Briton ready to scale new heights

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 July, 2009, 12:00am

Leo Houlding, who conquered the western face of the sacred mountain of Huashan on the mainland, is ready to take on a bigger challenge.

The British rock climber, who was in Hong Kong earlier this month, said he hoped to scale Mount Asgard in the Arctic Circle next month.

The 29-year-old, who started climbing at the age of 10, is also a base jumper, snowboarder, surfer, skydiver and nature lover.

In 1998, Houlding gained worldwide fame when he became the first Briton to make a free ascent of the famous El Nino route at the Yosemite National Park in the United States.

'Whenever I overcome a challenge, I would like to achieve something bigger and tougher. This has kept me climbing different mountains all over the world,' he said.

In 2007, Houlding and his teammate reached the top of Mount Everest, the ultimate dream of most mountaineers.

On July 10, he and his fellow climbers scaled Huashan - one of the mainland's five sacred mountains which is famous for its steep cliffs.

Houlding said the climb was much harder than he anticipated and called it 'almost impossible'. 'It was tree wrestling more than rock climbing,' he joked. 'I've never encountered [such a cliff]. There were only a few cracks in the rocks and they were all filled by vegetation. We had to [battle] the trees to climb up.'

They reached the summit after a 13-hour struggle with nature. 'The more challenging the climb is, the more rewarding the experience. That's what I love about free climbing. It's all about experience, confidence, trust and self-belief,' Houlding said.

His next project is Mount Asgard, which is in a remote glacial region in Canada.

'It is one of the most difficult cliffs in the world, the biggest challenge I can dream of. It's cold, remote, and over 1,000 metres high,' Houlding said.

Hong Kong may be hot and humid, but it is a good place for rock climbing, especially for beginners, he said.

'In many big cities, there are no rocks. But Hong Kong has lots of nice rocks to climb, such as the Lions Head. I'd like to come again to meet local rock climbers, when the weather is cooler.'

Houlding offered some tips during a sharing session with local teenagers.

'The most important thing about climbing is safety. When I first started climbing, I took a long time to learn how to climb safely,' he said.