Two French climbers have scaled the 828-metre high Burj Khalifa to promote the launch of a global campaign to clean the world’s highest peaks.
Stunning images show the French “spiderman” Alain Robert and his climbing partner Alexis Landot reaching the summit of the landmark Downtown building, nine hours after setting off.
Both were tasked with taking on the daunting physical challenge to promote the launch of private banking company Mashreq’s Climb2Change project.
The initiative - led by UAE bank Mashreq - aims to clean up the world’s 14 highest mountains, by taking down rubbish left behind by climbers for recycling.
Death-defying footage of the Burj Khalifa climb was released to coincide with Cop28 to encourage support for the clean-up operation.
“It was my second time climbing this building and for my friend Alexis it was an old dream for him, so the fact we made it together was amazing,” said Robert, 62, who climbed the Burj Khalifa in 2011.
“The climb took nine hours and, although for me it was the second time, it was still very challenging. It’s a very difficult building to climb.
“It's close to one kilometre high and it's very technical.
“Every two to three metres you need to change your technique and hand-holds. It was an exhausting climb.”
Robert is a rock and urban climber from Digoin in Burgundy, east-central France.
He is famous for his free solo rock climbing that sees him take on difficult routes without any safety ropes.
So far, he has climbed more than 170 buildings around the world. The pair were supported by an extensive team of safety professionals during the ascent.
“We used a ladder to come down from the very top,” said Robert, who rails against the world of commercial mountain climbing, preferring the free-form of rope-less ascents.
“The last 200 metres you are inside, and there is no light so you are in complete darkness.
“When you come down from there, you can't see much and you are going down a long, long ladder.”
His climbing partner Landot, 23, was inspired by Robert to take up climbing after reading about his compatriot’s exploits in magazines as a child.
The 2011 film Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol that saw Tom Cruise appear to climb the Burj Khalifa spurred him on to achieve his own ambitions.
“When I learnt who Alain was, I was amazed,” he said.
“I saw him climb the Burj Khalifa and it was on the front cover of this climbing magazine, I was inspired and dreamt of doing it with him one day.
“Climbing for nine hours straight was really different from what I'm used to do.
“Especially because we had a rope on this ascent. Usually, we both climb rope-less.
“It was a different kind of experience, but definitely the most exhaustive and exhausting climb I've ever done.”
The planned mountain clean-up expeditions will not only address specific environmental challenges but also raise awareness about the importance of sustainable practices.
Climb2Change will be led by extreme sport athlete Nelly Attar, who was the first Arab woman to climb the world’s second highest peak, the 8,611 metre K2 mountain.
“We will be leading a mass clean-up on high altitude mountains, so mountains that are above 5,000 metres like Everest and K2,” said Attar, who is from Saudi Arabia.
“They have been accumulating so much trash over the last few years, so we're going to be working with local communities to clean up the mountains and bring the trash back down efficiently.
“We're also going to be working with local organisations to devise solutions to protect the mountains in the long run, while also looking at ways to repurpose the waste.”
The project will see collaborations with local authorities and communities, organisations, and volunteers.
Mashreq aims to foster collaboration and inspire a collective commitment to creating a cleaner and healthier environment.
“Climb2Change serves as our strategic global initiative where we actively translate this commitment,” said Ahmed Abdelaal, group chief executive of Mashreq.
“The launch strategically coincides with our active participation at Cop28.
“Our vision for this initiative extends beyond our own impact; we aspire to foster collaboration among individuals and businesses who share our mission.”