Leo Houlding


Quick Info

Nationality: GB
Date of birth: 28th July 1980
Hardest Sport (Worked): 8b
Hardest Trad (Worked): E9
Hardest Trad (Onsight): E7
Notable Partnerships
Adam Hocking
Tim Emmett
Patch Hammond
Sean Leary
Social Media

Leo Houlding is a british climber, mountaineer and adventurer. Initially known for his hard trad climbing in the UK, particularly in North Wales and the Peak District, he quickly moved on to climbing big walls in Yosemite with very impressive ascents such as his near-onsight of El Niño. He then moved on to more remote big walls from Greenland to Antarctica.

References

[1] Houlding, L. (2022). Closer to the Edge: Climbing to the Ends of the Earth. United Kingdom: Headline.

[2] Top Gear segment, 2005 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKLsBk5CijQ

Contributors: remus

Quick Info

Nationality: GB
Date of birth: 28th July 1980
Hardest Sport (Worked): 8b
Hardest Trad (Worked): E9
Hardest Trad (Onsight): E7
Notable Partnerships
Adam Hocking
Tim Emmett
Patch Hammond
Sean Leary
Social Media

Leo Houlding is a british climber, mountaineer and adventurer. Initially known for his hard trad climbing in the UK, particularly in North Wales and the Peak District, he quickly moved on to climbing big walls in Yosemite with very impressive ascents such as his near-onsight of El Niño. He then moved on to more remote big walls from Greenland to Antarctica.

References

[1] Houlding, L. (2022). Closer to the Edge: Climbing to the Ends of the Earth. United Kingdom: Headline.

[2] Top Gear segment, 2005 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKLsBk5CijQ

Contributors: remus

Lists


Podcasts


Pics + Vids

Added at 19:01 on 09 January 2023
Savage Horse (E9, FA)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 15:08 on 16 August 2023
Master's Wall (E7)
Added at 11:12 on 07 December 2023
The Prophet (8b, FA)
Added at 16:08 on 21 August 2023
Savage Horse (E9, FA)
Added at 16:01 on 08 January 2021
The Prophet (8b, FA)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 20:01 on 09 January 2023
The Prophet (8b, FA)
Added at 20:01 on 09 January 2023
© Leo Houlding
Passage to Freedom (8b)
Added at 07:01 on 16 January 2023
Trauma (E9, FA)
View this post on Instagram

Added at 03:10 on 08 October 2022

Ascents

16 recorded ascents.

Year Climb Grade Style Ascent Date
1991 Leo's Line E5 Lead | worked After 1st Jan 1991
First ascent.

Leo's first new route.

1992
1993 Downhill Racer E4 Solo | ground up Between 28th Jul 1993 and 28th Jul 1994
1994
1995 King of Rumpy E6 Solo | onsight Between 1st Jun 1995 and 1st Sep 1995
Rimsky Korsakov E5 Solo | onsight Between 1st Jun 1995 and 1st Sep 1995

A harrowing experience that put Leo off soloing.

Over multiple attempts, I climbed up and down, gaining height each time until identifying the point of commitment, what I thought was the crux of the route. It was too high up to fall. Spurred on by success and the relinquished difficulties following the crux of the E4 [soloed earlier that day], and full of reckless teenage courage, I rested for a long while before attaining my high point and committing to the crux. I did the moves and continued on better holds up slightly overhanging rock to a body length below the top of the crag. To my horror there was a final hard move. I tried all I could to find a hidden hold or secret move that would ease me to sanctuary, but there was none.

I had covered a lot of rock that day with repeated attempts at each route and my arms were beginning to give out. Not only was I free solo, 100 feet above a rocky landing, I was alone on hidden wall. Nobody even knew I was there, long before the days of mobile phones. Horrible thoughts ran through my mind. Even if I survived the impact how the hell would I crawl down? It is not a popular venue, far from any hikers' radar and even in the climbing honeypot of the Llanberis Pass it could be days or even weeks until somebody found me. The handwritten advice of Joe Brown, who lived just a few miles away, flashed before my eyes - "Don't solo." As the grains of energy ran through the hourglass of my forearms I was left with a simple choice: do or die. Summoning strength that seemed to come from beyond myself, I did. [1]

References

[1] Houlding, L. (2022). Closer to the Edge: Climbing to the Ends of the Earth. United Kingdom: Headline.

