Leo Houlding layers up in Norway. Photo Coldhouse Collective

Leo Houlding layers up in Norway. Photo Coldhouse Collective

Adventurer Leo Houlding is about to set off on an Antarctic expedition that will include an attempt on unclimbed peaks, as well as hauling his gear 400km.

Climber Sir Chris Bonington described the venture as ‘pushing the limits of Alpine-style exploration’.

Cumbria-based Houlding will be accompanied on the trip by Jean Burgun and Mark Sedon. The trio intend to head south on Monday.

As well as climbing the 750m tall buttress of the 2,020m Spectre in the Gothic Mountains in Antarctica, the expeditioners plan to snow-kite with 200kg sledges known as pulks for 300km to reach the Spectre and man-haul the pulks on skis for 400km before finally snow-kiting a further 1,100km back to the Union Glacier, concluding a complete trans-continental traverse before departing the Antarctic.

Ascents will be made in the lightweight Alpine style on highly technical routes.

A ski-equipped Twin Otter aeroplane will be used to reach the start point of the expedition. Houlding has estimated that the expedition will last about 70 days, running from early November until the back-end of January 2018.

Each team member is expected to expend 345,000 calories as they tackle more than 10 unclimbed peaks in temperatures as low as -45C.

The team will attempt an Alpine-style ascent of the Spectre

The team will attempt an Alpine-style ascent of the Spectre

Leo Houlding has been preparing for an attempt on the Spectre since 2013. For more than a year, he has been working closely with the product team at outdoors brand Berghaus to develop clothing and equipment that is capable of performing in the extremes of temperature and conditions the team will face in Antarctica.

Each element of the expedition presents particular challenges for kit, with three distinct sets of conditions to handle. During the trip, Houlding, Burgun and Sedon will have to operate in sub-zero temperatures in winds of up to 80 knots, while at times hauling loads of 200kg.

The abrasive nature of the Spectre’s rockface will also take its toll on the kit that is used. Because everything must be carried for the entire duration of the trip, weight must be kept to an absolute minimum without compromising durability.

Leo Houlding said: “This is most adventurous and hardcore expedition concept that I’ve ever conceived of. It represents true 21st-century, new-school exploration, with a mixed international team, and in the greatest playground on earth.

“There is a realistic possibility of success, but the odds are not short, and of course no-one has done this before.”

In March this year, Houlding was joined by Jean Burgun and members of Berghaus’s MtnHaus innovation team on a training trip to Norway, where they tested prototypes of highly specialist garments that will now be used during the Spectre expedition.

Leo Houlding, centre, with Marc Sedon, left, and Jean Burgun. Photo: Berghaus

Leo Houlding, centre, with Marc Sedon, left, and Jean Burgun. Photo: Berghaus

The concepts, designs and technologies used in the products will feature in Berghaus’s winter 2018 range.

Leo Houlding recently became a trustee of the Outward Bound Trust, a charity dedicated for 75 years to enabling access to outdoor adventure for young people from all social backgrounds.

Houlding hopes to use the Spectre expedition, his first major trip since becoming a trustee, to help raise the profile the Outward Bound Trust and its valuable work. Berghaus is a strategic partner of the trust and supports its role in encouraging more people to get out more, as part of the company’s wider efforts to redefine modern exploration and adventure.

Leo Houlding said: “The Spectre expedition represents the very cutting edge of extreme adventure for an elite and highly experienced crew.

“However, there is equal, if not more, value in the more accessible adventure Outward Bound introduces to thousands of young people every year. Many of them have never experienced any form of outdoor adventure and would not have the chance were it not for the trust and its dedicated instructors.

“Adventure is a relative term; I have no doubt that the youngsters who enjoy Outward Bound courses find them every bit as exciting, nerve-wracking and fulfilling as we will on the Spectre expedition.”

Houlding is a world-class climber, Alpinist and adventurer. Now 37 and married with two young children, he is a veteran of a score of epic ascents, including Everest, but specialises in free climbing the most technical peaks and biggest walls in the world.

For his second major expedition in a row following a successful project in the Bugaboos, Canada, in the summer, Houlding is working with an all-new team, and will be tackling the Spectre with Jean Burgun from Hautes Alpes in France. Burgun is an experienced Alpinist, big-wall climber and snow-kiter at the vanguard of the progressive aspect of the sport, Alpine-snow-kiting, using kites to ascend low technicality Alpine climbs in minutes.

The Spectre expedition route

The Spectre expedition route

Jean and his wife, with their two young boys, are custodians of a mountain hut in Vallouise for six months during the summer. Burgun said: “The Spectre represents for me the core of what I have looked for all my life. It’s the meeting point between my childhood dreams and the Alpinist-kiter I became.”

Mountain and ski guide, photographer and filmmaker Marc Sedon is the third member of the team. Born and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand, Mark Sedon has been guiding for 15 years. He has guided over a dozen Himalayan expeditions including to the summit of Everest.

He has also guided six expeditions to Antarctica including two ski expeditions. Sedon will be the trip’s chief photographer and will also be responsible for capturing footage of the expedition for a film by Coldhouse Collective.

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