An Interview With Alain Robert

1 January 2012

What goes through your head when you reach the top of a building?

It is exhilaration that I cannot really put it into words. Many of my climbs have been life and death struggles. When I climbed the Willis Tower (then the world’s tallest building) in Chicago, the clouds descended and covered it while I was climbing. This left moisture which made the glass impossible, and I could no longer use my feet. I didn’t have the energy to climb back down and I really thought that I just wouldn’t have the energy to make it to the top. The feeling of achievement at the summit was beyond words. I let out a yell.

What do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Well, a lot was made of my climbing the world's tallest building, which is called the Khalifa Burj in Dubai. This building is fantastic. It towers 830 meter (2722 feet) in height and took me six and a quarter hour to climb. For me though, the highlight was climbing Petronas Twin Towers in 2009 (then the world’s tallest). I had made two prior attempts on the Towers, but on each occasion was arrested crossing the wide balcony on floor 81. In September 2009 I made it to the very top.

How did you get into free climbing in the first place?

When I was a boy I returned home to discover that I had lost my key. I lived with my parents in a 9th floor apartment. I decided to climb up the building and get in through the window.

What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome?

In 1982, aged 19, I suffered a career ending fall, shattering many bones and rendering myself permanently 66% disabled. I was told by all the experts that I would never climb again. After months in hospital and many operations I returned home. I decided I would overcome the accident. I trained for many hours every day for two years and eventually my body forgave me.

What sets you apart from other climbers and adventurers?

I just think of myself as Alain. I do not see myself as being set apart from my fellow climbers. There is a bond. While I have always enjoyed climbing cliffs and mountains, I suppose if anything sets me apart, it is that I also climb buildings and no one else really does that. This has been lucky for me and these days wherever I go in the world I am recognised.

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