Slab and Crack E8 Lead | worked Between 28th Jul 1995 and 28th Jul 1996

Aged 15.

1996 Master's Wall E7 Lead | onsight Between 1st Jun 1996 and 1st Sep 1996

An incredibly audacious ascent from a young Leo who was aged just 16 at the time. Being young and poor his shoes had a big hole worn in them and the only other shoes he could get hold of were 2 sizes too large.

I had hit my limit, that ephemeral, invisible line. Panic rising I desperately tried to stay on top of my fear. Feeling close to critica, I closed my eyes and felt around the area of rock where I needed my hands to be, like a blind man reading Braille, until my fingers connected with a character that felt good enough at this desperate point on which to pull. Too scared to look at what I held, I went for it and made a massive rock over to a distan the edge. My fingers stuck to the Braille and I grabbed the hold. To my dismay it was wet, as were the next couple of far better crimps. Now I knew I had thoroughly crossed the line and was beyond my limit. WIthout stopping I scrabbled my feet and pulled on the wet holds, praying my fingers wouldn't grease off. The next moves were like an out of body experience, again powered by a force beyond myself, until I came back to reality with my feet established on better holds and my hands on positive bu filthy features. [1]

Leo speaking to Niall Grimes:

Masters Wall was one of the high points, or low points [of the summer] depending on how you look at it.

...

I did A Midsummer Night's Dream and walked up it, which is supposed to be E6 6b and so technically Master's Wall is only one notch harder but it's not, it's fucking miles harder...I found it way harder and had a god-awful epic on it. [2]

References

[1] Houlding, L. (2022). Closer to the Edge: Climbing to the Ends of the Earth. United Kingdom: Headline.

[2] https://open.spotify.com/episode/2KczO0Bqnj82XH0b9SjD7T?KZcplA

A Midsummer Night's Dream E6 Lead | onsight Between 1st Jun 1996 and 1st Sep 1996

In shoes 2 sizes too big for him! Leo climbed this on the same day as Master's Wall.

1997 Rare Lichen E9 Lead | worked Aug 1997
First ascent.
1998 A Sweet Encounter E8 Lead | worked 1998
Lord of the Flies E6 Lead | repeat 1998

An ascent by headtorch.

Having seconded Tim Emmett up Right Wall Leo felt he needed to up the ante. Unfortunately his headtorch died half way through the crux sequence, forcing him to down climb to a rest where he could pull up a friend's torch before completing the route.

El Niño 8a+ Lead | worked Oct 1998
Second ascent.

An incredible ascent as Leo was extremely close to onsighting the entire route at a time when any free ascent on El Cap was notable.

However, on the first pitch he grabbed a quickdraw at the end of a runout section on his first attempt before lowering back to the start of the pitch and reclimbing it. He also pulled on the first bolt of the second pitch to clean and inspect the holds on the hard section off the belay before then climbing it clean on his first attempt. [1]

Undoubtedly the best climb and greatest adventure I'd ever been on by several orders of magnitude.

References

[1] Alpine Journal 2002 50-53 Houlding El Nino

1999 Savage Horse E9 Lead | worked 1999
Trauma E9 Lead | worked 1999
First ascent.

On an earlier attempt Leo took a nasty fall on to the slab at the start of the route when a dodgy russian peg he was resting on popped out.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CjblYEnDC8j/

Deathwatch E7 Lead | onsight 1999
Passage to Freedom 8b Lead | did not finish 1999

Leo climbed the first 11 pitches, attempting to establish a new free line ground up, but couldn't find a way forward from El Cap Tower.

