Spiderman ready to grapple with the ultimate challenge

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The Independent Online
Alain Robert has finally got what he wants: permission to climb the world's tallest building, without ropes or mechanical aids. Mr Robert, 34, a French rock climber, was yesterday given clearance by the Malaysian government to climb the Petronas twin towers, which are 452 metres (1,483 ft) high, on 5 April. Last week he reached the 60th floor of the 88-storey buildings on an unauthorised attempt, before being pulled in through a window by policemen.

Mr Robert is well known to police forces around the world. His arrival in a country usually presages an attempt to scale its highest building unaided. He has climbed skyscrapers, including the Empire State Building in New York, Canary Wharf in London, the Far East Finance Center in Hong Kong and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. A recent attempt to climb the Sydney Tower was stopped by police.

His exploits have earned him the nicknames of "Spiderman", "the human fly" and (less generously) "madman", though professional climbers tend to regard his efforts with disdain; even the Petronas Towers are comparatively short climbs by mountaineering standards. However, the consequence of a slip, whether through carelessness or fatigue, would be fatal. He plans to train for next week's attempt with a rigorous schedule involving push- ups with one hand, one elbow and even one finger. During the climb all he will have are his hands and a pair of sticky rubber shoes, though he could rest on various features of the building.

Mr Robert has pledged to raise funds for charity with the climb, his latest adventure since he began scaling buildings at the age of 13. In Kuala Lumpur, he said he hoped to "make plenty of money" from the climbing show. He will retain 10 per cent of the collections. It was not clear whether television rights would be sold for the event or whether authorities planned to charge spectators. Asked if he was scared of falling, Mr Robert simply said: "I have climbed really difficult ones and succeeded."

The Malaysian government said it had decided to grant permission in appreciation of his abilities, and also because it would generate publicity for the world's tallest building, owned by the national oil company, Petronas.

Charles Arthur