I'm a Gambler and One Day I Know I'll Lose but I Need to Climb.I Need the Fix; WHY SPIDERMAN ALAIN SCALES WORLD'S TALLEST BUILDINGS

The Mirror (London, England), October 21, 2002 | Go to article overview

I'm a Gambler and One Day I Know I'll Lose but I Need to Climb.I Need the Fix; WHY SPIDERMAN ALAIN SCALES WORLD'S TALLEST BUILDINGS


Byline: ANDY RUDD

SPIDERMAN Alain Robert clings to life by his fingertips. Every time he begins another terrifying climb he knows it could be his last.

But it's what he does ... staring death in the face is all in a day's work.

"I am a gambler," he says. "And I know that when you gamble so much, one day you are going to lose, but I can't help myself. I need the buzz. I need the fix. I need the climb."

Alain's ability to scale some of the world's tallest buildings using just his bare hands, plimsolled feet and an eagle good luck charm given to him by an American Indian chief, has amazed crowds and brought him international fame.

But on Friday the father of three was brought down to earth with a bump when bosses at London's Canary Wharf served him with a court injunction after a second attempt to climb One Canada Square, Britain's tallest building, was foiled by bad weather.

Management want him banned from the 800ft tower - where the Daily Mirror is based - and have ordered him to repay the costs of calling out the emergency services.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "I have done nothing wrong. I don't know how they want me to pay. I have no money."

For the 40-year-old Frenchman who has conquered 70 buildings including New York's Empire State Building and the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, climbing is his life - and will probably be his death.

"It frightens me that every time I climb it could be my last, but I live life on the edge and I get a thrill from that. Most people get up in the morning and go into the office. I climb buildings," he says.

THE fact that the grim reaper is probably sharpening his sickle at the start of every new climb doesn't bother Alain, who is adamant that the day he stops climbing will be the day he dies.

"There are so many ways to die and if I had to pick one I would prefer to be killed climbing than by cancer or in a car accident. It's the only way to go for me and we are all born to die."

Much of Alain's body is already held together by metal pins after three terrifying falls in the early 1980's. The worst was in Malaysia when he fell off a building and cracked his skull. Alain knows he is running out of lives. Several years ago he had to be rescued by firefighters from Paris's 363ft-high Grande Arche de la Defense when he was overcome by heat reflected from the building's giant white walls. He was taken to hospital suffering from cramp and dehydration.

And on a hot summer day in August 1998 in Paris, Alain experienced his closest brush with death while scaling the Framatome power company's building.

Perched 130ft up he suddenly froze. "I really thought this was it," he said. "I couldn't reach the top and I tried to go down, but it was impossible.

"I was in a really bad way and thought I was going to fall. I knew that death was seconds away.

"My family flashed through my mind, and then I knew I had no choice. I had to reach the top for them so I started climbing the last 500 feet.

"Each metre I climbed felt like I was getting a bit of my life back and when I reached the top I was reborn again.

"It was frightening at the time, but afterwards it was very exciting to be very close to falling and have that rush."

While Alain is tackling his latest challenge around in the world, sometimes dressed as Spiderman, life goes on nervously for his wife, teacher Nicole, 42, and their three children Julien, 14, Hugo, 12 and Lucas, seven. "There is an unspoken agreement between my wife and me," Alain says. "I am not saying that she doesn't get frightened. She respects what I do and is very strong and doesn't show any emotion before I climb. She is very cool. …

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