2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010 The Prophet 8b Lead | worked Between 22nd Oct 2010 and 27th Oct 2010
First ascent.

Belayed by Jason Pickles who seconded most of the route except the crux A1 beauty pitch and the Devil's Dyno.

I attempted the crux A1 beauty pitch, as hard as anything I ever climbed. Solid E9 7a, we called it 5.13d R but I think 5.14a R is fair.

After repeatedly failing, including once from the jugs at the top, with homebound flights the very next day we were all but defeated.

On the absolute last try, in the midday sun against all odds, I somehow connected with a force beyond myself and did it.

I don't think I'll ever come closer to the edge and walk away victorious. Those experiences are the best. [1]

References

[1] https://www.instagram.com/p/CGpcyocjh5l/

[2] https://www.planetmountain.com/en/news/interviews/leo-houlding-interview-after-the-prophet-on-el-capitan.html

[3] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2010/10/leo_houlding_frees_the_prophet_-_el_capitan-58588

[4] http://www.elcapreport.com/content/elcap-report-102710

[5] Leo discussing the successful ascent of the crux pitch with Steven Dimmitt on The Nugget https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnQw2w5R4eo

Climb Grade Style Ascent Date Suggested Grade
The Prophet 8b Lead | worked Between 22nd Oct 2010 and 27th Oct 2010
First ascent.

Belayed by Jason Pickles who seconded most of the route except the crux A1 beauty pitch and the Devil's Dyno.

I attempted the crux A1 beauty pitch, as hard as anything I ever climbed. Solid E9 7a, we called it 5.13d R but I think 5.14a R is fair.

After repeatedly failing, including once from the jugs at the top, with homebound flights the very next day we were all but defeated.

On the absolute last try, in the midday sun against all odds, I somehow connected with a force beyond myself and did it.

I don't think I'll ever come closer to the edge and walk away victorious. Those experiences are the best. [1]

References

[1] https://www.instagram.com/p/CGpcyocjh5l/

[2] https://www.planetmountain.com/en/news/interviews/leo-houlding-interview-after-the-prophet-on-el-capitan.html

[3] https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2010/10/leo_houlding_frees_the_prophet_-_el_capitan-58588

[4] http://www.elcapreport.com/content/elcap-report-102710

[5] Leo discussing the successful ascent of the crux pitch with Steven Dimmitt on The Nugget https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnQw2w5R4eo

Passage to Freedom 8b Lead | did not finish 1999

Leo climbed the first 11 pitches, attempting to establish a new free line ground up, but couldn't find a way forward from El Cap Tower.

El Niño 8a+ Lead | worked Oct 1998
Second ascent.

An incredible ascent as Leo was extremely close to onsighting the entire route at a time when any free ascent on El Cap was notable.

However, on the first pitch he grabbed a quickdraw at the end of a runout section on his first attempt before lowering back to the start of the pitch and reclimbing it. He also pulled on the first bolt of the second pitch to clean and inspect the holds on the hard section off the belay before then climbing it clean on his first attempt. [1]

Undoubtedly the best climb and greatest adventure I'd ever been on by several orders of magnitude.

References

[1] Alpine Journal 2002 50-53 Houlding El Nino

Climb Grade Style Ascent Date Suggested Grade
Climb Grade Style Ascent Date Suggested Grade
Rare Lichen E9 Lead | worked Aug 1997
First ascent.
Savage Horse E9 Lead | worked 1999
Trauma E9 Lead | worked 1999 E9
First ascent.

On an earlier attempt Leo took a nasty fall on to the slab at the start of the route when a dodgy russian peg he was resting on popped out.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CjblYEnDC8j/

Slab and Crack E8 Lead | worked Between 28th Jul 1995 and 28th Jul 1996

Aged 15.

A Sweet Encounter E8 Lead | worked 1998
Master's Wall E7 Lead | onsight Between 1st Jun 1996 and 1st Sep 1996

An incredibly audacious ascent from a young Leo who was aged just 16 at the time. Being young and poor his shoes had a big hole worn in them and the only other shoes he could get hold of were 2 sizes too large.

