former Hilton Hotel. So if you see this small slick creature ascending on the outside of your office building and usually wearing a promotional T-Shirt that supports a global fight against global warming, for your information, it’s not a superhero, it’s just Alain Robert.