- Patagonia, South America
- 49⁰16’18.01”S 73⁰02’48.00”W
- Leo Houlding, Kevin Thaw, Alun Mullin
- February 2002
Though only 3127m high, it is regarded as one of the most technically difficult peaks in the world. A thousand feet up this massive and intimidating East face, whilst attempting to free climb the (then unclimbed) Maestri /Eggar line, Leo slipped. He fell violently, hitting a ledge on the way down, before the rope caught him 70ft below.
He smashed the talus bone in his right ankle and sustained severe rope burns almost to the bone on his hands. A three day walk from the nearest road, with no possibility of rescue, he began a gruelling retreat with the help of his partners Kevin Thaw and Alun Mullin. After an agonising abseil to get off the wall, Leo crawled down the dangerous crevasse-filled glacier and through the unstable steep moraine, before reaching the valley floor 4000 feet below.
From here he was carried to base camp before a horse finally delivered him to a clinic in the frontier town of El Chalten. A week later he was operated on in hospital at home in the UK. He was told by his surgeon that he would be lucky to climb again. At the indestructible age of 21, it looked as though Leo may have run out of luck.
Thankfully, after a year of rehabilitation his ankle healed superbly, enabling him not only to climb at an elite level once again, but to try his luck at BASE jumping!