Climber and adventurer Leo Houlding

Climber and adventurer Leo Houlding

A climber who has posted several notable firsts and Base jumped from the top of a 2,000m peak has revealed the closest he feels he came to death.

Leo Houlding told a gathering this week he had planned to take a flight on the ill fated MH17 which was shot down over eastern Ukraine last year.

The Berghaus-sponsored athlete told a group in Newcastle upon Tyne this week that he had a seat booked on the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russia separatists.

The Cumbrian climber had decided to fly out to Borneo early to prepare a route in Borneo for an upcoming Discovery Channel shoot, otherwise he would have been on the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight.

“Of all the things I’ve done, it’s the closest I’ve come to dying,” he said.

The 35-year-old admitted he had become a little cautious in his adventures since the birth of his daughter two years ago. The death of his friend Sean ‘Stanley’ Leary in a wing-suit accident last year also affected him and wing-suit flying is now off the agenda for the accomplished climber.

Houlding, who lives in the flood-hit village of Staveley in Cumbria, announced to a group of journalists that he has signed a deal for a further five years with Sunderland-based outdoor brand Berghaus, with whom he has worked since 1998.

He spoke of his loyalty to the company which supported him for a year after a big accident in Patagonia in 2002 in which he fell 20m, sustaining serious injuries. It took the climber three days to crawl back to the road from the remote site.

He also amused the gathering with a ‘lucky escape’ while climbing the Mirror Wall in Greenland during which he was sleeping on a portaledge. A cricket-ball sized piece of rock fell from the face of the 1,200m peak. The rock hit Houlding in the nether regions. If it had hit him in the face, it would have caused life-threatening injuries, he said. “I was really lucky,” he said wryly, though at the time it probably didn’t seem so. He spent the rest of the night sleeping with his helmet across his face.

He assured those listening he would still be able to expand his family.

Incredibly for a man who has rock climbed in Antarctica, Baffin Island, Greenland and on Everest, he admitted he doesn’t like the cold.

He went on to explain his next major project will be an attempt on what he called the remotest mountain in the world, The Spectre, in Queen Maud Land in Antarctica. To get to the 2,000m peak and climb its 700m main wall, Houlding plans to kite-ski across 1,000 miles of Antarctic wilderness if he can secure funding.

Leo Houlding was at a Berghaus event to mark the completion of a major refurbishment of the brand’s Sunderland headquarters and to help announce the relaunch of Berghaus’s top-of-the range Extrem clothing, which he has helped develop by testing prototypes during his adventure trips.

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