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.
Houlding began rock climbing at the age of 10. In 1996, he became the British Junior Indoor Climbing Champion. He spent the summer of 1997 living in and around Llanberis in North Wales. The summer was notable for having many well known UK climbers in the region at the same time, including Adam Wainwright, Tim Emmett, Simon Panton, Patch Hammond and others; some important new routes were established during that season. He became the subject of the 2003 TV documentary "My Right Foot" which was part of the Extreme Lives series aired on BBC Television.
Houlding appeared in the BBC television programme Top Gear in which he raced presenter Jeremy Clarkson up a cliff face in Verdon Gorge, winning the challenge. Houlding, joined by Tim Emmett, climbed the canyon whilst Jeremy drove an Audi RS4 to the top using the surrounding roads. He has also appeared several times on the Audi Channel.
In 2008, Houlding presented Take Me to the Edge, a British reality series on Virgin1 (later repeated on STV); and has signed a deal with Ford Motor Company to become a brand ambassador for their pick up truck, the Ford Ranger.
In August 2009 he 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.
- "UK Climbing Interview: Leo Houlding".
- "Leo Houlding Profile". Berghaus. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- "Leo Houlding". The Outdoors Show.[dead link]
- "Leo Houlding: My Right Foot". Ginger Productions. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- "Audi RS4 vs rock climber". Top Gear TV. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- "Altitude Everest Expedition 2007".[dead link]
- "The Asgard Project". Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- Kevin Braddock (August 2004). "Leo Houlding: Britain’s greatest new rock climber". British GQ.[dead link]