'Spiderman' conquers Britain's tallest building

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The Independent Online
Alain Robert yesterday horrified onlookers but delighted himself by becoming the first person to climb up the Canary Wharf tower, Britain's highest building, without the aid of ropes or safety equipment. His ascent was the British leg of his lifetime ambition - to climb the tallest building in every major city in the world.

The 32-year-old Frenchman, a professional climber who is known to his compatriots as "Spiderman", was arrested by police when he reached a ledge just three floors short of the top of the 800ft building in Docklands, but later released without charge. "I have climbed lots of buildings in different parts of the world," Mr Robert said later. "I have climbed the Tour Montparnasse [a 59-storey, 690-foot building] in Paris. As I was in London, I decided to climb the tallest building here. It was not dangerous. I am a professional climber."

Dressed in blue tracksuit bottoms, a red jacket, and climbing shoes, and with cloth tape wound around his fingers for protection, Mr Robert ascended the south-west corner of the building by twisting his fingers and feet into the cracks which guide the window cleaning equipment. He took slightly over one hour - including a pause to ask for water from office workers, who were unable to oblige because they could not open their windows - before reaching the highest vertical point, 750 feet above the ground.

In the past year Mr Robert has climbed buildings in Chicago, New York and Paris. He has said that he finds the challenge of climbing glass buildings irresistible: "When I see one, I want to climb. It's hard to think of anything else."

Last October, in New York, he was banned from climbing anything in the city for two years after an ascent of a 600ft, 48-storey building. He has been operated on 14 times, and has broken his skull, pelvis, heels and elbows during falls.

He is due to leave London today, although it is not clear which city he is heading for.