City daredevil is youngest ever to finish Eiger route

Robbie Phillips on the rocky ledge where he slept at Eiger Nordwand. Picture: contributed
Robbie Phillips on the rocky ledge where he slept at Eiger Nordwand. Picture: contributed
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A DAREDEVIL climber has become the youngest to ever complete the hardest Alpine route – one that killed two Japanese adventurers just weeks earlier.

Robbie Phillips, 25, from Burdiehouse, conquered the challenging north face of the Eiger in Switzerland, making him just the fourth person ever to do so.

Seconded by 20-year-old Glaswegian Willis Morris, the pair’s first attempt three weeks ago came to an end when a thunderstorm brought down rocks around them and the Japanese team was rescued by helicopter. It was only when they returned from the second successful attempt on Saturday that they learned two colleagues had perished from the rockfall.

Robbie, speaking from Switzerland, said: “We were close to doing it on our first attempt, which is amazing. And then when we were on the wall, we got hit by a freak thunderstorm and it was very dangerous and lots of rocks fell – huge, big boulders the size of cars – and we had to escape off the wall, pretty much for our lives.

“On a wall like this, you get to a point where you either turn back or you keep going. And the thing you’re weighing up is keep going and make the ascent, but potentially also risk your life. Because if something changes in the weather dramatically, or something serious happens and you can’t get off the wall or it will take too long to get off the wall before 
something serious happens, then it could just be the end of you. I think sometimes when you get caught up in the moment of attempting something like this, you do forget how serious it can be.”

Robbie said even after a tragedy such as that, he knew it was down to freak bad weather and the weather report in the past week was much better and they could take more risk going higher.

The Scottish pair became the fourth to conquer Paciencia, or Patience, on the Eiger and followed fellow Scot Dave MacLeod, who Robbie credits as a major influence on his career.

Former George Watson’s College pupil Robbie said: “It’s probably the best feeling you can possibly have. Climbing is a very personal thing. It’s not necessarily always about getting to the top. It’s more about the challenge of overcoming the obstacles. And for me, the obstacles on this route are so varied.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com