Greetings Alain. You've just climbed Auckland's Metropolis apartment building freestyle, one of around 130 international buildings you've conquered as a self-made Spider-Man. What has been the toughest?

Probably the Sears (now Willis) Tower in Chicago - it's 443m of sheer glass from bottom to top and not a building on which you can rest easily. There were no horizontal areas like here with balconies. You just grab a crack and go until you reach the top.

How are the fingertips? Fine, especially now I have a glass of champagne to celebrate. The toughest part was the last five storeys which were slightly taller than the others. The best thing is I climbed with bare hands. There was talk about using ropes and stuff, but non, I didn't need them. I only had difficulty at the end when I couldn't get back down into the building without a key.

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.

I'm loving your green leather trousers. You didn't contemplate wearing brown ones given you'd be hanging off ledges 40 storeys up?


Non, but I generally love anything snakeskin - jackets, pants, boots.

It must be a relief not to get arrested for a change? Yes, I've been arrested more than 100 times. Even coming here it was hard to get a visa because of my record.

You've managed to make a few statements over the years though? One example was climbing the New York Times building. I unfurled a banner that global warming is killing more people every week than 9/11. They didn't like that much.

Robert says the toughest part was the top five storeys. Photo / Greg Bowker
Robert says the toughest part was the top five storeys. Photo / Greg Bowker

Crikey, I can imagine. But you must still get a kick out of this gig?

Yes. It's not like a job, even though I make a living out of it; it's more of a passion. It's dangerous but driving cars can be dangerous. Life is hardly safe. I've always dreamed of this kind of life as an enigma. I've also branched out to give talks to companies in the banking, insurance and chemical sectors. The last one was in Seattle to a pension fund managing US$200 billion ($242 billion).

Fair enough. You'd know a thing or two about risk. Any rituals on the day of a climb? I just like champagne to chill out afterwards (to his assistants: "Are you able to bring up my girlfriend?")

How does she cope? Well, she's downstairs having a cigarette, she's always doing that. Actually it's terrible for her being in New Zealand (with that habit). I saw a pack costs $15 and they're talking about ending smoking here by 2025.

I can't imagine that happening in France? Maybe one day we'll go the same way. In Indonesia (where Robert has been recently) it probably costs about 15 cents for a pack but there is no medical protection and everybody smokes. They are heavy smokers, we're not talking two to three a day.

Stick to the champagne, Alain?