French free climber scales 40 storeys after studying apartment tower for five days

Legendary free climber Alain Robert - who yesterday scaled Auckland apartment building the Metropolis without safety ropes - says he feels glad he's "still alive" after every climb.

Crowds of Christmas shoppers in downtown Auckland spent most of their lunch break craning their necks and staring skywards as legendary free climber Alain Robert - the French Spiderman - climbed one the city's most distinctive buildings, the Metropolis.

Known as the French Spider-Man, Mr Robert climbed the 40-storey building yesterday as part of a promotional campaign by electronics company Samsung.

Stopping often during the climb, the 51-year-old had Snapchat conversations, took calls and snapped some pictures.

Over a 40-year climbing career he's become known for free climbing some of the world's most iconic buildings, wearing only "basic climbing shoes" with a bag of chalk for grip.


Mr Robert arrived in the country last Thursday and had spent five days studying the Metropolis.

For a man who's conquered New York's Empire State Building, the Willis Tower in Chicago and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, yesterday's climb wasn't his most complicated.

"It was a residential building, so it was climbing from one balcony to the next, many of the balconies were not that far away, except the last five balconies which were bigger, taller and more difficult," he said.

But no matter the building's size, he still enjoys the thrill of free climbing before the unsuspecting public.

"It feels good, it feels like you've completed something interesting - it feels like you're still alive."

The Metropolis is one of more than 130 buildings around the world the French Spider-Man has climbed. His biggest achievement was in 2011, when he conquered the world's tallest building, Dubai's Burj Khalifa.

It took him just over six hours to climb the 830m-tall, $1.8 billion tower.

Organisers forced him to use safety ropes on the Dubai climb - something he usually avoids.

Mr Robert's preferred climbing method, which he used yesterday, was to use no ropes at all.

"That was the cool thing because in that sense I found out that Samsung was quite daring," he said. "All of the big companies (that hire him), they don't want to take that kind of risk, so at least with Samsung they were confident on my knowledge and my ability to do it."

His climbing technique allows him to climb using the features of the outside of buildings, such as window ledges and frames.

While some of Mr Robert's climbs are sanctioned, many of them are not. He has been arrested more than 100 times for climbing buildings without permission.

Mr Robert's only problem during yesterday's climb came at the very top, when a rope let down for him to clamber over the final ledge wasn't quite sturdy enough for his liking. He finished his ascent via a slightly less adventurous method - climbing through an open window.

Mr Robert's next climb will be on December 21 in Shaoxing, China.

How he does it

• Alain Robert says he wears a pair of "basic climbing shoes".

• He carries a small bag of chalk to give his hands extra grip.

• He climbs by gripping on to the features of the outside of buildings, such as window ledges and frames.

• He free-climbs with no safety ropes - apart from some big climbs when organisers insist.