Robbie Phillips tackles Eiger climbing challenge

Robbie Phillips at the Ratho climbing arena. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Robbie Phillips at the Ratho climbing arena. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Torn by high winds and battered by ice and snow, the sheer cliffs of the north face of the Eiger comprise the hardest climbing challenge in Europe and one of the most formidable in the world.

Only Hollywood hardman Clint Eastwood was deemed tough enough to play the climber who tackled it in action thriller The Eiger Sanction.

Now one daredevil from Edinburgh is preparing to attempt the same feat via Paciencia, the hardest route to the summit.

And Robbie Phillips, a professional rock climber from Burdiehouse, is also planning to tackle three other notoriously difficult Alpine peaks.

Ranked among the ultimate human challenges, they will test his skill and courage to the limit as he contends with exposure, dizzying altitude and sudden shifts in the weather.

The 25-year-old, who will begin the challenge this summer after months of training, said: “I’m obsessed and have been like that for ten years, ever since I started.

“Ueli Steck [the record-breaking Swiss climber and mountaineer] made the first ascent up Paciencia, and now I want to climb that particular route.

“It’s the hardest route and it’s my first time on the Eiger. It’s the most difficult because of the holds – the technical difficulty of the climb.

“The actual rock climbing you have to do on the route is really hard and requires a very high skill level which not many people have and which is why not many people have climbed it.

“The rock quality on Eiger is also pretty bad, which means a lot of the rock falls off. It’s also incredibly exposed, so the weather and conditions can change very quickly, which makes it quite a serious project to go for.”

As a warm-up, Robbie will first climb Silbergeier, an 800ft high wall of rock in the Swiss Alps followed by Project Fear in the Dolomites, one of the hardest rock routes in Europe.

Only then will he tackle the Paciencia, which has only seen three ascents despite many attempts.

He will finish with Divine Providence, one of the hardest and least often climbed routes up Mont Blanc.

Robbie said it was difficult to predict exactly how long it would take him to scale the north face but it could be as long as three days.

He added: “The Eiger is a very famous mountain and I’ve always wanted to climb it. The main risks will be the big run-outs and the potential to take falls, which also depends on whether the gear you have is good.

“And to get to the base of the climb, you have to solo it in 
order to be fast and efficient, otherwise you spend way too long on the mountain.

“You have so many aspects surrounding a mountain climb – weather, conditions, food and water – and the longer you spend, the more potential there is for things to go wrong. You have to move fast.”

Robbie started climbing when he was 15 through George Watson’s climbing club and went on to compete at an international level. Last year, he scaled one of the world’s steepest and most difficult Alpine rock climbs – Bellavista on the Tre Cime de Lavaredo.

Since then, he has trained at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho and on rock faces around the UK.