Leo Houlding (born 28 July 1980) is a British rock climber widely considered one of the best speed climbers ever to have lived. At the age of 18 Houlding became the first Briton to free climb El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley, and has gone on to climb many of its toughest lines.
In 2007 de joined the Altitude Everest Expedition, led by American climber and mountaineer, Conrad Anker, retracing the last steps of legendary British climber, George Mallory, on Everest. He subsequently appeared in the 2010 film The Wildest Dream along with Conrad Anker retracing the steps of George Mallory and ‘Sandy’ Irvine in order to recreate their journey up Mount Everest.
In August 2009 Houlding led a team of climbers and film makers to Mount Asgard on Baffin Island, Canada. They attempted to free climb a 15 pitch route up the north face of the mountain to create the first free route. Although over half of the ascent was eventually freed, the team were unable to complete the full free ascent within the available time. Houlding and American team member Sean ‘Stanley’ Leary BASE jumped from the summit. The ascent took 12 days and is featured in the 2010 film The Asgard Project.
In 2010 he completed his 10-year project “The Prophet”, making him the first Briton to complete a new free route on the famous El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California.
Houlding, in a talk at Kennedy School in Hong Kong, has stated that he fell in love with rock climbing when he went climbing with his father’s friend at the age of ten. He also remarked that climbing was a powerful and overwhelming experience.
In December 2012/ January 2013, a team led by Leo Houlding and including Alastair Lee, Chris Rabone, Sean ‘Stanley’ Leary, Jason Pickles and David Reeves made the first ascent of a new route up the north-east ridge of Ulvetanna Peak in Antarctica. The peak was described as ‘the most demanding peak on the world’s toughest continent’ via its fearsome north-east ridge. The film that was produced, The Last Great Climb premiered in London on 5 November 2013.
In July 2015, Leo Houlding led a team of five to complete a first ascent on the north west face of the Mirror Wall in remote Greenland. Climbing with Joe Möhle, Matt Pickles, Matt Pycroft and Waldo Etherington, Houlding succeeded in climbing a new route on the main face of the 1,200m peak. The team free climbed 23 of the 25 pitches and spent 12 nights on the wall. They topped out in an upwards snow storm at 4:20am on 22 July.