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


With each toes and palms 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 within the cavity above him. “That is the very best factor I’ve ever discovered,” he says, releasing a toothy smile and searching over to his pal and cameraman Culann O Brien.

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Within the YouTube vlog, Culann replies, “So, as an expert climber who has gone to quite a few mad places placing up first ascents, and we’re beneath a bridge, that is the very best factor you’ve ever discovered?”

Scotland and the UK have few lengthy cracks, so it is 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 informed Phillips was considered 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 many world’s hardest free climbs above 20,000 toes,” says Alpinist, is so excessive and chilly that cracks freeze over with verglas and snow fills gullies and chimneys.

Euan Ryan / Finalcrux Movies

Rising up in Edinburgh, “I hadn’t discovered something I used to be that psyched on,” Phillips says, including that he dabbled in rugby and performed video video games. “When I discovered climbing, that was the factor that modified the whole lot. It simply grabs maintain of individuals, and that’s it.”

At 15 years previous 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 an alternative to work as a coach at a wall the place he skilled the following technology of Scotland’s high climbers. He additionally set his sights on climbing the worlds’ hardest lengthy rock climbs.

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

Robbie Phillips
Drew Smith / @_drew_smith_

“I contemplate myself a ‘skilled climber,’” he says whereas miming citation marks together with his fingers. “I’m paid to do issues within the climbing framework that permit 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 liberate 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 an alternative of lease or mortgage, his earnings goes towards repeating the toughest massive partitions on the planet and placing up first ascents of his personal. This contains the Alpine Trilogy, three 250- to 450-meter routes rated 5.14a within 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 group did a brand new route and movie mission, however sadly, whereas excessive on the wall, Alan fell, leading to a compound fracture in his leg.

“A maintain broke, and he fell. He flipped over my head and hit the slab under,” Phillips says. “When he hit the wall, his physique simply broke. It was very critical. He might have died. Out right here there’s no mountain rescue; we needed 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 better. This month he’s in Joshua Tree, California, the place he’s making an attempt Dihedron, one of many hardest routes within the park. Subsequent month he’s returning to Yosemite to present one other crack at Magic Mushroom. “I really like climbing on El Cap,” he says.

“After I’m occurring a climbing journey, it’s simply going with my mates, not skilled climbers,” he says. “We don’t do it to make sponsors completely happy. I simply go climbing and luxuriate in 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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