Edinburgh-based climber Robbie Phillips has climbed Thomas Huber's multipitch testpiece End of Silence 8b+ in Germany's Berchtesgaden Alps. The route is one-third of the famous 'Alpine Trilogy': the three rarely repeated, hardest multipitch routes in the European Alps - each established by a legend of the era.
The Alpine Trilogy:
Silbergeier (8b/+, 7c+, 8a+, 7a+, 8b+, 7c+) – Rätikon, Swiss Alps, FA: Beat Kammerlander
End of Silence (7a+, 6c+, 6a+, 6a, 7b+, 7c+, 7b, 8b, 8b+, 7c+, 7a+) – Berchtesgaden Alps, Germany, FA: Thomas Huber
Des Kaisers Neue Kleider (6c, 7c+, 8a+, 7b+, 8b+, 8a, 6b, 8b+, 6c) – Wilder Kaiser, Austria, FA: Stefan Glowacz
By completing End of Silence, Robbie has now ticked two out of the three, having climbed Silbergeier two years ago, when he also made the second ascent of Dave MacLeod's Project Fear 8c on Cima Grande in the Italian Dolomites and repeated Paciencia 8b on the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland. (UKC interview)
Writing in his blog, Robbie described his motivation for trying End of Silence this summer, with climbing partner Calum Cunningham:
'I decided to return to the Alps this summer with the intention of finishing "The Alpine Trilogy". I have been travelling with a friend from back home, Calum Cunningham. Calum is young (20) and talented, coming from a family of climbers and outdoor lovers; he was born to be in and amongst the mountains. Before this trip he had never taken on anything BIG, so it was going to be interesting to see how he adapted to this.'
Following a 7 hour trek and scramble to the base of the route after getting lost, Calum and Robbie put some time into working the pitches. A spontaneous attempt, which started late in the day and in less-than-ideal, cold conditions saw the pair reaching the crux pitch before retreating. Robbie described it as follows:
'The crux pitch has an annoyingly long section of fairly easy climbing before arriving at the first crux. It doesn't tire you out, but it does mean you have to keep lowering yourself to the bottom of the pitch every time you fall. This was just one of the things that made this pitch difficult.
'The first part of the crux wasn't actually very hard, but took us ages to figure out. It was quite balancy and required standing on some smeary footholds which are hard to trust. You then gain a good resting point on some sidepulls before the meat - a gnarly boulder problem which involved me locking down to my hip on my right-hand "Back 2" (Pinky + Ring Finger) to do a cross through to a slopey dish.'
Warmer conditions allowed for another push, and Robbie managed the 8b+ pitch by the skin of his teeth - picking up a minor finger injury in the process.
'I screamed with elation as I sat at the chains – this was certainly no "End of Silence" for me; it was a great moment!
Calum has unfinished business on the 8b pitch, which unfortunately didn't quite come together for him. Commenting on his 'empty victory', Robbie wrote:
'Calum had some more goes on the 8b, but it just wasn't his day. This left me with a really strange feeling of emptiness regarding the ascent. Of course, when you climb these big hard routes, having the right partner is important. I had felt that "End of Silence" was something we were doing together and I wanted us both to be successful. If Calum wasn't successful, then I felt that in some way the ascent that day was partly empty.'
Robbie and Calum plan to return to the Alps soon; Calum has the aim of completing End of Silence, and Robbie of finishing his 'Alpine Trilogy' project, by climbing Des Kaisers Neue Kleider and potentially becoming the first British climber to tick all three routes.
Formerly known for his sport climbing redpoints up to 8c+, in recent years Robbie has turned his hand to trad and multipitch climbs in Europe and beyond, with a repeat of the bold El Niño 5.13c on El Capitan, Yosemite in May last year and trad ascents up to E9 in the UK, including a headpoint of New Statesman E9 7a at Ilkley.
Read Robbie's blog.
Calum is sponsored by DMM.