Scot becomes first Briton to complete ‘holy grail’ of climbing

A Scot has become the first Briton to complete the Alpine Trilogy, a trio of the hardest rock climbs in Europe.

Scottish climber Robbie Phillips, 29, has become the first Briton to finish the Alpine Trilogy
Scottish climber Robbie Phillips, 29, has become the first Briton to finish the Alpine Trilogy

Robbie Phillips, 29, achieved his childhood dream with his ascent of Des Kaiser neue Kleider last week.

The trilogy consists of challenging climbs put up in 1994 by three climbing legends of the time, Beat Kammerlander, Thomas Huber and Stefan Glowacz.

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To complete the coveted trilogy, climbers must scale Silbergeier in the Swiss Ratikon, End of Silence in the German Bertchesgarden Alps and Des Kaiser neue Kleider in the Austrian Wilder Kaiser.

Each are climbs between 240m and 350m long and consist of multiple difficult sections.

A climber must complete all the sections in one push to gain a full ascent, which presents a huge challenge for even the most seasoned climbers.

The final piece of the puzzle for Mr Phillips – Des Kaiser Neue Kleider – was also the hardest in the trilogy. He and his partner, Austrian climber Mich Kemeter, had been battling poor weather for the best part of July and early August, which diminished their hopes of completing the climb.

However, an unexpected weather window opened during one of their reconnaissance trips and the pair decided to make a push on the climb.

Although the forecast was for a storm, the pair encountered cooler temperatures and a breeze, the conditions needed to complete such a technical climb.

Mr Phillips, from Edinburgh, said: “The handholds are so small that a few degrees too warm and my hands sweat and slip off the holds.

“Ideally you want either crisp cool temperatures or a nice breeze to keep you and the rock cool. What we were getting was in excess of 30C with no wind and high humidity – it’s the equivalent of trying to run a race wearing flippers.”

The pair started their push around 1pm and by 9pm they had topped out the face as the sun set over the mountains, abseiling back down by the light of their head torches.

Mr Phillips, who attended George Watson’s College, had dreamed of the trilogy since he was 15, when his mentor Neil McGeachy heralded it as one of the holy grails of the climbing world.

That promise of adventure was enough to set it concretely in his mind and he set to building the skills to face such a feat.

In 2015 he made his first attempt at the trilogy by tackling Silbergeier.

He made a successful ascent of the route and set in motion a quest 10 years in the making.

That same summer, Mr Phillips and his climbing partner Willis Morris, from Glasgow, also made history by becoming the youngest team to complete Paciencia, one of the hardest climbs of the notorious North Face of the Eiger. They also made the first repeatof Scottish climber Dave Macleod’s Project Fear in the Dolomites.

Mr Phillips returned two years later in 2017 to complete End of Silence with fellow Scot Calum Cunningham, then only 19, in difficult conditions.