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Alain Robert: 'French Spiderman' on his death-defying stunts

By Stefanie Blendis, Rosie Tomkins and Teo Kermeliotis, CNN
  • Urban climber Alain Robert has scaled some of the world's tallest buildings
  • He usually completes his climbs without permission or safety equipment
  • Dubbed "French Spider-Man" he says he enjoys "playing the game between life and death"

Editor's Note: CNN's monthly feature show Revealed followed skyscraper climber Alain Robert as he made one of his legendary ascents at the GDF Suez building in Paris' business district.

Paris, France (CNN) -- "Daredevil," "brave," "nutter" -- these are some of the descriptions usually applied to Alain Robert, the legendary urban climber.

Robert has made his name by risking his life to scale some of the world's highest landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and Taipei 101.

The wiry-framed climber relies solely on his bare hands and a small bag of chalk for his audacious ascents. His escapades across the globe usually end with a trip to the local police station -- a prospect that doesn't seem to dishearten the 47-year-old and father of three.

"Life has to be dangerous," Robert told CNN. "There is a percentage of people who want to be a little bit outside their comfort zone and I am one of them, someone who lives on the edge."

Video: Death defying ascents
See map of where Robert has climbed

A talented rock climber, Robert turned his attention to the urban setting of steel and glass walls in the mid-1990s. So far, he has scaled more than 100 skyscrapers -- some of them legally, after being invited by countries or enterprises to "christen" the unveiling of a new building.

Graphic: See map of places Robert has climbed

Robert opened up to CNN's Revealed about danger, death and getting arrested.

CNN: How does your body feel at the beginning of a climb?

Alain Robert: I'm always in a little bit of a rush because I know that by doing something illegal there will be cops and security people. But after a few meters I calm down, it's something marvelous. I feel completely alone -- it's like melting, I am the structure, and I am also Alain Robert.

I enjoy that kind of feeling and that's why I'm kind of addicted and need to do it again and again and again. At the end of the day, life is very much about action and I like playing that game between life and death.

CNN: Do you decide how you're going to climb beforehand or is there a process of learning the building as you move?

I'm completely on the opposite side of someone who is trying to commit suicide.
--Alain Robert

AR: It's very much about touching and feeling, trying to understand the building as much as possible. So that's why I usually go at night and make a try. If you've climbed the first 140 meters it doesn't mean that you've succeeded; you are going to succeed by climbing the last 10 meters.

Everything that I undertake has nothing to do with craziness; I'm completely on the opposite side of someone who is trying to commit suicide. I enjoy living, I'm married, I have three boys, I even have a dog. So my target is having fun and succeeding.

CNN: What do you think about while climbing?

AR: My head is focused on the ascent, I can't afford to be distracted by my electricity bill or my broken car. The main target is reaching the top and staying alive.

Before the ascent I'm a little bit afraid, which is normal, I am like any other human being. But when I start to climb I'm like a tiger, in fighting mode. There's no doubt in my mind that I am going to succeed.

CNN: Where is the power dynamic for you?

AR: I am tempted to tell you that the more dangerous it is, the more exciting it is. But it can be deadly, you should never forget that when you start such a difficult ascent, it could be the last one.

But it's an interesting feeling, nowadays society is based in materialism, so by doing something dangerous it reminds you how precious life is.

CNN: Do you enjoy fear? Is life without danger boring?

AR: Yes, life has to be dangerous. For people living in places like the U.S., UK or France, nowadays life is kind of secure. But there is a percentage of people who want to be a little bit outside their comfort zone, and I am one of them, someone who lives on the edge.

CNN: Do you consider yourself a rebel?

AR: I'm a little bit rebellious, I enjoy more doing my ascent without any approval than doing it with approval. But that's just a part of me, many people are like that.

Actually, a lot of the cops enjoy the things that I am doing -- even though they arrest me, they take pictures and ask me for autographs.

CNN: We've seen shots of you waving your arms when you reach the top. How is that feeling?

AR: It's fantastic, it feels like being re-born, you realize how beautiful your life is.

The media seem to not get enough of me climbing a building, and most of the times they feel even more attracted if the ascent is illegal. I guess that's because it shows that this little French guy is having a strong spirit of freedom -- he's enjoying his life by doing something extreme. He's playing a game between life and death, and he's good at it because he has been alive for so many years.

And it shows how human beings can achieve a lot with power and motivation. At the end of the day, if I'm having to choose between dying from cancer or falling from a cliff or a building, I prefer 10,000 times to fall from a building -- it's going to be short and fast.