PODCAST: Factor Two - S2 Episode 4: No More Worlds - Leo Houlding

In this second Factor Two podcast series, Wil Treasure continues to share stories from the climbing world through interviews with both well-known and lesser-known characters. In-depth, personal accounts that aren't read from a page on a variety of themes. Settle down with a cuppa and have a listen...


Back in 1998 Leo Houlding and Patch Hammond achieved something almost unthinkable – a near onsight ascent of El Capitan. They were just 18, had no big wall experience and headed to Yosemite without any great ambitions for the big faces.

El Capitan.  © UKC Articles
El Capitan.

They had intended to try to headpoint some bold, hard new lines, but quickly discovered that the sort of lines they were after didn't exist in Yosemite. When they arrived there were just two free routes on the main wall of the Captain. The Salathé Wall, freed by Paul Piana and Todd Skinner in 1988, and The Nose, freed by Lynn Hill in 1993. But the mid 90s saw a new team emerge – the Huber brothers. In the few years before Leo and Patch's trip the Hubers had started to establish themselves as a free climbing force in the valley.

In 1998 Alex and Thomas Huber made the first free ascent of El Niño. The Hubers employed seriously redpointing tactics to achieve their route, preparing each pitch meticulously before making their ascent.

photo
El Niño On The Edge Cover.
© On The Edge

Taking Patch and Leo under their wing they encouraged them to try the route. It was still well chalked, the hardest climbing was in the first few pitches and their hand drawn topo was still fresh.

After borrowing the gear they would need and making up their big wall tactics as best they could over 5 days, Leo and Patch stood on the summit. Leo had managed to onsight all but one pitch, with Patch freeing many as well. It was an astonishing achievement at the time, but even now El Capitan awaits a true onsight ascent.


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Brilliant stuff! Remember one of my climbing mentors talking about this when I started climbing. Brilliant to hear Leo talking about it.

28 May

Awesome!! It mentions a previous podcast about leo on masters and lord. Does anybody know which one this was??

28 May

It's the one with Jerry and Caff rather than Leo. The first episode. I was hoping to interview Leo for that one too but it didn't work out in time.

29 May

Great podcast. Be great to have one with a bit more detail of the north wales period also had . He mentions in this one about him and Patch regularly onsighting E7, quite a few got written up in the mags but pre UKC logbook days most wont be recorded so it would be great to get a detailed insight to it all and what was going down.

29 May

Superb podcast, nice insight to the time. I remember hearing a story of Leo falling out of a pub in N Wales and going to solo a 7b on the slate in the nude with only a rope tied to his rollocks. No idea where/how I heard this. I'm assuming that's next in the series so I look forward to hearing all about it.

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