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"Modern people are only willing to believe in their computers, while I believe in myself."

Alain Robert climbing a building
Alain Robert


verb. variants: or free-solo \ ˈfrē-​ˈsō-​(ˌ)lō\: to perform a free solo climb of a rock face, climbing route, etc. : to climb without the use of artificial aids or safety equipment

- Merriam Webster Dictionary -

Rock climbing gained popularity and went somehow beyond the frontiers of its niche world when in 2018 Alex Honnold decided not only to climb free solo the 2,900-foot Freerider route  on El Capitan, but also to make a blockbuster documentary out of it (Free Solo. Spoiler alert: not recommended for the faint-hearted, sweat hands in sight). The endeavour earned him fame, an Academy Award, and helped the entire climbing world to get a visibility never gotten before.

Because of this sudden and never-seen-before exposure, some performers of this fine and elite art may have lift an eyebrow: they have been there, grasping the smallest handhold even just to be able to recount it, long way before notoriety, and recognition hunt them out of their vertical lairs.

Among them, Alain Robert is one of the finest, jaw-dropping and ground breaking pioneers of the discipline: class of 1962, born in Digoin (France), he is known among the initiated of the field as the “French Spider-Man”. He began performing free solo climbing in the ’80 and ‘90, when internet wasn’t there and – and I quote – “Alex Honnold was still wearing nappies”. Then he decided to notch it up a little, to dare a little bit more (if possible): why not free soloing buildings?

"I was not willing to give up because I was born to like taking risks and that is my way of life."

Alain Robert while climbing a mountain

Shirtless Alain Robert and a city in the background

And that’s the moment when he went down in history: more than 80 buildings climbed with his bare hands (which is also the title of his biography), structures designed by the brightest engineering minds and yet defeated by this sinewy spider-man with nothing more than a bag of chalk.

Among them the Burj Khalifa, the Sidney Opera House, the Petronas Tower, the Sears Tower, the New York Times building, and – of course – the Eiffel tower.

As you may imagine, authorities weren’t so prone to giving climbing permission for skyscrapers: this got our hero some celebrity and has won him some hours at local police departments, with the law enforcement officials waiting for him at the end of his climb.

“Fortunately, the courts discharged me every time after they understood what I had done”

But do you think some stain on the criminal record could stop someone who has put his life at stake for 30 years? Daring not always abides by the law.

Alain Robert on top of a skyscraper

To know and read more about Alain Robert click here.

Written by

Fabio Amati

Photos by

Sourced from the Web


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