I had hit my limit, that ephemeral, invisible line. Panic rising I desperately tried to stay on top of my fear. Feeling close to critica, I closed my eyes and felt around the area of rock where I needed my hands to be, like a blind man reading Braille, until my fingers connected with a character that felt good enough at this desperate point on which to pull. Too scared to look at what I held, I went for it and made a massive rock over to a distan the edge. My fingers stuck to the Braille and I grabbed the hold. To my dismay it was wet, as were the next couple of far better crimps. Now I knew I had thoroughly crossed the line and was beyond my limit. WIthout stopping I scrabbled my feet and pulled on the wet holds, praying my fingers wouldn't grease off. The next moves were like an out of body experience, again powered by a force beyond myself, until I came back to reality with my feet established on better holds and my hands on positive bu filthy features. [1]

Leo speaking to Niall Grimes:

Masters Wall was one of the high points, or low points [of the summer] depending on how you look at it.

...

I did A Midsummer Night's Dream and walked up it, which is supposed to be E6 6b and so technically Master's Wall is only one notch harder but it's not, it's fucking miles harder...I found it way harder and had a god-awful epic on it. [2]

References

[1] Houlding, L. (2022). Closer to the Edge: Climbing to the Ends of the Earth. United Kingdom: Headline.

[2] https://open.spotify.com/episode/2KczO0Bqnj82XH0b9SjD7T?KZcplA

Deathwatch E7 Lead | onsight 1999
King of Rumpy E6 Solo | onsight Between 1st Jun 1995 and 1st Sep 1995
A Midsummer Night's Dream E6 Lead | onsight Between 1st Jun 1996 and 1st Sep 1996

In shoes 2 sizes too big for him! Leo climbed this on the same day as Master's Wall.

Lord of the Flies E6 Lead | repeat 1998

An ascent by headtorch.

Having seconded Tim Emmett up Right Wall Leo felt he needed to up the ante. Unfortunately his headtorch died half way through the crux sequence, forcing him to down climb to a rest where he could pull up a friend's torch before completing the route.

Leo's Line E5 Lead | worked After 1st Jan 1991
First ascent.

Leo's first new route.

Rimsky Korsakov E5 Solo | onsight Between 1st Jun 1995 and 1st Sep 1995

A harrowing experience that put Leo off soloing.

Over multiple attempts, I climbed up and down, gaining height each time until identifying the point of commitment, what I thought was the crux of the route. It was too high up to fall. Spurred on by success and the relinquished difficulties following the crux of the E4 [soloed earlier that day], and full of reckless teenage courage, I rested for a long while before attaining my high point and committing to the crux. I did the moves and continued on better holds up slightly overhanging rock to a body length below the top of the crag. To my horror there was a final hard move. I tried all I could to find a hidden hold or secret move that would ease me to sanctuary, but there was none.

I had covered a lot of rock that day with repeated attempts at each route and my arms were beginning to give out. Not only was I free solo, 100 feet above a rocky landing, I was alone on hidden wall. Nobody even knew I was there, long before the days of mobile phones. Horrible thoughts ran through my mind. Even if I survived the impact how the hell would I crawl down? It is not a popular venue, far from any hikers' radar and even in the climbing honeypot of the Llanberis Pass it could be days or even weeks until somebody found me. The handwritten advice of Joe Brown, who lived just a few miles away, flashed before my eyes - "Don't solo." As the grains of energy ran through the hourglass of my forearms I was left with a simple choice: do or die. Summoning strength that seemed to come from beyond myself, I did. [1]

References

[1] Houlding, L. (2022). Closer to the Edge: Climbing to the Ends of the Earth. United Kingdom: Headline.

Downhill Racer E4 Solo | ground up Between 28th Jul 1993 and 28th Jul 1994
Climb Grade Style Ascent Date Suggested Grade