The brilliant, British mountaineer and climber Leo Houlding has a string of first ascents of some of the world’s most remote and technical climbs to his name
Lake District based Houlding is one of the world’s finest climbers and adventurers. He has ascended Everest, but prefers to focus on free climbing the world’s most difficult giant walls and peaks in the most remote places. His notable first ascents include the mile-long north-east ridge of Ulvetanna, the highest peak in Antarctica, and the north face of the towering Mount Asgard on Baffin Island in the Arctic.
- I have a mental archive of dreams and desires and I am in the fortunate position of being able to tick them off. Some are big, expensive and remote expeditions, but they also range to micro-missions in the Lake District. I don’t get the same sense of reward from doing the same things – the first time it blows your mind and feels amazing, so you get on a bigger, better, harder, faster trajectory, but you reach a certain point and ask where do you go next? So now I’m pursuing slightly different objectives.
- I try to stay fit, but I have metal work in my ankle so running doesn’t work for me, but there’s loads of national class mountain biking outside my door, and a climbing wall in the village where I climb four times a week generally for endurance rather than power.
- I have had one serious accident in my career and I am very lucky to have survived and recovered from it. That was when I realised I was not indestructible. A lot of my friends have died through basejumping and proximity flying. Sean Leary, my right hand man on Asgard and Ulvetanna, died when his wife was seven months pregnant and my daughter was six months old. I haven’t basejumped since. When my youngest is 16 I will do it again. Wingsuit proximity flying isn’t safe, and it’s not worth it.
- I practise a lot of adventure sports, and I really enjoy ski surfing, mountain biking, surfing and basejumping. My new sport is kite-skiing – you can do it up mountains and you can cover 100 miles a day at speed. It’s epic, so much fun. In May I’m planning to kite-ski 1,000 miles from the south to the north of Greenland, but that’s just a training trip!
- The outdoors is an important part of life. It should be compulsory on the national curriculum to be outdoors every week. If and when I start to do something less indulgent, it will be a campaign against the blame culture – any dangerous activity is your responsibility. It’s part of the thrill for me.”
Leo Houlding is a Berghaus-sponsored athlete