A REMOTE Scottish sea stack has been climbed for the first time in more than 100 years, according to the team that scaled it.

Scots climber Robbie Phillips led a small team of three up a 70-metre high stack known as “the thumb” in St Kilda.

While locals had been climbing the stack for centuries, no one is known to have scaled it since 1890.

“The thumb” (below left) was first documented by Gaelic speaker and writer Martin Martin in 1698 in his book A Late Voyage to St Kilda.

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He described the feat young men would undertake to climb the rock pillar to catch birds and their eggs, without the security of any modern safety equipment.

Martin further described the sequence of moves needed to summit the rock: “Of all the parts of a man’s body, the thumb only can lay hold on it … during which time his feet have no support, nor any part of his body touch the stone, except the thumb, at which minute he must jump by the help of his thumb.”

The location of the climb remained a mystery until 1890, when Richard Manliffe Barrington completed a climb on Stac Briorach, which locals nicknamed “The Thumb”.

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Norman Heathcote, the author of the 1900 book St Kilda, wrote in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal in 1901 that Barrington had said Stac Briorach was the most difficult climb he ever completed.

Phillips said: “Climbing ‘the thumb’ was like walking in the footsteps, or climbing in the fingerprints of the St Kildans.

“It’s a testament to their bravery and mental fortitude, to climb onto that seastack 70m above the raging Atlantic without even shoes is wild to imagine.

“The St Kildans didn’t just survive out here, they thrived with the skills they honed and the traditions they upheld.”

He went on: “This is hugely significant as it is an example of highly technical rock climbing in a time well before the Victorian era, which is when most climbing historians say that technical rock climbing began.

“They didn’t just climb for survival, but it was an important part of their culture, where they climbed for enjoyment as well as status amongst their peers. To have such a critical piece of climbing history in Scotland as well is hugely special to myself as a Scottish climber.”

Nobody lives in St Kilda today, with the islands having been evacuated of their 36 final residents in 1930.

The archipelago is managed by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), who must give permission for any climbs in the area.

Susan Bain, the NTS property manager for St Kilda, said: “As a conservation charity, we are focused on protecting the wildlife and culture of St Kilda and we were very happy to work with Robbie and his team to make sure that the climb didn’t disturb any nesting seabirds or impact the landscape in any way.

“As a professional climber Robbie had the skills and the back-up to attempt this climb safely, but it’s important to emphasise that the landscape of St Kilda can be very challenging and everyone should be very mindful of its dangers as well as its beauty.

“It is humbling to think about the St Kildans climbing this stack without modern equipment and communications.”