From the same Edinburgh school as the late Robin Smith, our friend Robbie Phillips pointed his van south and headed off to the Alps last week for a dose of fear and hard rock.
I have always been a bit of a dreamer. I have a big imagination, which as a kid took the form of pretend adventures in the hills by my home in Edinburgh. When I found climbing, I knew instantly it was going to change my life forever… I had found something that focused me physically as well as mentally, and for the 15 year old Robbie, it was exactly what he needed at the time. Life isn’t complicated, we make it complicated – at 15 your life shouldn’t be hard, but me being me, I found ways to make things more complicated. Climbing gave me a direction… it focused me; and finally I had found something that was my own which would in a short time become “the rest of my life”.
Adventure has always been at the heart of my love for climbing; a big part of the adventure for me has been to explore my personal boundaries – I don’t believe in limitations. Part of the beauty of climbing is that you never stop learning; it will always throw a curve ball at you.
Over the last 10 years I have taken my sport climbing very far and I wanted to make a change, exploring new avenues in climbing. So in the last year I have diversified, focusing more on traditional, multipitch and big wall climbing. This has forced me to challenge myself in a completely new set of skills but at the same time also challenging my technical and physical skills developed in sport climbing.
In August last year I climbed one of the hardest alpine rock routes in Europe, “Bellavista” on the Tre cime de Lavaredo in the Italian Dolomites. This was my biggest adventure to date and set a pretty high standard to beat for 2015!
I came up with a plan; to attempt three of Europe’s most challenging alpine rock routes in three vastly different styles:
- “Silbergeier” (8b+), Switzerland, Ratikon
- “Project Fear” (8c), Italy, Dolomites
- “Paciencia” (8a), Switzerland, North Face of the Eiger
Each of these climbs incorporates a very different set of skills from the others:
“Silbergeier” is a physical and technical challenge, one of the hardest rock routes in the world in it’s style and one third of the Alpine Trilogy, a trio of Europe’s hardest alpine rock routes climbed by three of the world’s best climbers (Wolfgang Gullich, Beat Kammerlander and Stefan Glowacz).
“Project Fear” is a new variation from Dave Macleod on an exisiting Alex Huber route. It still awaits a second ascent and the challenge of this climb is in the physical and technical nature of the crux pitches as well as the exposure, alpine conditions and nature of the protection which is often is rusty pegs and traditional gear.
“Paciencia” is the hardest rock climb on the North Face of the Eiger. This is regarded by many as the hardest alpine rock route in Europe. The style is very technical; it’s on one of the most exposed alpine north faces and is a long and sustained piece of climbing!
Even to attempt these climbs is an adventure in itself. I know that the chances of failure are high but I am not afraid of that, I need to try! This summer is my first big season in the Alps and as much as there is the challenge to climb these routes, I am also in learning mode… What these climbs provide is the confidence and skills to keep pushing boundaries in the sport that I hope to take to far off big walls, putting up my own climbs to test the skills of future adventurers!
Alpine School is in session!
Robbie is sponsored by Edelrid, Evolv, Urban Uprising and Ratho – EICA. Clothing from Jöttnar.
Postscript – on Tuesday afternoon he redpointed Silbergeier on his first attempt, making this the second British ascent. Well done Robbie; one down, two to go.. Click here to read more.