Inside the Bizarre and Creative World of Big-Wall Climber Robbie Phillips

With each toes and arms jammed right into a three-inch-wide crack, Robbie Phillips hangs like a spider on the underside of a bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland. Graffiti tags a close-by concrete wall. A canal flows under him, its floor peppered with smudges of ice. The inexperienced, brown water flows from the middle of the capital.

To clear the crack, Robbie had eliminated layers of rubbish and polystyrene, jammed up in the cavity above him. “This is the best thing I’ve ever found,” he says, releasing a toothy smile and wanting over to his pal and cameraman Culann O Brien.

In the YouTube vlog, Culann replies, “So, as a professional climber who has gone to numerous mad locations putting up first ascents, and we’re under a bridge, this is the best thing you’ve ever found?”

Scotland and the UK have few lengthy cracks, so this can be a prize discover for Robbie who wants the follow to prepared for his future targets, together with Magic Mushroom on El Capitan in Yosemite, California, and Everlasting Flame on Trango Tower, Pakistan. Magic Mushroom is a 2,900-foot 5.14 route that the ‘first ascensionist’ Tommy Caldwell advised Phillips was one of his greatest. For greater than a decade, Phillips had dreamed about Everlasting Flame, having had a poster in his room since he was 18. The golden granite cracks on “one of the world’s hardest free climbs above 20,000 feet,” says Alpinist, is so excessive and chilly that cracks freeze over with verglas and snow fills gullies and chimneys.

Robbie Phillips
Euan Ryan / Finalcrux Movies

Rising up in Edinburgh, “I hadn’t found anything I was that psyched on,” Phillips says, including that he dabbled in rugby and performed video video games. “When I found climbing, that was the thing that changed everything. It just grabs hold of people, and that’s it.”

At 15 years outdated he started competing indoors and by 18 he picked up his first sponsor, Edelrid, who makes ropes, harnesses and helmets.

The game grew to become so encompassing in his life that he dropped out of college after six weeks, selecting as a substitute to work as a coach at a wall the place he educated the subsequent era of Scotland’s prime climbers. He additionally set his sights on climbing the worlds’ hardest lengthy rock climbs.

Six years in the past, he picked up different important sponsors like Patagonia and SCARPA. To finance his journeys, Phillips works as a climbing coach, lecturer, writer, and, most lately, as a YouTube vlogger.

Robbie Phillips
Drew Smith / @_drew_smith_

“I consider myself a ‘professional climber,’” he says whereas miming citation marks along with his fingers. “I’m paid to do things in the climbing framework that allow me to go climbing.” On his channel, Robbie and Culann host weekly movies with subjects together with Can Robbie Climb his 10 Year Challenge?, The World’s Longest Indoor Climbing Route? and One of Europe’s Hardest Multi-Pitch Rock Climbs.

To maintain his bills down and unlock his time for journey, Phillips lives out of his Citroën Relay, a cargo van he’s transformed into a house and retains in Edinburgh. As a substitute of lease or mortgage, his revenue goes towards repeating the hardest huge partitions in the world and placing up first ascents of his personal. This contains the Alpine Trilogy, three 250- to 450-meter routes rated 5.14a in the Alps—a crowning achievement for the world’s greatest climbers.

Robbie Phillips
Drew Smith / @_drew_smith_

One notable first ascent consists of Blood Moon, a 700-meter line rated 5.13c in Tsaranoro, Madagascar. Right here in 2018, he and his staff did a brand new route and movie challenge, however sadly, whereas excessive on the wall, Alan fell, leading to a compound fracture in his leg.

“A hold broke, and he fell. He flipped over my head and hit the slab below,” Phillips says. “When he hit the wall, his body just broke. It was very serious. He could have died. Out here there’s no mountain rescue; we had to get him down off the wall and get him to the hospital.”

Whereas making an attempt Magic Mushroom final autumn, an extended fall resulted in a sprained ankle, forcing Phillips to cease his journey and get well. This month he’s in Joshua Tree, California, the place he’s making an attempt Dihedron, one of the hardest routes in the park. Subsequent month he’s returning to Yosemite to provide one other crack at Magic Mushroom. “I love climbing on El Cap,” he says.

“When I’m going on a climbing trip, it’s just going with my mates, not professional climbers,” he says. “We don’t do it to make sponsors completely happy. I simply go climbing and get pleasure from it and don’t overthink it.

“Culann and I’ve the YouTube channel to inform our personal tales, and we make it enjoyable and watchable.”


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