‘French Spiderman’ back to climb Dubai’s twisted tower

Alain Robert, who climbed the Burj Khalifa – in 2011, arrived in Dubai on Tuesday to begin preparations for the 75-storey ascent of Cayan Tower, in Dubai Marina.

French climber Alain Robert, popularly known as ‘Spiderman’, pictured rehearsing last December for Sunday’s climb up Cayan ‘Twisted’ Tower, in Dubai Marina Courtesy Alain Robert
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DUBAI // France’s “Spiderman” is to climb the world’s tallest twisted tower on Sunday.

Alain Robert, who climbed the world’s tallest manmade structure – the Burj Khalifa – in 2011, arrived in Dubai on Tuesday to begin preparations for the 75-storey ascent of Cayan Tower, in Dubai Marina.

The French climber made his name by scaling some of the world’s tallest and most iconic structures, from the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building, and Sydney Opera House to the Petronas Twin Tower, in Kuala Lumpur – all without a safety harness.

Sunday’s climb has been two years in the making for the 52-year-old. Mr Robert had initially been given permission by the developer, Cayan Group, to scale the 307 metre-high building soon after its completion, in 2013. However, that plan fell through after the American broadcasting television network, NBC, pulled out of broadcasting the event live.

“I’ve been waiting to climb this building for a long time because it is a unique challenge,” the Frenchman said.

In this case, said the climber, the building design will make for a tough climb. Issues he will come across include the overhang created by the 90 degree twist between the base and top of the tower, and limited space provided by the ledges.

“As I only have room for the tips of my feet, I have to use my fingers to climb – something which is not ideal,” he said.

Sunday’s climb will not be the first time he has experienced clinging to the outside of Cayan Tower, however.

Last December Mr Robert got a taste of things to come during a rehearsal. He climbed the first five floors of the building before making his way up from the 68th to 72nd storey.

Despite wishing to scale the Burj Khalifa in the same manner, he was required to use safety ropes. The same measures do not apply for his climb on Sunday. “I’m glad they are allowing me to do the climb the way I want to do it,” he said.

The event coincides with Cayan’s launch of a Dh1 billion residential and serviced apartment project in Dubai’s Umm Suqeim area.

“An exciting announcement such as this one needed to be done amidst a thrilling event and, thus, we have in store for our guests an electrifying record-breaking climb by Alain Robert. I would like to wish him the very best of luck for his death-defying feat,” said Ahmed Alhatti, president and chairman of Cayan Group.

After climbing five buildings in the UAE – Abu Dhabi’s NBAD and Etisalat headquarters, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, and Al Murjan Tower and Burj Khalifa in Dubai – Mr Robert said he enjoyed the support he received in the UAE.

“Before climbing the NBAD building in 2003 I was being watched by about 10,000 people, but more than 100,000 showed up to watch me in Abu Dhabi,” he said.

Mr Robert said he caught the climbing bug aged 11, after he forgot the keys to the seven-storey building of his family’s apartment, in his hometown of Valence in southern France. It would be his first climb.

“I was scared of heights at the time and wanted to do something to overcome my fear,” he said. Now, more than 40 years later, the urban-climber said he has no intention of slowing down. “As long as I’m in good health I will continue, as climbing has given me so much. I now give motivational speeches and get to travel the world.”

And before his next feat has even begun, Mr Robert has started planning the next.

Residents and visitors can see the Frenchman back in the country in November, when he plans to climb Abu Dhabi’s second tallest building, The Landmark, which stands at 324 metres and has 72 floors.