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“Spider-Man” Alain Robert Opens Up to Toombow Kids

The fear of heights is one of the most widespread in the world, and for many, a simple glance down from a building window can provoke anxiety. At 61, Alain Robert has managed to tame this fear. Since his teenage years, he has been climbing mountains and buildings taller and taller, all without ropes or other equipment. As an adept of this specialty known as “free solo climbing,” he kindly shared his experience with Toombow Kids.

Toombow Kids: Hi Alain, how are you? What triggered your passion for free solo climbing?

Alain Robert: I’m doing well, thank you! My passion was triggered by courage. As a child, I was afraid of everything, of death, almost even of my own shadow! My two great heroes were Zorro and Robin Hood. I didn’t yet know how, but my ultimate goal was to become someone courageous like them. And then one day, I saw the movie The Mountain which tells the story of two brothers embarking on a mountain expedition in search of a plane wreck. It’s an old movie, but it gave me a path, an idea. It was an obvious choice considering my attraction to verticality.

Toombow Kids: Okay, that makes sense. Did you pass on this passion to your children?

Alain Robert: No, I didn’t. It’s something that must come from within oneself. Of all my children, only my eldest son climbed a bit with me. We even climbed a tower together when he was young. As it can be dangerous, I prefer to be cautious and keep them away from it.

Toombow Kids: How do you prepare mentally and physically before a climb?

Alain Robert: Back then, I climbed every day, I didn’t really need physical training. I did pull-ups, things like that. Later on, I set up climbing walls at home. I relied a lot on nature. I completely taught myself. I also absorbed pedagogical basics from books like “Ice, Snow, and Rock” by Gaston Rébuffat. Today, climbing has become a separate sport with much more supervision, so it’s perfect!

Toombow Kids: In your career, you’ve experienced serious accidents, including a fifteen-meter fall headfirst that left you in a six-day coma with multiple fractures to the skull, nose, shattered wrists, and a risk of amputation of the left wrist, elbow, pelvis, and heels. You even lost 40% of your blood during the accident. How did you mentally recover to return to climbing?

Alain Robert: I had become a climber who had accomplished great things, I was 19, everything was going well until the accident. Doctors told me I could never climb again, but when I left the hospital, I thought I could at least do easy things again. And little by little, I did more and more complicated climbs. But my wrists are still damaged. My left hand struggles to grip, my fingers are atrophied… An anecdote I often tell is that I can’t open plastic bottles of Perrier. And for all the people who talk about the risks of dying, I have one thing to say, whether it’s from falling down stairs, terminal cancer, a stroke, it can happen anytime. We must stop blaming people for wanting to live in a certain way. It’s a way of life, a continuity that began when I was 14, and it’s a form of life philosophy focused on courage.

Toombow Kids: As mentioned earlier, you have children, what is their stance when you climb?

Alain Robert: They are afraid. My eldest son is 37. I recently told him I was going to climb in Verdon, and he expressed his concern. They have been involved in this from a young age, and at first, they didn’t understand the danger, but now they do. What I try to do is to use what I do to transmit positive values to them, to convey messages about courage. Whether it’s for those who want to make music, get into running, or those taking their exams, mastering fear applies everywhere! Through my approach, I show people that we can set it aside, but it’s important to keep it because it’s like a guardrail.

Toombow Kids: What is the most memorable moment of your climbing career so far?

Alain Robert: There are many. For me, my hardest achievements are on rock. On rock, it’s much more random than buildings, where the climbing pattern repeats.

Toombow Kids: What advice would you give to children who want to start climbing?

Alain Robert: First, I wouldn’t advise anyone to do what I do. But I would advise them to start if it’s traditional climbing and remains fun and without taking risks. Today, it’s possible to do it very safely indoors with large inflatable mats on the floor to avoid injury from falls.

Toombow Kids: Thank you very much, Alain, for introducing us to your world. We wish you great climbing sessions in the future. See you soon on Toombow Kids!

Hello to all parents and children around the world, as you can see, Toombow the train thinks of everyone. In this section, we will share the stories of some mothers and fathers, parents who are going through difficult times because of a disabled or sick child. Thanks to the love for their child, they keep hope, so come and discover their daily life, their joys and sorrows. Who knows, maybe it could help you, or give you ideas. This is Toombow the choo choo train !